Hit & Run

TSA No Longer Keeping 'Quiet' About Citizen Surveillance Program: Reason Roundup

Plus: Ron Paul decries Twitter moves against libertarians, and how Missouri cops enabled a "heroin ring."

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aviation-images/Newscom

TSA speaks up about "Quiet Skies" and Muslim group files lawsuit against it. The recently revealed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) program enlists U.S. Federal Marshals to spy on U.S. citizens at airports, reporting on innocuous behaviors like watching one's boarding gate, having a "cold stare," and sleeping for any period of time on a flight.

"In my view, it's been very effective," TSA Administrator David Pekoske told USA Today, after the agency last week refused to comment on the program.

I would say to the American public: Ordinary citizens don't need to worry about Quiet Skies. They don't. Actually ordinary citizens should be very happy that a program like Quiet Skies is in place because I think everybody expects us to do everything that we can do that protects the privacy and constitutional rights of our citizens to ensure that there is not an incident in an aircraft in flight.

But TSA doesn't claim the program has caught any terrorists or other evildoers, and it won't say what targeting criteria U.S. Federal Air Marshals use or what becomes of the information they collect on passengers. All we know is that these individuals are not on the terror-watch list or under criminal investigation.

"The arbitrary surveillance of innocent people at airports guarantees that Muslim passengers will be disproportionately harassed by federal officials based on racial and religious profiling, with no benefit to the traveling public or to our nation's security," said Gadeir Abbas, a senior litigation attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This is just the latest example of the federal government's counterproductive and misguided approach to aviation security."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations just filed a challenge to the federal government's whole watch-listing system, "including the TSA's recently revealed Quiet Skies program," the group announced yesterday.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of 20 individuals targeted by the watchlisting system. The lawsuit's plaintiffs are all innocent American Muslims—people who have not been charged, arrested or convicted of a violent crime—from Washington DC, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, Washington State, Indiana, Kansas and New Jersey. The lawsuit alleges that the watchlisting system imposes "a kind of second-class citizenship."

ACLU is also filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to learn more about the program. "Like the old, debunked 'behavior detection' program, Quiet Skies looks like the worst kind of waste," ACLU lawyer Hugh Handeyside said.

Even the deputies have doubts about the program. "The Air Marshal Association believes that missions based on recognized intelligence, or in support of ongoing federal investigations, is the proper criteria for flight scheduling," said association president John Casaretti in a statement. "Currently, the Quiet Skies program does not meet the criteria we find acceptable."

FREE MINDS

Ron Paul talks Twitter action against libertarian writers. Commenting on Twitter suspending two Antiwar.com writer accounts and banning the Ron Paul Institute director from the site, Paul suggested that "antiwar activists and libertarians" were under fire for political reasons.

"You get accused of treasonous activity and treasonous speech because in an empire of lies the truth is treason," Paul told RT. "Challenging the status quo is what they can't stand and it unnerves them, so they have to silence people."

(More about this and other recent Twitter drama in yesterday's Roundup.)

JUSTICE WATCH

Police enable heroin addicts. If this "heroin ring" was so dangerous and detrimental, why did police buy drugs for three years before doing anything? That's what an attorney for the defendants is now asking.

"The drug police elected to drag out their investigation," wrote defense attorney Brady Musgrave in a July court filing. "They decided to allow these individuals to spiral farther into their addictions and to do so by distributing heroin in the Western District of Missouri."

Unfortunately, this sort of things is common in vice investigations, as cops work to build more high-profile and profitable conspiracy, money laundering, and racketeering cases and rope more people into these alleged operations instead of arresting individuals when warranted, or helping users get help. In a Seattle sex investigation, King County cops simultaneously claimed Asian escorts they were investigating were victims of horrific sex trafficking and also that they visited them for years without doing anything while they made a case against a website where the women advertised and the men who wrote there about them.

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