One news source is reporting that sky marshals are reporting on innocent people in order to meet a quota:
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they’re required to submit at least one report a month. If they don’t, there’s no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.
“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.
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.
This is so insane, it can’t possibly be true. But I have been stunned before by the stupidity of the Department of Homeland Security.
EDITED TO ADD (7/27): This is what Brock Meeks said on David Farber’s IP mailing list:
Well, it so happens that I was the one that BROKE this story… way back in 2004. There were at least two offices, Miami and Las Vegas that had this quota system for writing up and filing “SDRs.”
The requirement was totally renegade and NOT endorsed by Air Marshal officials in Washington. The Las Vegas Air Marshal field office was (I think he’s retired now) by a real cowboy at the time, someone that caused a lot of problems for the Washington HQ staff. (That official once grilled an Air Marshal for three hours in an interrogation room because he thought the air marshal was source of mine on another story. The air marshal was then taken off flight status and made to wash the office cars for two weeks… I broke that story, too. And no, the punished air marshal was never a source of mine.)
Air marshals told they were filing false reports, as they did below, just to hit the quota.
When my story hit, those in the offices of Las Vegas and Miami were reprimanded and the practice was ordered stopped by Washington HQ.
I suppose the biggest question I have for this story is the HYPE of what happens to these reports. They do NOT place the person mention on a “watch list.” These reports, filed on Palm Pilot PDAs, go into an internal Air Marshal database that is rarely seen and pretty much ignored by other intelligence agencies, from all sources I talked to.
Why? Because the air marshals are seen as little more than “sky cops” and these SDRs considered little more than “field interviews” that cops sometimes file when they question someone loitering at a 7-11 too late at night.
The quota system, if it is still going on, is heinous, but it hardly results in the big spooky data collection scare that this cheapjack Denver “investigative” TV reporter makes it out to be.
The quoted former field official from Atlanta, Don Strange, did, in fact, lose his job over trying to chance internal policies. He was the most well-liked official among the rank and file and the Atlanta office, under his command, had the highest morale in the nation.
Posted on July 25, 2006 at 9:55 AM •