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TSA Program Criticized For Secretly Tracking U.S. Citizens

BOSTON (CBSNEWS.COM) - A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) domestic surveillance program is drawing criticism for tracking information from U.S. citizens not suspected of any crimes. The program has drawn criticism within the agency, according to CBS News sources.

The "Quiet Skies" program, as first reported in the Boston Globe, uses a computer algorithm to spot flyers -- including American citizens -- whose travel and activities match with current threat intelligence. Those flyers are reviewed by a human team that vets the information and if something in the flyer's background raises concerns, that flyer may be surveilled by Federal Air Marshals.

TSA - Transportation Security Administration
A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane being implemented by the Transportation Security Administration. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The TSA said in a statement to CBS News the program's primary purpose is to "ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel," adding that it doesn't take race and religion into account and "is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans with routine reviews and active management via legal, privacy and civil rights and liberties offices, it is a practical method of keeping another act of terrorism from occurring at 30,000 feet."

Officials familiar with the program said "Quiet Skies" complies with security constraints and privacy requirements. One source said the "Quiet Skies" team has to be prepared to justify why an individual is being questioned if they are challenged.

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