TSA's passenger tracking program leaves Metro Detroit Muslim community on edge

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 18:18:54-04

A small team of air marshals, as part of the 'Quiet Skies' program, are looking for behaviors like abnormal awareness of surroundings, excessive fidgeting or perspiration, and rapid eye blinking, according to a bombshell report by the Boston Globe. And it's leaving many travelers feeling unsettled.

"Is there a specific demographic you’re targeting, or is this random? That would be weird if someone was watching my habits on a plane," said Antea Birchett, who was at Detroit Metro airport today, after flying back home from a trip.  

But it's the Muslim community in Metro Detroit that's particularly worried.

"The Department of Homeland security has a history of racial profiling," said Dawud Walid, Executive Director at the Michigan branch of CAIR, a Muslim civil rights organization.

TSA says they use info from the intelligence community and previous travel patterns to help choose who to target. They say they’re not looking at crime suspects but also say they’re not targeting ordinary Americans, leaving CAIR questioning just how they define ‘ordinary.'

"We’re not going to be looking at or targeting ordinary Americans, we’re going to be looking at people like Dawud Walid, [or] like someone else who has an Arabic or Muslim background. That’s what that sounds like to me," said Walid.

TSA says they do not profile based on race, nationality or religion. But Walid says while policies intend to be color blind, the enforcement of certain policies is not color blind, that there is some inherent discrimination.

Today, CAIR asked for the TSA to drop the program because it may single out law-abiding travelers for official harassment.