(via Schneier’s Security Blog)
This is a story so absurd it’s hard to believe. On the other hand, this is a government organization we’re talking about, so who knows?
You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they’re reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.
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.
. . .
Another federal air marshal said that not only is there a quota in Las Vegas for SDRs, but that “it directly reflects on (their) performance evaluations” and on how much money they make.
The director of the Air Marshal Service, Dana Brown, declined 7NEWS’ request for an interview on the quota system. But the agency points to a memo from August 2004 that said there is not a quota for submitting SDRs and which goes on to say, “I do not expect reports that are inaccurate or frivolous.” But, Las Vegas-based air marshals say the quota system remains in force, now more than two years after managers sent the original memos, and that it’s a mandate from management that impacts annual raises, bonuses, awards and special assignments.
. . .
One example, according to air marshals, occurred on one flight leaving Las Vegas, when an unknowing passenger, most likely a tourist, was identified in an SDR for doing nothing more than taking a photo of the Las Vegas skyline as his plane rolled down the runway.
. . .
Strange and other air marshals said the quota allows the government to fill a database with bad information.
A Las Vegas air marshal said he didn’t write an SDR every month for exactly that reason.
“Well, it’s intelligence information, and like any system, if you put garbage in, you get garbage out,” the air marshal said.
“I would like to see an investigation — a real investigation conducted into the ways things are done here,” the air marshal in Las Vegas said.
Although the agency strongly denies any presence of a quota system, Las Vegas-based air marshals have produced documents that show their performance review is directly linked to producing SDRs.
I have to agree with Schneier here, really, though.Ã‚Â This seems too insane to be real.Ã‚Â But with the Department of Homeland Security, stupidity seems to know no bounds.Ã‚Â I hope it’s not real.Ã‚Â I think it’s not real.Ã‚Â But I just can’t be certain.
[tags]Sky marshals, Department of Homeland Security, Government stupidity[/tags]