Surveillance

TSA Will Stop Tracking Your Bathroom Use, Sleeping Preferences

Air marshals might still treat you like a terrorist. But they'll stop documenting your every move.

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JONATHAN ALCORN/REUTERS/Newscom

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) claims it will no longer track the normal movements of people who aren't suspected of any wrongdoing. So while the agency can and likely will keep treating law-abiding Americans like terrorists, it will stop taking note of such supposedly suspicious behaviors as using the restroom, sweating, and sleeping on a flight.

Federal Air Marshal Director David Kohl tells The Boston Globe that the agency will no longer track "routine passenger behaviors on a plane that would be seen as a normal behavior."

Why would the TSA focus on such harmless activities in the first place? It was all part of the "Quiet Skies" surveillance program, which the agency launched in 2012 and expanded earlier this year. Under the program, the TSA tries to identify passengers who might pose a security risk. Federal air marshals then follow them around both at the airport and on the flight, keeping track of their every move. The marshals would submit detailed reports describing their findings.

The Globe obtained a check list that air marshals were supposed to fill out while stalking those passengers. Signs of suspicious behavior included "being abnormally aware of surroundings," "excessive fidgeting" or "perspiration," "rapid eye blinking," and having a "cold penetrating stare." Marshals were also directed to document any change in appearance "from information provided" (i.e., the last time the passenger was spied on), to give "detailed descriptions of any electronic devices in subject's possession," and to note whether the passenger went to the bathroom and/or slept for part or most of the flight.

People with checkered pasts weren't the only ones under surveillance. Each and every American citizen flying on a plane was eligible to be selected for the program, and roughly 5,000 passengers were tracked from March to July. Those list included American citizens who were not under federal investigation and not on a terror watch list.

The TSA wouldn't reveal how it decided who to target. So you'll just have to wonder why air marshals extensively tracked and intrusively searched a Virginia mom whose only offense was flying to Turkey to take some arts-and-crafts courses. Pointlessly documenting the every move of such hardened criminals led to a grand total of zero arrests, as TSA Administrator David Pekoske admitted to a Senate committee in September.

Quiet Skies is not going away for good. Some law-abiding passengers will still be surveilled; air marshals just won't write down every tiny thing they see. "Among the recent changes, air marshals are now supposed to submit observational details only if they see their Quiet Skies subject do something suspicious, the Globe reports, "though there appears to be no guidance on what merits 'suspicious' activity."

This development is a step in the right direction, though it clearly doesn't go far enough. It won't stop the TSA from molesting children at the airport, forcing a mother to waste her breast milk, or otherwise harassing harmless travelers. But maybe, just maybe, the agency is getting a smidge better at evaluating risk.

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51 responses to “TSA Will Stop Tracking Your Bathroom Use, Sleeping Preferences

  1. People sleeping on airplanes are always an issue. Why do you think they call them Sleeper Cells?

  2. TSA delenda est.

    1. +Googolplex

    2. I dunno why the FedGov has an entire organization that Takes Squirrels Anally, but they do.

  3. >>>”being abnormally aware of surroundings”

    who decides the abnormal part wtf?

    1. See, there you go , questioning things.
      *scribbles notes about abnormal activity *

      1. i’m the guy who sleeps through takeoff and landing i’m sure i’ve been tagged for abnormality

    2. First we’re told to be aware of our surroundings for our own safety, then when we take the government’s advice we become suspected terrorists. Exactly what is the IQ of the average government employee!?

      1. Unknown at this time.
        We will form an exploratory group to evaluate forming a committee to determine if a federal study is required to determine the necessity of obtaining this data.

        (If you know how to keep your entire useless department funded for decades, your IQ is as high as it needs to be)

  4. They still get to grab my junk, right? I mean that’s the best part of flying is having some government stooge rub his grubby slimy hands up and down my pant legs in order to locate my bulge.

    1. just identify as a woman and let a woman feel your junk.

      1. Hrm. I may have to wear a dress the next time I fly.

        Yeah, so what if I have a beard? 😀

    2. Uh… I don’t know who was feeling you up, but the few times I’ve been patted down by the TSA the dude used gloves.

      1. safe sex?

  5. I’d rather have them watch me more and delay/frisk me less. Being watched doesn’t bother me.

    1. That’s what I was thinking. All the observation appears to be occurring on airport property. It seems like trying to identify and observe suspicious people is better than mindless security theater.

      1. Right? I mean some people do come off as sketchy. 99.9% of the time, nothing is going to happen… But if you’re going to have security around at all, it seems like keeping an eye on sketchy looking people is one thing that actually makes sense.

        Of course they’re going to keep an eye on people that others might not think are sketchy sometimes too, but that’s just kind of the nature of things… Still better than assuming everybody is guilty.

        How many 80 year old white women have tried to blow up planes? OH, that’s right: ZERO in the entire history of the world. Yet they get fucked with at the same rate as sketchy looking men in their 20s. I’d rather have them keeping an eye on sketchy looking young men, as they’re generally the ones responsible for most fucked up shit in the world.

  6. I have a friend who did a couple of years as an Air Marshall. It was as tedious and boring as you imagine. Sit on a plane, watching for “suspicious activity”, whatever that is. You want something, anything, to happen. It have to be the worst possible job for a LEO.

    The “Quiet Skies” is just trying to justify their existence. They have to have a response to “What do you mean 87,000 flights in the US per day and nothing happened?”

    1. I’m guessing they probably do the observations in part because of boredom inherent in the job, but then also to have something to show for their work during their annual employee evaluation? Otherwise how would anybody know the Air Marshal actually did anything? Statistically, something sketchy almost never happens on a flight, so the air Marshall gig is probably a pretty sweet one.

  7. “being abnormally aware of surroundings,” “excessive fidgeting” or “perspiration,”

    HILLARIOUS I meet all three of these items on an ordinary day. I’m a designer with a curious mind so I check out everything, I have RLS and am naturally fidgety anyway and I have a medical condition that causes me to sweat and I’m an asshole so if some starts staring at me like say an airmarshall I will stare right back

    1. And lets not talk about how many times I have to take a shit, I go anywhere from 3 to 5 times a day not counting piss breaks

      1. Seriously, see a doctor. Nobody should have to shit that often.

        1. People might be happier if they did shit more often

        2. A natural consequence of being full of it – – – – –

          1. full of Shitma? lol

  8. Who they chose was likely a flavor of “I have to file reports on X many random individual per month, and there goes a random individual right now.”

  9. Signs of suspicious behavior included… “excessive fidgeting” … and having a “cold penetrating stare.”

    Being too nervous… being too calm. Damned either way.

  10. Which is it? Cold penetrating stare, or rapid eye blinking?
    Inquiring minds want to know.

  11. How many terrorists did the Fearless Fosdicks identify and stop in the six years of this program?? Did any “journalists” think to ask?

    1. Pointlessly documenting the every move of such hardened criminals led to a grand total of zero arrests, as TSA Administrator David Pekoske admitted to a Senate committee in September.

  12. Bad idea.
    The ruling elites need to know everything about you.
    When you go to the bathroom.
    When you urinate.
    When your defecate.
    Whether you use an upward or downward stroke when wiping your ass (and if you wipe your ass), which hand you use, if not both of them, and whether you admire your work before you flush.
    Plus, they absolutely, positively need to know not only when you sleep, but what you’re dreaming about.
    Politically incorrect dreaming only leads to counter-revolutionary thoughts, like using an indoor plumbing.

  13. “it will stop taking note of such supposedly suspicious behaviors as using the restroom, sweating, and sleeping on a flight.”

    Sleeping on a plane was worthy of being noted?

    I had no idea that I have years of suspicious behavior while traveling just because I try to catch a few zzzz’s.

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  15. They sound like perverts

  16. Yet another one for the “Government Fucks Everything Up” portfolio. I doubt the average TSA “agent” (ha ha) can successfully add two and two, much less recognize and keep terrorists off aircraft. We should fire ALL TSA employees and replace them with….well, nothing. Airlines should be given the task of preventing known terrorists, criminals, etc. from getting on their planes, which, I believe, would hugely improve security on aircraft.

    1. They should put United employees in charge of keeping terrorists of flights. They do a good job of kicking paying customers off they’re planes…

  17. “Signs of suspicious behavior included “being abnormally aware of surroundings…”

    Wait, aren’t we supposed to by hyper-vigilant, report suspicious behavior and spy on our fellow citizens? I wonder how many civilians report Air Marshals to airport security as they themselves act suspiciously in airports?

    1. I can tell you that if I spot one, I’ll be acting extra-hinky, just for chuckles.

      1. Say “hi” to Bubba and Tyrone while you are inside – – – –

    2. I wonder how many air marshals have monitored other air marshals? I wonder how many cases of mutual monitoring there have been.

      “13:28 — I think my mark has made me.”
      “13:28 — Subject appears to be aware of my observation.”

  18. how hard is it to see that TSA & DHS are 99% unConstitutional, with the remaining 1% being pointless??

  19. Drive, don’t fly.

  20. TSA= Tyrannical Sadistic Abusers

  21. “being abnormally aware of surroundings,” “excessive fidgeting” or “perspiration,” “rapid eye blinking,” and having a “cold penetrating stare.”

    So, being a Marine (famous for the “1000 yard stare”) or a combat veteran is/was suspicious? Anxiety about flying is/was suspicious?

    Abolish the TSA please, post haste. Thanks.

    1. I should sue them over the cold penetrating stare thing… I’m mostly German, and it comes natural to my people! It was a racist policy!!!

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  24. “Signs of suspicious behavior included “being abnormally aware of surroundings…”

    What ever happened to “see something, say something”?

  25. “TSA Will Stop Tracking Your Bathroom Use, Sleeping Preferences”

    TSA Will Stop Admitting To Tracking Your Bathroom Use, Sleeping Preferences

    Fixed it

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