"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Watch This 

I have ranted before about what I call "security as theater" - policies and actions designed to make it look as though the government is working to provide genuine security when, in fact, it is doing no such thing. Here's the latest disgusting example:
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....

"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.

That's why several air marshals object to a July 2004 memo from top management in the Las Vegas office, a memo that reminded air marshals of the SDR requirement.

The body of the memo said, "Each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month."

"Does that memo read to you that Federal Air Marshal headquarters has set a quota on these reports?" Kovaleski asked.

"Absolutely, no doubt," an air marshal replied.

A second management memo, also dated July 2004, said, "There may come an occasion when you just don't see anything out of the ordinary for a month at a time, but I'm sure that if you are looking for it, you'll see something."

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.

Hey, I thought that the government opposed quotas - or is that only with respect to affirmative action?

 

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