Politics

Lynch Wants Oversight of ‘Questionable’ TSA Program

Congressman says ‘Quiet Skies’ has marshals tracking 200,000 passengers per year without probable cause

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said he wants a bipartisan investigation of the Transportation Security Administration's "Quiet Skies" program. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call).

Rep. Stephen Lynch wants Republicans to hold hearings on the Transportation Security Administration’s “Quiet Skies” program.

The Massachusetts Democrat sent a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy about the program, in which undercover air marshals reportedly monitor air travelers, MassLive reported. 

Lynch said in his letter that while he “strongly support(s) 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 200,000 air travelers, including U.S. citizens, per year without probable cause must be subject to robust congressional oversight.”

Lynch’s letter comes after a report by the Boston Globe that found that the TSA was regularly targeting travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a TSA bulletin in the report.

Lynch said 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.”

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey sent his own letter saying members of Congress “need answers about this questionable program, including if it actually resulted in arrests or prevented terrible events.”

Lynch told WGBH news he had not been aware of the program but said he previously heard about conflicts over it between the Air Marshals Association and the TSA.

“There’s been some pushback from the Air Marshal’s Association about how TSA has been running that program, but not necessarily tracking the data and behaviors of people who haven’t been previously identified or put on a watchlist,” he said. “So that’s a new dimension to this, and that’s what we’ll be looking at in the hearing.”

He said marshals are booked on these flights “so they can keep their numbers up and satisfy Congress’ requirement that they have security in the air.”

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