TSA: the fact that our secret surveillance program hasn't caught anyone means it's working

Late last month, the Boston Globe published a blockbuster scoop revealing the existence of "Quiet Skies," a secret TSA program that sent Air Marshals out to shadow travelers who were not on any watchlist and had committed to crime, on flimsy pretenses like "This person once visited Turkey."

Despite the Marshals' outrage at being ordered to engage in useless and illegal surveillance, the TSA kept on increasing the scope of the program — something it was able to do because it kept the program a secret from its Congressional oversight committee (!).

Once the Globe's report came out, Congress summoned the TSA to Answer Some Questions, like "What the actual fuck are you doing and why?"

The TSA's response would be hilarious if it wasn't so Orwellian. Their position is that the 5,000 people they've followed around in airports and on planes were cleared of suspicion by the surveillance that failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing. Basically, that the TSA has created these flimsy, stupid, secret criteria by which Americans (including flight attendants and law-enforcement agents!) can be declared to be "suspicious," and, having done this, it must follow these people for days or weeks in secret, until it's sure that they're not suspicious.

In other words, the fact that they followed around 5,000 innocent people is proof that the program works, because now they're sure those people are innocent.

TSA spokesman James Gregory went on to say that Quiet Skies operated under "a system of checks and balances, to include robust oversight" — remember, this is a secret program that the TSA's own Congressional overseers knew nothing about, that had no judges, no appeal, no due process rights.

This guy is basically describing the logic of witch-duckings: "We had all these crones around town and we weren't sure which (if any) of them were witches, so we drowned them all, and you know what? They all drowned! So none of them were witches after all! The system 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.



Cart-horse confusion expected to continue for the foreseeable future

TSA Admits 'Quiet Skies' Surveillance Program Is Useless, Promises To Continue Engaging In Useless Surveillance [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]