On Wednesday night, exclusively on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC News correspondent Tom Costello spoke with an undercover Federal Air Marshal who works on the Quiet Skies program.
Asked what he watches for when surveilling people, the Federal Air Marshal shared:
“So there are some normal behaviors in an airport.”
“When you talk about somebody who is fidgeting, you can talk about somebody who is nervous.”
On the efficacy of the program, he noted:
“It’s not any different than putting a police officer on the street in potentially a high crime area in order to deter that crime from taking place.”
(Courtesy of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt)
COSTELLO: HE’S AN ARMED FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL ON THE JOB FOR 8-YEARS. BECAUSE HE’S UNDER COVER, WE AGREED TO PROTECT HIS IDENTITY.
Federal Air Marshal: My mission every day is to work the flight that I am assigned and make sure it goes from wheels up to wheels down without incident.
COSTELLO: THE TSA’S QUIET SKIES PROGRAM IS PART OF THAT ASSIGNMENT.
SINCE MARCH, FOLLOWING AND OBSERVING TRAVELERS IN AIRPORTS AND ON PLANES IF THEIR FOREIGN TRAVEL HISTORIES AND OTHER FACTORS RAISE RED FLAGS.
Costello: What are you watching for when you’re surveilling these people?
Federal Air Marshal: So there are some normal behaviors in an airport. When you talk about somebody who is fidgeting, you can talk about somebody who is nervous.
COSTELLO: MARSHALS TAKE NOTE OF WHAT A TRAVELER READS, WHO THEY TALK TO, WHETHER THEY USE THE RESTROOM.
TWO TO THREE DOZEN TRAVELERS FOLLOWED EACH DAY, INCLUDING AN AMERICAN WHO ATTENDED AN OVERSEAS CRAFT SHOW, A FLIGHT ATTENDANT AND POLICE OFFICER. CRITICS SEE POTENTIAL PRIVACY VIOLATIONS.
“The American public does deserve to know the extent to which they are being surveilled,” said Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).”
COSTELLO: UNDER QUESTIONING TODAY, THE TSA CHIEF CONCEDED MARSHALS HAVE MADE NO ARRESTS AND FOILED NO KNOWN PLOTS, BUT HAVE GATHERED VALUABLE INTELLIGENCE.
“I am confident that it has reduced risk for nearly 7 years and I would note that we are fortunate to have the Air Marshal capability supporting this program,” explained Admiral David Pekoske, TSA Administrator.
(Learn More. See TSA Administrator David Pekoske testify before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the department’s progress and challenges in aviation security on Sep 5, 2018. Courtesy of C-SPAN.)