The Transportation Security Administration has curtailed its controversial “Quiet Skies” domestic surveillance program, following widespread criticism that federal air marshals were spying on thousands of unwitting fliers who are not suspected of any crime or on any terrorist watch list.
Agency officials told the Globe that air marshals no longer document the minor movements and behavior of these travelers, such as whether they fidget in the airport, go to the bathroom during the flight, or seem, according to the agency’s own checklist, to have a “cold, penetrating stare.”
The agency said it has also has stopped following passengers through baggage claim and no longer compiles extensive reports on travelers who failed to rouse suspicions.
“Any routine passenger behaviors on a plane that would be seen as a normal behavior we are no longer capturing that,” said David Kohl, the new director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, in an interview.
The sweeping changes followed a series of Globe reports revealing that thousands of ordinary citizens had been swept up in the Quiet Skies program and subjected to minute-by-minute surveillance by armed, undercover air marshals through airports and on flights.
Targeted passengers, including a star WNBA player and a social media manager for an arts-and-crafts company, had no clue they were being followed, and in some cases, were surveilled only because they had recently flown to Turkey.
Quiet Skies has not, however, been entirely silenced.