"I'm sure that if you are looking for it, you'll see something"

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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.]

NEXT: The Absolutely Goddamn Final Post-Mortem on Goldberg vs. Gillespie...

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  1. Unless you’re hoping to generate a decent, wrathfully just response, this isn’t news or important. Police and state troopers have been filling “crime quotas” for years…hence why it’s riskier to speed toward the end of the month, because said paramilitary member has to “find” crime or risk punishment.

  2. Lets make sure we put lots of noise into our threat detection system, so the actual signals are harder to pick out.

    Idiots.

  3. RC: well thought and well put

    Ayn Randian: it may not be news, but it is important, that our law enforcement agencies are essentially distorting the picture of what’s happening to justify their existence

  4. Biologist – you’re right, it’s important, I wasn’t making excuses for this foolish and liberty-threatening behavior, probably just slightly jaded this morning.

  5. My god, I wish we had a voice in politics. The LP should have EVERY person in this country taking a picture of the city they are departing from.

    Then the air marshals can have their choice of millions of SDR’s a month.

  6. Someone mentioned it on a thread yesterday, I believe, but police sometimes lie on their police reports…I’ve personally witnessed incidents and been totally shocked to read the police reports and find that they had very little to do with reality. Most seemed to do with the officer trying to cover his own ass or to make the incident seem worse than it really was, either to make a perp seem all the more guilty or to even protect someone the officer knew or liked more or whatever.

    So I really don’t have a whole lot of trust for popo of any agency. (I’ve also met a lot of great cops, but in general, I’m not a fan.)

  7. Security: Are you taking pictures of Vegas for potential targets?
    Passenger: No.
    Security: But if you were, you’d say ‘no’ anyway, right?
    Passenger: I guess so.
    Security: So you admit that you would lie to us?
    Passenger: Uhhh.
    Securtiy: You’re goin on the list!

  8. Well, if the goal was actually to stop terrorists, then you might want to not have a bunch of faked up reports, extra data processing, or additional people on future ‘watch’ lists. But I’m increasingly convinced that stopping terrorists is only an ancillary goal of the whole effort, whose primary goal is to look like they’re ‘doing something’.

    The quote that comes to mind more and more about government is:

    “We’ve gotta protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately, immediatly, immediately!” *harumph harumph harumph*

  9. But I’m increasingly convinced that stopping terrorists is only an ancillary goal of the whole effort, whose primary goal is to look like they’re ‘doing something’.

    This was pretty clear on about, oh, 09/12 or so. What took you so long?

  10. I didn’t get a harrumph out of that guy!

    Give the governor a harrumph!

    Harrumph, Harrumph!

    You watch your ass!

  11. R C is on a roll….

  12. I wonder how long air marshals had to write weird things up until they gave up and just noted the description of the person sittig next to them.

  13. They could always write people up for “avoiding suspicious activity” or “conspicuously normal behavior.”

  14. They could always write people up for “avoiding suspicious activity” or “conspicuously normal behavior.”

    Sorta like the people who get pulled over on suspicion of DUI because they were scrupulously observing the speed limit and driving “too carefully”. 🙂

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