The TSA is scaling back a controversial program that monitors ordinary Americans, who are not on any terror watchlists and are not suspected of any crime, at airports and on planes.
Brought to light by the Boston Globe earlier this year, the previously undisclosed program uses undercover air marshals to shadow thousands of U.S. travelers and report details of their behavior, including how often they nap or use the restroom, and whether they appear nervous. The Globe reported that up to 50 individuals might be under surveillance at any given time.
The TSA told the Globe over the weekend that it will change the threshold for marshals reporting their observations to intelligence agencies, but they will continue to follow and monitor those they qualify as persons of interest.
The public, along with some members of Congress, were outraged at the secrecy and vague guidelines surrounding the program, which had apparently been in effect since 2010.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts who is a critic of the program, said Monday that he is "pleased that TSA is now scaling back its collection of personal information about innocent Americans and their behavior. However, I continue to have concerns about the effectiveness and invasiveness of this program."
The American Civil Liberties Union said after the program was revealed that it raises "a host of disturbing questions."
In addition to constitutional concerns, "Federal law enforcement shouldn't be tracking and monitoring travelers and then logging detailed information about them without any basis to believe that they've done anything wrong," ACLU attorney Hugh Handeyside wrote in July.
"The safety and security of travelers continues to be the number one focus of TSA; Quiet Skies continues to add another layer of security to achieve that mission," spokeswoman Jenny Burke said Monday in a statement. She said the agency "continually assesses every measure, making adjustments to optimize effectiveness or address evolving threats."
In August, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security announced it would review the program.