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New airport surveillance program puts US citizens under spotlight



TSA Screening Checkpoint in Colorado

A reporter from the Boston Globe has helped lay bare an otherwise hidden program of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA): one that targets all US citizens.

The program, called “Quiet Skies,” goes beyond previous TSA efforts, including specific watch lists, air marshals, and other actions designed to secure US airways in a post-9/11 world. In the previously undisclosed program, US citizens are tracked and treated as potential terrorists even though they are not otherwise under investigation.

“Quiet Skies represents a major departure for TSA. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has traditionally placed armed air marshals on routes it considered potentially higher risk, or on flights with a passenger on a terrorist watch list,” says the Boston Globe.

They continue, “Deploying air marshals to gather intelligence on civilians not on a terrorist watch list is a new assignment, one that some air marshals say goes beyond the mandate of the US Federal Air Marshal Service. Some also worry that such domestic surveillance might be illegal. Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.”

The program lays out 15 possible actions that could trigger the tracking of a passenger, though not all 15 were obtained by the Globe, and may not even be fully known by air marshals themselves.

These actions include passengers who seem “abnormally aware” of their surroundings, those who seem to exhibit “excessive fidgeting,” an “Adam’s apple jump,” or a “cold, penetrating stare,” and those who might sleep during a flight.

Those who end up triggered by the program, based on the above or other unknown actions, remain on a Quiet Skies watch list for up to 90 days or a total of three encounters.

When someone is flagged under Quiet Skies, a team of Air Marshals is placed on their next flight, and marshals are given a brief dossier on the subject. They then make minute-by-minute notes on the actions of their target.

Subjects are never notified that they are under surveillance.

The program may not only be subject to legal and ethical scrutiny, but also may be an expensive waste of government resources. Meanwhile, the air marshals themselves question thee program itself.

“The American public would be better served if these [air marshals] were instead assigned to airport screening and check in areas so that active shooter events can be swiftly ended, and violations of federal crimes can be properly and consistently addressed,” said John Casaretti, the President of the Air Marshal Association in a statement to the Boston Globe.

According to the report, some people who were surveilled under the program included a businesswoman who had traveled through Turkey, a flight attendant who was on duty at the time, and even another law enforcement officer.

It is unknown if the Quiet Skies program has made the skies any safer since its introduction in March of this year.

Image by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid via Flickr and a CC license

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Mueller Probe Never Investigated Trump’s Ties to Russia – DOJ Secretly Intervened to Make Sure It Couldn’t: NYT



“Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere”

The Mueller probe was expected to unearth the full scope of President Donald Trump’s troublesome personal and financial ties to Russia. Many were concerned and disappointed when it did not. Some blamed Attorney General Bill Barr, whose infamous four-page letter he released as a supposed “summary” of the 22-month investigation falsely characterized its findings.

But The New York Times reveals that early into the Special Counsel investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein secretly and dramatically narrowed the scope of the investigation, blocking former FBI Director Robert Mueller from looking into what literally was the basis for the investigation.

“The former deputy attorney general maneuvered to keep investigators from completing an inquiry into whether the president’s personal and financial links to Russia posed a national security threat,” The Times reports.

The Times report reveals that “law enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them.”

“Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.”

Rosenstein ordered Mueller “to examine ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government’ and the Trump campaign. Many Democrats embraced the appointment as a sign that law enforcement would complete a full accounting of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.”

But privately, Mr. Rosenstein instructed Mr. Mueller to conduct only a criminal investigation into whether anyone broke the law in connection with Russia’s 2016 election interference, former law enforcement officials said.

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Times, “We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia.”

“I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”

Read the entire Times report here.

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1000 Supporters to Attend Trump’s Renomination Acceptance Speech at the White House Amid Possible Legal Violations



President Donald Trump for weeks hinted he would deliver his renomination acceptance speech from the South Lawn of the White House, but after the first two nights of the Republican National Convention Trump has far exceeded that claim. Already much of the RNC has been held at the White House, including a citizenship naturalization ceremony, an official presidential pardon, and First Lady Melania Trump’s speech.

Now The Washington Post reveals President Trump has invited and expects 1000 supporters to attend his renomination acceptance speech Thursday. It’s unknown if that many people have ever attended a White House event before. Also unknown is how the White House will handle coronavirus safety protocols. Experts have said the politicization of the White House could be illegal.

(Technically, this is a Republican National Committee event and all executive branch employees except the president and vice president are legally prohibited from assisting or participating.)

“On Tuesday, attendees seated ‘in the rows near the President and vice president’ were tested before Melania Trump’s speech, the first lady’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN.”

Fox News adds that “most House and Senate Republicans” have been invited to attend the speech, and there will be fireworks over the Washington Monument at the end. Such blatant partisan politicization of federal government properties is unprecedented, and again, some say, could be illegal.


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USPS Employees Got an Email Today Telling Them Not to Talk to the Press Under Any Circumstances



While the U.S. Postal Service is under attack, everyone from letter carriers to union chairs and those working behind the doors in processing facilities has sounded the alarm about what they’re seeing from the top as part of the intentional mail slow down.

VICE News reported Thursday that USPS staff were sent a letter telling them that they can’t talk to the press under any circumstances.

The memo, dated Aug. 14, explains what staff should do if contacted, but it also says that if customers are asking questions, then employees should be “suspicious.”

Understandably, some employees have taken issue with the moves by the Trump administration to intentionally obstruct the passage of the mail, and quickly handed over to the media the memo saying not to talk to the press.

“The Postal Service continuously strives to project a positive image, protect its brand, and present a unified message to the customers and communities it serves,” the memo begins. “It is imperative that one person speaks on behalf of the Postal Service to deliver an appropriate, accurate, and consistent message to the media.”

“Avoid the temptation to ‘answer a few questions,’” it continues. “Keep in mind that, while most media representatives will identify themselves up front (sic), sometimes they do not. If you are dealing with a customer, especially one who asks a series of questions, it is perfectly appropriate to ask, ‘Are you a member of the media?’ Asking this specific question will help ensure your interaction is not used as the basis for any kind of ‘official’ Postal Service statement or position.”

The Trump administration has long been at war with the media and frequently twists the truth and spreads lies about them to his supporters.

It was reported earlier Thursday that the USPS processing staff was sent an email saying that regardless of what people read in the media, they are not to restart the sorting machines that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took offline.

Read the full memo at VICE News.

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