Air marshals admit to reporting suspicious activity just because they've essentially been ordered to do so, whether that activity represents a legitimate security threat or not. Excerpts from a Denver TV station's report:
[S]everal air marshals object to a July 2004 memo from top management in the Las Vegas office, a memo that reminded air marshals of the SDR [Surveillance Detection Report] requirement.
The body of the memo said, "Each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month."
"Does that memo read to you that Federal Air Marshal headquarters has set a quota on these reports?" Kovaleski [the TV reporter] asked.
"Absolutely, no doubt," an air marshal replied.
A second management memo, also dated July 2004, said, "There may come an occasion when you just don't see anything out of the ordinary for a month at a time, but I'm sure that if you are looking for it, you'll see something."
What sort of perfidy does this system uncover?
"Have marshals in the Las Vegas office, I don't want to say fabricated, but 'created' reports?" Kovaleski asked.
"Creative writing—stretching a long ways the truth, yes," an air marshal replied.
One example, according to air marshals, occurred on one flight leaving Las Vegas, when an unknowing passenger, most likely a tourist, was identified in an SDR for doing nothing more than taking a photo of the Las Vegas skyline as his plane rolled down the runway.
"You're saying that was not an accurate portrayal of a potential terrorist activity?" Kovaleski asked.
"No, it was not," an air marshal said.
[LInk via Rational Review.]