WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy urging him to hold a bipartisan oversight hearing to examine the so-called “Quiet Skies” program. The program, which is administered by the Transportation Security Administration, reportedly tracks ordinary air travelers, including U.S. citizens, through surveillance conducted by undercover federal air marshal teams.
“In stark contrast to the deployment of federal air marshals for Special Mission Coverage flights on which a known or suspected terrorist is ticketed, ‘Quiet Skies Selectees’ are not under investigation by any agency and are not listed in the U.S. Terrorist Screening Database,” wrote Lynch. “These travelers are nevertheless subjected to enhanced screening and security measures because they display travel behavior fitting ‘risk-based passenger targeting rules’ developed by the TSA and have entered the United States from a foreign location.”
The proposed hearing would examine the purpose, scope, and legality of the “Quiet Skies” program and how the TSA is taking steps to safeguard the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. In addition to privacy concerns, the procedure for removing names from the list in cases of misidentification or other error is unclear.
“While I strongly support the critical mission of the Transportation Security Administration to ‘protect the nation’s transportation systems,’ the administration of a covert surveillance program that targets nearly 20,000 air travelers, including U.S. citizens, per year without probable cause must be subject to robust congressional oversight,” said Lynch. “In furtherance of our national security, a meaningful examination of the purpose, scope, and legality of this program will enable us to assess the effectiveness of the Quiet Skies program and better ensure the protection of American civil liberties.”
Read the letter here.