More news comes from the Boston Globe about the TSA's "Quiet Skies" program. Having decided the skies were too quiet, the TSA started nominating people for surveillance based on god knows what and sent air marshals all over the US to tail "suspects" as they unsuspectingly went about their travels. Some of the targets included flight attendants and law enforcement officers. To those tasked with this futile (and likely unconstitutional) surveillance, the program is a waste of time and resources, if not a full-blown civil liberties catastrophe.
To the TSA, this previously-hidden bullshit is just some more discretion-flexing on behalf of the American public to save them from terrorists it inadvertently admitted aren't even targeting aircraft anymore. Why go through the hassle of the boarding process, smuggling precursors past half-inept, half-asleep TSA agents when you can just rent a van from Home Depot and drive it into a crowd?
The TSA insists the program has value and that it will continue to send air marshals out to tail flagged randos. It also insists better education of air marshals will shut complaining marshals the hell up. But what it failed to do in a Congressional hearing, called after the Globe's expose, is actually present any evidence the program works.
On Wednesday and Thursday, TSA officials shared details of the program with congressional staffers from four committees and fielded questions in closed-door briefings.
The officials said about 5,000 US citizens had been closely monitored since March and none of them were deemed suspicious or merited further scrutiny, according to people with direct knowledge of the Thursday meeting.
THIS JUST IN:
CARTS, HORSES IN EMBARRASSING MIXUP, SAY TSA OFFICIALSCart-horse confusion expected to continue for the foreseeable future
The TSA had to tail 5,000 people just to determine they weren't suspicious. That's the wrong way around, constitutionally-speaking. The government isn't allowed to snoop on people until it can find a reason to snoop on people. That's not how the Fourth Amendment works. The TSA's inept comparison to cops on the beat is worse than apples in regards to oranges. Cops don't tail people to see if they're going to do something suspicious. Suspicions are in place before the surveillance starts since, most of the time, law enforcement agencies don't have the manpower/funding to tail people all over town to see if they might be up to something.
Get a load of this talking point, delivered by someone who doesn't appear to care it's directly contradicted by statements made to Congress by TSA officials.
“The program analyzes information on a passenger’s travel patterns, and through a system of checks and balances, to include robust oversight, effectively adds an additional line of defense to aviation security,” TSA spokesman James Gregory said Monday.
Bullshit. All of this is bullshit. The "robust oversight" is especially bullshit since Congress was first introduced to this program by the Globe's reporting. The TSA claimed it had informed Congressional oversight about the program but oversight members pushed back, stating they'd never heard of it.
The "line of defense" is more bullshit. A program that has, to date, surveilled 5,000 people only to discover the TSA had no reason to surveill these 5,000 people is not a "line of defense." What it actually is is what the union representing the air marshals says it is: a waste of resources.
The air marshals union, which represents many of the 2,000 to 3,000 so-called flying FAMS, criticized Quiet Skies last week, saying that the criteria of the program were unacceptable and that the public would be better served to have air marshals assigned elsewhere.
Now, the TSA is being told it will need to answer questions about its no-longer-secret surveillance program -- one it instituted without input from its oversight and without informing anyone it was putting it in place. And the program has wasted resources 5,000 times to achieve zero wins on the national security front.