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Facts About the “Quiet Skies”

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Picture of Jet

You’ve likely heard or read about the “Quiet Skies” program recently. Media reports have inaccurately described it as a program through which Federal Air Marshals surveil random travelers for no rhyme or reason. In fact, it’s an important program, and we’d like to give you a better understanding of it.

If your local police department had intelligence that your neighborhood was at an elevated threat for dangerous activity, you’d want an increased police presence until the threat was gone. Federal Air Marshals serve in that same capacity in the aviation environment; they are law enforcement officers who use their experience and training to identify things that are out of the ordinary in the aviation environment. Over the years, Federal Air Marshals have used their skills and training to successfully respond to in-flight emergencies and non-terrorist incidents. Their on-board presence has defused dozens of situations that had the potential to escalate, placing the aircraft, crew, and passengers in further danger. 

“Quiet Skies” is another tool that allows the Federal Air Marshal Service to more efficiently deploy law enforcement resources to focus on travelers who may present an elevated risk to aviation security. Through TSA’s Secure Flight Program and by leveraging Custom and Border Protection’s Automated Targeting System, TSA’s intelligence professionals develop a set of risk-based, intelligence-driven scenario rules, which allow us to identify international travelers who may require enhanced screening. These rules have strict oversight by the Department of Homeland Security, including the privacy, civil rights and liberties, and general counsel offices. 

TSA uses this program to reduce the risk on airplanes by identifying passengers deemed to be higher risk according to certain travel patterns and other intelligence-based factors.  Contrary to some reporting, the program does not take into account race or religion, and does not designate individuals based on their observed behaviors onboard an aircraft.  As trained law enforcement officers, Federal Air Marshals observe passengers in accordance with their training. When FAMs are informed that a traveler identified through the intelligence-driven scenario rules will be on a particular flight or in the airport, they are able to observe the traveler in the airport and on the flight. Passengers referred to the program may require additional scrutiny for a certain period of time; however, TSA routinely removes passengers from the program sooner than the prescribed period if we become aware of information that indicates the passengers do not represent a risk.  

Something to keep in mind is that the Federal Air Marshal Service is the only federal law enforcement agency dedicated solely to protecting the nation’s aviation system. Since President Kennedy initiated the concept of having armed air marshals, the goal has always been to protect travelers and ensure that the flight arrives to its destination safely.

Let’s take a moment to recognize that air marshals have a difficult and important job: they must remain vigilant at all times, and operate at 30,000 feet in tight quarters. Air marshals receive specialized training in a variety of law enforcement techniques including blending in with other aviation travelers and identifying when something is out of the ordinary in the aviation environment. They are prepared to react to a wide spectrum of criminal and terrorist events and activities.

FAMs have and will continue to use a variety of tools and work with industry partners to detect, deter, and defeat any potential threat to the aircraft, crew and passengers. They play an important role in protecting travelers in mid-air and are essential to our national security.

Bob Burns - TSA Social Media

Comments

Submitted by The Original "RB" on

Submitted by West Cooper on Tue, 2018-08-28 11:37

My assertion is backed by the published statement of the organization, I am reasonably certain that they will disagree with you, as I do.

.......................

This is just hilarious coming from someone who claims to have had investigative training while serving as an MP. We are suppose to take for gospel a statement from the same organization that is running this very questionable program. Not just my words but from other entities, many with experts in constitutional law.

Forgive me if I take what you say with a very tiny grain of salt. Some things just don't pass the smell test and TSA's Quiet Skies secret surveillance program doesn't just smell but is so rotten it would make a maggot barf.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Submitted by West Cooper on Wed, 2018-08-29 08:29 "...I am certain that there will be much discussion at all levels of DHS about Quiet Skies in the days to come - as there should be, all of our programs are reviewed consistently to see if there are ways to improve them, or if they are effective. I look forward to seeing what those discussions bear out"

It makes me sad that these discussions only happen after you get caught doing something you shouldn't be doing. Why do we have to catch you doing something you aren't supposed to do before there is a discussion of what you are doing and why and why are all the questions of effectiveness after getting caught and never before?

Submitted by Max Yost on

TSA Employee West wrote:

"As I clearly outlined in my previous post - there is a clear difference in what DHS does, and what businesses do in terms of intel and the way they use it (seriously, here is the quote "While this is not attempting to find terrorists, or prevent a terrorist attack, or some other nefarious dealings, the principal of gathering intelligence and applying it in a real world setting is essentially the same type of process.").

I clearly delineated the difference, while pointing out that many of the principles, and application are actually the same."

I was in the IC for 42 years doing collection and, later, policy development before retiring earlier this year. I will simply state that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Max Yost wrote, in part: "I was in the IC for 42 years doing collection and, later, policy development before retiring earlier this year. I will simply state that you have no idea what you are talking about."

Bet West will come back to dispute that because he simply must have the last word.

Submitted by Hermann Fegelein on

"I have never lied on this blog, ever. I have been wrong about some things, I have not been able to give information out because of security regulations and organizational policies, but I have never lied on this blog."

That's certainly not true. In addition to straight-up, flat-out lying, you reinterpret words of a question to give them different meanings and make the question into something else, and then you give an answer that is false, considering the actual meanings of the words in the question. I guess you don't realize that everybody can see what you're doing? Please recognize, Clerk West, that we are not as dumb as you. We recognize every clumsy, dishonest sleight of hand that you use.

The Quiet Skies thing is stupid because you don't HAVE any evidence that any traveler poses a heightened threat to aviation, because you have no incidents of attacks or threats to correlate with your "indicia of a heightened threat." The "quiet skies" is nothing but "Oh, I don't like the looks of that guy, we'd better monitor him. OK, he's putting up his bag! OK, sitting in the seat...fastening the seatbelt...sleeping...sleeping...sleeping..."

The danger to aviation is from clerks who think their job is to search luggage for peanut butter and assert their authority. This slows down the line and also causes the clerks to look so hard for water that they miss 95% of all weapons presented at the checkpoint.

There is NO THREAT to aviation, because if there were, attackers would bring boxes of weapons past the TSA clerks every single day.

Submitted by Reason on

Wes, keep doing the job you are doing. I feel for you putting up with the nay sayers, who continually read but can't or won't comprehend your explanations. Thanks for all you do, and keep up the good work. There will always be those who refuse to see reason when they are convinced that they are being unreasonably searched to keep them safe. While every organization has bad apples, they can only do so much to get the right person every time. Hang in there, and stay strong!!!

Submitted by West Cooper on

Susan sez – “"Having the last word is closely associated with ego. Egomaniacs always have to have the last word. It gives them a feeling of power, as if they immediate draw all of the power of the person they are communicating with and become powerful due to it."

You stepped directly past the “Don’t” list to the sneaky trick list – bravo!

Dos, Don'ts and Sneaky Tricks in arguments

SSSS sez – “It makes me sad that these discussions only happen after you get caught doing something you shouldn't be doing. Why do we have to catch you doing something you aren't supposed to do before there is a discussion of what you are doing and why and why are all the questions of effectiveness after getting caught and never before?”

I am reasonably certain that there have been discussions about this program at almost every level of the organization – prior to these articles, and after. They simply have a different interpretation than you do – at least at this time. As always, policies are subject to change based upon new information, intelligence or changes in the threat matrices.

Max Yost sez – “I was in the IC for 42 years doing collection and, later, policy development before retiring earlier this year. I will simply state that you have no idea what you are talking about.”

Sooooo, the basic principles of intelligence are completely different based upon application? If that is your assertion, then we will simply have to disagree. Intelligence (regardless of reasoning or application) is simply the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and/or skills - the way you gather it and apply it vary based upon the situation.

Herm sez – “That's certainly not true. In addition to straight-up, flat-out lying, you reinterpret words of a question to give them different meanings and make the question into something else, and then you give an answer that is false, considering the actual meanings of the words in the question. I guess you don't realize that everybody can see what you're doing? Please recognize, Clerk West, that we are not as dumb as you. We recognize every clumsy, dishonest sleight of hand that you use.”

You are quite simply, wrong. Please point out a time on this blog that I have lied to anyone… I will wait…

I never said you were dumb (I rather actually think the opposite), and as indicated above, your commentary has defaulted to the sneaky trick list above as well.

Reason sez – “Wes, keep doing the job you are doing. I feel for you putting up with the nay sayers, who continually read but can't or won't comprehend your explanations. Thanks for all you do, and keep up the good work. There will always be those who refuse to see reason when they are convinced that they are being unreasonably searched to keep them safe. While every organization has bad apples, they can only do so much to get the right person every time. Hang in there, and stay strong!!!”

Thank you Reason, we appreciate your comments!

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Not sneaky tricks, West, proven psychological facts:

"A person who has to have the last word is fundamentally flawed. Their flaws are for the world to see. They may be charismatic and draw people in, but if you listen to their conversations and in the modern age, look at their posts on social media, you will see a common thread of egocentricity and a need for supremacy."

Submitted by The "Original" RB on

Submitted by West Cooper on Sun, 2018-09-02 09:23
Susan sez – “"Having the last word is closely associated with ego. Egomaniacs always have to have the last word. It gives them a feeling of power, as if they immediate draw all of the power of the person they are communicating with and become powerful due to it."

You stepped directly past the “Don’t” list to the sneaky trick list – bravo!

Dos, Don'ts and Sneaky Tricks in arguments
....................

You do realize the given reference is discussing one on one arguments. This blog while fully one sided is still a group discussion. No one is really trying to change your position on TSA matters, we know you have drunk from the TSA chalice and chose poorly. My hope, and I believe others here, is to save a few people from drinking more TSA Kool Aid.

Submitted by Max Yost on

Max Yost sez – “I was in the IC for 42 years doing collection and, later, policy development before retiring earlier this year. I will simply state that you have no idea what you are talking about.”

Sooooo, the basic principles of intelligence are completely different based upon application? If that is your assertion, then we will simply have to disagree. Intelligence (regardless of reasoning or application) is simply the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and/or skills - the way you gather it and apply it vary based upon the situation.

I rest my case....

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

"...Submitted by West Cooper on Sun, 2018-09-02 09:23 "SSSS sez – “It makes me sad that these discussions only happen after you get caught doing something you shouldn't be doing. Why do we have to catch you doing something you aren't supposed to do before there is a discussion of what you are doing and why and why are all the questions of effectiveness after getting caught and never before?”

I am reasonably certain that there have been discussions about this program at almost every level of the organization – prior to these articles, and after. They simply have a different interpretation than you do – at least at this time. As always, policies are subject to change based upon new information, intelligence or changes in the threat matrices.

I don't doubt there were discussion within your organization. What makes me sad is you don't have these discussions with your paymasters before you implement useless programs based on junk science trying to combat threats that don't exist or have already been solved by other practices.

The cockpit doors have been hardened so physically gaining control of an aircraft is impossible.

The passengers and crew won't comply with the demands of a terrorist/hijacker because they understand that means certain death.

That means everything you do on the ground is secondary at best.

And if you switched back to the efficient and effective walk-through-metal-detectors then you wouldn't be creating targets of opportunity by bunching up all of the people into one place.

No, your agency makes me sad. Eight billion dollars a year and all you can do is repeat the same mistakes you made last year and the ones you made the year before. And you keep making the mistakes and you keep trying to tel us you are helping this time while ignoring the fact that it failed last time and you aren't doing it any differently this time.

Sad.

Submitted by You're A Liar, ... on

"I have never lied on this blog, ever."

You just assured everyone that this illegal, invasive surveillance and stalking program is effective and works, but admit you don't have any facts or evidence to back that up.

If that counts as honesty in your book, well, that explains a heck of a lot about this blog and your low character.

Submitted by LOL on

She says to get the last word.

Submitted by West Cooper on

You're sez - "You just assured everyone that this illegal, invasive surveillance and stalking program is effective and works, but admit you don't have any facts or evidence to back that up.

If that counts as honesty in your book, well, that explains a heck of a lot about this blog and your low character."

Le sigh. I "assured everyone that this program is legal and that programs of the same nature work" *fixed that for you.*

Finally! Argumentum Ad Hominem show thyself! Thanks for posting and have a wonderful day.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Getting Under Y... on

I suppose that's only to be expected, since you think this is about you and not your agency's illegal surveillance and stalking.

Now, one piece of evidence that this program "works." Just one. You pick. Go ahead. We'll wait.

But I imagine that evidence will be as scarce as evidence that the body scanners with a 100% false positive rate "work," that the scientifically laughable liquids farce "works," and that the shoe carnival "works."

Submitted by The Original "RB" on

https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/05/tsa-to-expand-3d-carry-on-baggage-scre...

"The agency, created just months later, has been plagued with scandals and controversies. When the agency isn’t facing accusations of groping passengers passing through its security checkpoints, it’s under fire for conducting not-so-secret surveillance programs on innocent Americans. That so-called “Quiet Skies” program — first brought to light by The Boston Globe earlier this year, was jumped on by lawmakers.

Pekoske said that out of the “thousands of passengers” monitored, no arrests have been made, the program “hasn’t foiled any threat,” and yet data is kept on travelers for at least two years in case it’s proven useful in the future."

TSA claims that the "Secret" "Quiet Skies" surveillance program is vital to national security. Yet TSA Administrator Pekoske in testimony before Congress reveals that over its several years of existence the program has not resulted in one arrest, hasn't foiled any threats, nor resulted in any other tangible benefits. Well truth be told the FAM's flying these surveillance missions are racking up mega dollars in overtime pay. Of course we taxpayers are being forced to pay for this worthless progra.

Another factor that no one has raised, what about flights that should be covered by FAM's that can't be because these limited resources are being used to watch one single person who might have traveled to Turkey and is on no other watch list when we have 100's of flights coming from trouble spots around the world every day.

Is it any wonder that TSA's budget of nearly $8,000,000,000.00 isn't enough?

It's time for Congress to act and reduce TSA's taxpayer funded annual budget forcing TSA to make hard decisions on what is truly important. I'm willing to bet that no other country spends as much on 4th rate airport security as the United States does. Why are we paying premium prices for such poor airport security? Beats me!

Submitted by Well Done, RB on

Now West Cooper the Liar can explain what he knows that Pekoske doesn't, and how a program that "has not resulted in one arrest, hasn't foiled any threats, nor resulted in any other tangible benefit" still can be said to "work."

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think it’s a good thing sometimes it takes a little extra time but don’t you think your safety and your life is worth that much for all of you that don’t want to be bothered with this? This is a good thing

Submitted by Marie Cusumano-... on

I think it’s a good thing sometimes it takes a little extra time but don’t you think your safety and your life is worth that much for all of you that don’t want to be bothered with this? This is a good thing

Submitted by The "Original" RB on

Submitted by Marie Cusumano-... on Sun, 2018-09-09 16:37
I think it’s a good thing sometimes it takes a little extra time but don’t you think your safety and your life is worth that much for all of you that don’t want to be bothered with this? This is a good thing
...............
No I don't think unwarranted, secret surveillance of citizens is a good thing. If they need to be watched then have evidence, go before a judge, and obtain a search warrant.

Submitted by West Cooper on

Well sez - "Now West Cooper the Liar"

Tsk, tsk, you too are running right past discussion basics to the dirty trick pile. It is unbecoming, and detracts from any valid point you may have been trying to make.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Now, Now, West on

...nobody needs lectures on "dirty tricks" from someone who gropes children's genitals for a living.

Now, back to your illegal stalking and surveillance of American citizens: What do you know about quiet skies that Mr. Pekoske does not?

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Submitted by Marie Cusumano-... "This is a good thing"

We are going to have to agree to disagree. The TSA is not protecting us even slightly AND they are costing us eight billion dollars per year. That is a lot of money for an organization that can show no success in their mission. Eight billion dollars for nothing more effective than my Magic Rock that Prevents Tiger Attacks..... not a good thing.

Submitted by West Cooper on

Now, now sez - "...nobody needs lectures on "dirty tricks"

You are correct, apparently we need to give some lectures on how not to use them.

Now, now also sez - "What do you know about quiet skies that Mr. Pekoske does not?"

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Mr Pekoske probably knows a lot more about Quiet Skies than I do - the only info I have is from open source media.

P.S. Quiet Skies is still not illegal, and still not stalking according to the DHS General Counsel.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Nocaps on

Submitted by The Original "RB" on Thu, 2018-09-06 14:49

Is it any wonder that TSA's budget of nearly $8,000,000,000.00 isn't enough?

It's time for Congress to act and reduce TSA's taxpayer funded annual budget forcing TSA to make hard decisions on what is truly important. I'm willing to bet that no other country spends as much on 4th rate airport security as the United States does. Why are we paying premium prices for such poor airport security? Beats me!

how does the tsa's budget compare to other government agencies? how much revenue is tsa generating that is diverted to other agencies? just keep pushing your agenda by using your opinions.

Submitted by West Is Still Lying on

If the only information you have is from "open source media" then you can present every single one of those sources here on this blog.

Then you can show us what in those sources proves that your illegal stalking and surveillance of citizens "works."

Then you can explain how those sources contradict Pekoske's sworn testimony before Congress that the program has not resulted in one arrest, hasn't foiled any threats, nor resulted in any other tangible benefits.

Submitted by West Cooper on

West is a cool guy sez - "

If the only information you have is from "open source media" then you can present every single one of those sources here on this blog.

Then you can show us what in those sources proves that your illegal stalking and surveillance of citizens "works."

Then you can explain how those sources contradict Pekoske's sworn testimony before Congress that the program has not resulted in one arrest, hasn't foiled any threats, nor resulted in any other tangible benefits."

I will do you one better, I will give you a link to exactly what I used to find all published information on Quiet Skies.

That is all of the information I have found on Quiet Skies, in exactly the same format that I used.

Just to fix another phrase for you I never specifically stated Quiet Skies worked, I said that programs like it work, and then took great steps to explain that I do not have any metrics on Quiet Skies. You are welcome to glean through the sources that I used, but they are all open source.

I have stated a personal opinion that surveillance programs like this work, they have worked for years. Surveillance is one of the oldest activities that humans use to determine what course of action to take (even if that course of action is to withdraw or discontinue). Our Nation has used surveillance programs to help allocate resources to the best category since before any of us were here, Quiet Skies is simply a newer version of those programs.

P. S. Per DHS General Counsel, this program is still not illegal, and still not stalking.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by The Original "RB" on

Submitted by West Cooper on Thu, 2018-09-13 08:07

P. S. Per DHS General Counsel, this program is still not illegal, and still not stalking.

TSA Blog Team

......................

You going to use Francine the Googling Lawyer as your source on legality?

For the truth about TSA's General Counsel view this:

https://youtu.be/eu65BY4rBmA

Submitted by West Cooper Is ... on

So now it's your "personal opinion" even though the director of your agency admits there is zero indication that illegal stalking and surveillance has had any positive outcomes, and you were only talking about programs "like" quiet skies (because there are other illegal surveillance and stalking programs that you're privy to, apparently) "work" but can provide no evidence of that, either.

You know, West Cooper, Liar, it's not surprising that Americans hate your agency and the people who work for it hate working there - you're wrapped up in so many layers of dishonesty and smarm that you're patting yourself on the back for lying to people, in between bouts of groping children't genitals.

Submitted by West Cooper on

RB sez - "For the truth about TSA's General Counsel view this:"

I fixed the link for you, however, I actually think you meant to talk about DHS General Counsel John Mitnick

West is awesome sez - "So now it's your "personal opinion"

That is correct, has been all along.

West is awesome also sez - "you're wrapped up in so many layers of dishonesty and smarm that you're patting yourself on the back for lying to people"

Again, I ask you to indicate a location on this page where I have lied. I will wait.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Karen M on

As one who recently came under TSA scrutiny, this post is ridiculous. I am a senior citizen - definately not a threat to anyone.

Submitted by Una on

I hope you’re joking

Submitted by Una on

Don’t forget that it’s a tremendous waste of our tax dollars too

Submitted by Jules on

Just watching CNN up here in Canada and this subject came up, so out of curiosity, and the fact that I used to be a pilot, all I can say is......wow, paranoia brought to psychotic levels, and then justified by some...
Stating the obvious, security is now a must, air marshalls are a good thing, but c'mon, making subjective judgements about someone that they may look funny to some employee? Really? And trained law enforcement has some magical ability to sniff out bad guys just by looking at them? I would love to believe that but my life experience and significant errors of the past tell me that it is not the case.
It seems to me that just getting to an airplane involves running a huge gauntlet, so I see zero reason to play secret agent based on some guys personal perceptions.
Did TSA catch the underwear bomber? Nope. Passengers and crew did.
It's pretty creepy to hear that the authorities stalk people even in a public place, and as far as I can tell, the process has yielded no results.
Up here in Canada, it's no better. Every single airport employee has to go through an enhanced security check, and many lives have actually been destroyed for mundane reasons based on what a public servant's "feeling" was on any given day. Pretty bad, pretty sad.
You guys at the TSA would benefit from getting a bit of fresh air. Perhaps you could then go back to the meeting room and come up with more rational policies to protect the travelling public.

Submitted by Joe H on

Glad for the FAMs. Glad for helping to keep the skies quiet for us travelers. Thank you.

Submitted by Taylor on

The facts and statistics don't lie. Federal Air Marshals aren't cost effective. In fact, they aren't even close to being reasonably cost effective. A high salary, government benefits, a big per diem rate for meals and lodging, and a high cost of training for what? To maybe be in a position a small fraction of the time to possibly stop an attack from happening (a type of attack that hasn't happened for the better part of two decades)? Granted, they do other things as well such as deescalate airborne conflicts, but that's only on a tiny fraction of a small percentage of 1% of all of the flights in and out of the U.S. No reasonable, objective person could justify this cost.

Submitted by Average Joe on

Reminds me of the rants about the Year2K bug. The US and Russia spent a lot of $$ to set up a joint program to guarantee that WWIII would not start because some computer couldn't handle 4 digits vs 2 digits. When absolutely nothing happened, people bitched that "we spent all that time and money, and nothing happened. There was no result". WHAT A DIPSHIT! Did this person actually WANT something to happen...like nuclear armageddon? Wonder how many bad aviation "event" DID NOT HAPPEN because the TSA and FAM were on the job? Sort of like, "police have been surveilling everyone in our neighborhood for a year, and there has been no crime, so now they can go away". Boy will people be surprised when the crime returns!

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