Air Marshalls admit reporting innocent people as “suspicious” to meet quota.

Ah, Homeland Security! It’s amazing how you manage to make me feel less secure:

“Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft … and they did nothing wrong,” said one federal air marshal.

These unknowing passengers who are doing nothing wrong are landing in a secret government document called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR. Air marshals told 7NEWS that managers in Las Vegas created and continue to maintain this potentially dangerous quota system.

“Do these reports have real life impacts on the people who are identified as potential terrorists?” 7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski asked.

“Absolutely,” a federal air marshal replied.

7NEWS obtained an internal Homeland Security document defining an SDR as a report designed to identify terrorist surveillance activity.

“When you see a decision like this, for these reports, who loses here?” Kovaleski asked.

“The people we’re supposed to protect—the American public,” an air marshal said.

What kind of impact would it have for a flying individual to be named in an SDR?

“That could have serious impact … They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious,” said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.

It’s like living in a real life game of Paranoia where the (paraphrased) motto is TRUST THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION! THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS YOUR FRIEND!

13 thoughts on “Air Marshalls admit reporting innocent people as “suspicious” to meet quota.

  1. It’s like living in a real life game of Paranoia where the (paraphrased) motto is TRUST THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION! THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS YOUR FRIEND!

    Best stock up on your supply of White Robes now then, don’t want to be an Infra-red.

    Paranoia, a completely fictional game where a decrepit ruler believed the made up stories of security threats, so that its closest advisors could enact policies to keep the population docile on a diet of crap TV….

    Have they banned the Sierra Club yet?

    Stay Alert.
    Be Loyal
    Keep your Laser Handy.

  2. So is Bush going to get in trouble for this.  His what 5th, 6th, 7th, attempt at destroying our privacies and civil liberties.  Where does it end?

  3. The Stasi had quotas, too.  It’s amazing how much wasted time, space (paper index files—miles of them, literally), and work went into meeting such “dissident” statisical objectives—and never mind the resulting wholly wrong intelligence gathered, analysed, and then acted upon.

    This is how agencies go bad—- too many people, too quickly recruited, and too poorly trained.  Word is this dept is already a “land of the broken-toys”, at a level notorious to the likes of the Cambridge/Harvard Sq post-office employees.

  4. The Stasi had quotas, too.  It’s amazing how much wasted time, space (paper index files—miles of them, literally), and work went into meeting such “dissident

  5. Really, this cannot come as a big surprise to anybody who has been paying attention.

  6. Okay, at the risk of sounding like I’m defending this particular idiocy (I’m not),  this isn’t some sinister, evil, Orwellian plot.  It’s bureaucracy, busy-work, something that infests both government and business alike (“your status report must show a minimum of three accomplishments over the last week”).  It’s the classic office-bound mistake that action means progress or that metrics don’t distort what’s being measured.

    I’m not at all surprised that some DHS dimwit decided that (a) their agents are naturally lazy and therefore must be compelled to report stuff, (b) reporting stuff means the agent is a go-getter and promotion material, and/or (c) they, themselves, will look good if they can just wave around the number of SDRs their people filed.  “See!  See how vigilent we are.”

    It’s not impeachable.  It’s not even the direct fault of Bush (in this case).  It’s just bureaucracy in motion.

  7. Saying that Bush isn’t responsible for what the DHS does, is like saying that a CEO is not responsible when his division-x goes under.  I am not saying that Bush is directly responsible, but if he wanted to he could easily put a stop to this.  And make a good photo opportunity out of it.

  8. Bush is certainly responsible in a “Buck Stops Here” way (and should be held so accountable).  But that’s a bit different from saying:

    So is Bush going to get in trouble for this.  His what 5th, 6th, 7th, attempt at destroying our privacies and civil liberties.  Where does it end?

     

    It isn’t his “attempt” and it isn’t even someone (let alone him) trying to destroy civil liberties.  It’s classic Dilbert.

  9. Whenever an innocent person’s name get added to a government watch list, that sounds like a breach of civil liberties to me.  More of an extension, or addition to, the NSA programs.

  10. Got to go with Dave here.  Never attribute to Conspiracy what you can attribute to Cock-up. Any large organisation the people at the top do not trust the people at the bottom.

    Take traffic wardens in some parts of the UK. Now I have no problem with people who break parking rules getting a fine.  But surely the aim of traffic regulations is to keep the traffic moving.  In some places the people at the top decided that if they were not getting ‘x’ amount of catches then the Wardens were not doing the job, so they introduced targets (sometimes pay related).  This led to wardens being sneaky and ticketing those in ‘grey areas’- a bumper just over hanging a yellow line, or hiding from a driver who was parking rather than moving them on, then jumping out once the car was unattended.  The correct way to monitor performance would have been to check on illegally parked cars, but, hey, thats not as easy as counting fines. 

    Now imagine if SM’s have the same pressure on them.

    It’s like the story sent to Scott ‘Dilbert’ Adams. The QAQC dept of a company were offered a bounty on each bug fixed.  The QA testers all went out and paired up with programmers with whom they split the bounty…

  11. LH: Any large organisation the people at the top do not trust the people at the bottom.

    Having worked both ends of the spectrum as a sales rep and a manager … that about sums it up. smile

  12. Whenever an innocent person’s name get added to a government watch list, that sounds like a breach of civil liberties to me.

     

    I agree.  It is also an injustice.  But it is not a conspiracy or an “attempt to destroy our privacies and civil liberties.”

    The example Last Hussar gives of ticket quotas (yes, we have those in the States, too) is a good example of the same thing.  Nobody’s fiendishly cackling over all those innocent people being put on watch lists—they either don’t realize it’s going to happen or it’s less important than their promotion.

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