Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Globe Special: Pungent Plane Crash

Only took a few whiffs:

"Airline employee steals plane, fatally crashes" by Rachel La Corte Associated Press  August 11, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Investigators are piecing together how an airline ground agent working his regular shift stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane, took off from Sea-Tac International Airport and fatally crashed into a small island in the Puget Sound.

It is unclear how Richard B. Russell, 29, attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft before crashing about an hour after taking off into a small island in the Puget Sound, authorities said. Before it went down, the plane was chased by military jets that were scrambled to intercept the aircraft.

Which didn't happen on 9/11 as six different sets of war games exercises were going on, including one that envisioned what happened that very day, providing the perfect cover for the operation. I believe the NORAD guy asked if it was real world or drill when Bo$ton called in a hijack.

Officials said it did not appear that the fighter jets were involved in the crash of the aircraft. In a news release issued Saturday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said the F-15C aircraft did not fire on the plane.

They told us that about Shanksville, and the wreckage was miles around and a hole in the ground where the plane allegedly crashed.

At a news conference in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are still working closely with authorities as they investigate what happened.

What cover story do they have ready to dribble out?

‘‘Safety is our No. 1 goal,’’ said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines. ‘‘Last night’s event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline.’’

WTF? This happens every time there is a crash. They are already agreeing to change procedures even though the likely cause is not at fault.

The bizarre incident points to one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel: airline or airport employees doing harm.

‘‘The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat,’’ said Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation security expert. ‘‘Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off.’’


Seattle FBI agent in charge Jay Tabb Jr. cautioned that the investigation would take a lot of time, and details, including the employee’s name, would not be released right away.

That is when I got a big whiff of bovine aroma.

There was no connection to terrorism, said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department.


How can they know that if the investigation..... sigh!

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other dangerous maneuvers as the sun set on Puget Sound. There were no passengers aboard.

Ground service employees direct planes for takeoff and gate approach, de-ice them, and handle baggage.

Southers said Russell could have caused mass destruction. ‘‘If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground,’’ he said.

Why bring up unless planning something?

So which flight school did he train at, and which FBI reports were ignored this time?

Too busy setting up Trump, I guess.

Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said it wasn’t clear how the man knew to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

I'm just wondering if he ever served in the military.

The plane crashed on tiny Ketron Island, southwest of Tacoma, Wash. Video showed flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and accessible only by ferry. No structures on the ground were damaged, Alaska Airlines said.

Good thing it happened over there and not off the Cape.

Sheriff’s department officials said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the Pierce County resident.

But they have already ruled out terrorism.

The aircraft was stolen about 8 p.m. Alaska Airlines said it was in a ‘‘maintenance position’’ and not scheduled for a passenger flight. Russell could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is ‘‘just a broken guy.’’ An air traffic controller called the man ‘‘Rich,’’ and tried to persuade him to land the airplane at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

‘‘Oh, man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,’’Russell responded, later adding ‘‘This is probably jail time for life, huh?’’

Later Russell said: ‘‘I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. . . . Just a broken guy — got a few screws loose, I guess.’’


Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama.

Yeah, I can't wait for the made-for-TV movie!

Investigators expect to be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.....

Something they didn't do on 9/11, or if they did they didn't tell us and never shared them.


That was essentially the last Globe article I read today, located on page A8, other than some minimal turn ins. That's when they lost me.

Well, enjoy your flight:

"Welcome to the Quiet Skies" by Jana Winter" July 28, 2018

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

The internal bulletin describes the program’s goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists,” and gives the agency broad discretion over which air travelers to focus on and how closely they are tracked, but some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third.

It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work.

Already under Quiet Skies, thousands of unsuspecting Americans have been subjected to targeted airport and inflight surveillance, carried out by small teams of armed, undercover air marshals, government documents show. The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a “jump” in their Adam’s apple or a “cold penetrating stare,” among other behaviors, according to the records.

Air marshals note these observations — minute-by-minute — in two separate reports and send this information back to the TSA.

All US citizens who enter the country are automatically screened for inclusion in Quiet Skies — their travel patterns and affiliations are checked and their names run against a terrorist watch list and other databases, according to agency documents.

The program relies on 15 rules to screen passengers, according to a May agency bulletin, and the criteria appear broad: “rules may target” people whose travel patterns or behaviors match those of known or suspected terrorists, or people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a watch list.

The full list of criteria for Quiet Skies screening was unavailable to the Globe, and is a mystery even to the air marshals who field the surveillance requests the program generates. TSA declined to comment.

When someone on the Quiet Skies list is selected for surveillance, a team of air marshals is placed on the person’s next flight. The team receives a file containing a photo and basic information — such as date and place of birth — about the target, according to agency documents.

The teams track citizens on domestic flights, to or from dozens of cities big and small — such as Boston and Harrisburg, Pa., Washington, D.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. — taking notes on whether travelers use a phone, go to the bathroom, chat with others, or change clothes, according to documents and people within the department.

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. 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 [federal air marshals], work the skies. 

I'm sorry, I dozed off. Where does that put me in the profile?

Since this initiative launched in March, dozens of air marshals have raised concerns about the Quiet Skies program with senior officials and colleagues, sought legal counsel, and expressed misgivings about the surveillance program, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Globe.

“What we are doing [in Quiet Skies] is troubling and raising some serious questions as to the validity and legality of what we are doing and how we are doing it,” one air marshal wrote in a text message to colleagues.

They are whistleblowers! 

Maybe Trump will prosecute them like the transparent president Obama (remember that?).

In late May, an air marshal complained to colleagues about having just surveilled a working Southwest Airlines flight attendant as part of a Quiet Skies mission. “Cannot make this up,” the air marshal wrote in a message.

One colleague replied: “jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it’s gone from bad to worse.”

Experts on civil liberties called the Quiet Skies program worrisome and potentially illegal.

“These revelations raise profound concerns about whether TSA is conducting pervasive surveillance of travelers without any suspicion of actual wrongdoing,” said Hugh Handeyside, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.


The total $urveillance $ociety is already here anyway, with all the data collection and cameras. You must have missed the flight.

“If TSA is using proxies for race or religion to single out travelers for surveillance, that could violate the travelers’ constitutional rights. These concerns are all the more acute because of TSA’s track record of using unreliable and unscientific techniques to screen and monitor travelers who have done nothing wrong.”

Yeah, before they were just bullying you as you either boarded or disembarked.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Quiet Skies touches on several sensitive legal issues and appears to fall into a gray area of privacy law.

I've seen him on Fox, and he is a fair-minded, thoroughly thoughtful man whose only concern is the Constitution and the law.

“If this was about foreign citizens, the government would have considerable power. But if it’s US citizens — US citizens don’t lose their rights simply because they are in an airplane at 30,000 feet,” Turley said. “There may be indeed constitutional issues here depending on how restrictive or intrusive these measures are.”

Turley, who has testified before Congress on privacy protection, said the issue could trigger a “transformative legal fight.”

Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor chosen by President Obama in 2013 to help review foreign intelligence surveillance programs, said the program could pass legal muster if the selection criteria are sufficiently broad, but if the program targets by nationality or race, it could violate equal protection rights, Stone said.

Asked about the legal basis for the Quiet Skies program, Gregory, the agency’s spokesman, said TSA “maintains a robust engagement with congressional committees to ensure maximum support and awareness” of its effort to keep the aviation sector safe. He declined to comment further.

Beyond the legalities, some air marshals believe Quiet Skies is not a sound use of limited agency resources.

Several air marshals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, told the Globe the program wastes taxpayer dollars and makes the country less safe because attention and resources are diverted away from legitimate, potential threats. The US Federal Air Marshal Service, which is part of TSA and falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has a mandate to protect airline passengers and crew against the risk of criminal and terrorist violence.

John Casaretti, president of the Air Marshal Association, said in a statement: “The Air Marshal Association believes that missions based on recognized intelligence, or in support of ongoing federal investigations, is the proper criteria for flight scheduling. Currently the Quiet Skies program does not meet the criteria we find acceptable.

“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.”

TSA has come under increased scrutiny from Congress since a 2017 Government Accountability Office report raised questions about its management of the Federal Air Marshal Service. Requested by Congress, the report noted that the agency, which spent $800 million in 2015, has “no information” on its effectiveness in deterring attacks.

I wouldn't be surprised if it was all partying and porn over there.


"The Justice Department has ‘‘systemic’’ problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires ‘‘high level action,’’ according to the department’s inspector general. Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country....." 

Oh, the nostalgia for the Obama years, huh, when the DoJ was politically weaponized and women were preyed upon. Globe buried that like other IG reports, and now he is reviewing whether FBI and Justice Department officials abused their surveillance powers by using information compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, and paid for by Democrats to justify monitoring Carter Page, a former campaign adviser to Trump.

Of course, the Globe quickly closes that book.

Late last year, Representative Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican, introduced a bill that would require the Federal Air Marshal Service to better incorporate risk assessment in its deployment strategy, provide detailed metrics on flight assignments, and report data back to Congress.

Without this information, Congress, TSA, and the Department of Homeland Security “are not able to effectively conduct oversight” of the air marshals, Hice wrote in a letter to colleagues.

“With threats coming at us left and right, our focus should be on implementing effective, evidence-based means of deterring, detecting, and disrupting plots hatched by our enemies.”

Or disrupting plots hatched by FBI instigators setting up pathetic patsies to which we are so often treated.

Hice’s bill, the “Strengthening Aviation Security Act of 2017,” passed the House and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

The Globe, in its review of Quiet Skies, examined numerous TSA internal bulletins, directives, and internal communications, and interviewed more than a dozen people with direct knowledge of the program.

The purpose of Quiet Skies is to decrease threats by “unknown or partially known terrorists; and to identify and provide enhanced screening to higher risk travelers before they board aircraft based on analysis of terrorist travel trends, tradecraft and associations,” according to a TSA internal bulletin.

All I can say is stay off the airplanes.

The criteria for surveillance appear fluid. Internal agency e-mails show some confusion about the program’s parameters and implementation.

A bulletin in May notes that travelers entering the United States may be added to the Quiet Skies watch list if their “international travel patters [sic] or behaviors match the travel routing and tradecraft of known or suspected terrorists” or “are possibly affiliated with Watch Listed suspects.”

Travelers remain on the Quiet Skies watch list “for up to 90 days or three encounters, whichever comes first, after entering the United States,” agency documents show.

That's what they tell you; you never really come off it.

Travelers are not notified when they are placed on the watch list or have their activity and behavior monitored.

Thus you never even know it!

Quiet Skies surveillance is an expansion of a long-running practice in which federal air marshals are assigned to surveil the subject of an open FBI terrorism investigation.

How long running?

In such assignments, air marshal reports are relayed back to the FBI or another outside law enforcement agency. In Quiet Skies, these same reports are completed in the same manner but stay within TSA, agency documents show, and details are shared with outside agencies only if air marshals observe “significant derogatory information.”

According to a TSA bulletin, the program may target people who have spent a certain amount of time in one or more specific countries or whose reservation information includes e-mail addresses or phone numbers associated to suspects on a terrorism watch list.

The bulletin does not list the specific countries, but air marshals have been advised in several instances to follow passengers because of past travel to Turkey, according to people with direct knowledge of the program.

Related: Tightening the Noo$e on Turkey

So they are going to be behind it this time, as opposed to a bunch of Saudis, using Syrian patsies?

One air marshal described an assignment to conduct a Quiet Skies mission on a young executive from a major company.

“Her crime apparently was she flew to Turkey in the past,” the air marshal said, noting that many international companies have executives travel through Turkey.

“According to the government’s own [Department of Justice] standards there is no cause to be conducting these secret missions.”

Well, they are not secret anymore.



"A Boston Globe investigative report on Sunday broke the news of a secretive initiative that closely tracks ordinary US citizens traveling by air — and Congress should demand answers from the agency’s leaders. The surveillance operation on US citizens conducted under Quiet Skies provides a window into the often secretive and complex world of aviation security threat assessment. The TSA and other US security agencies have kept the flying public safe in the years since 9/11, but that doesn’t make the agency’s judgement infallible. Congress and the public deserve to learn more about a surveillance program conducted in their name. Here’s key information that the TSA owes us:"

Globe barks and Congre$$ leaps into action:

"Lawmakers demand answers on ‘Quiet Skies’ surveillance program after Globe report" by Jana Winter Spotlight Fellow  July 31, 2018

Amid a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, top Transportation Security Administration officials agreed Monday to brief Congress this week on a secret domestic surveillance program in which federal air marshals track ordinary US citizens at airports and on airplanes.

The response came after the Globe reported that the TSA in March began actively conducting surveillance of people who were not suspected of a crime or were not on a terrorist watch list, but who had caught the agency’s attention because of where they had flown, among other criteria.

Teams of air marshals have compiled data on the behavior of thousands of travelers under the “Quiet Skies” program, documenting whether they chatted with others, appeared sweaty or fidgety, or exhibited other actions.

“I am troubled by reports that the TSA is tracking US citizens who are not suspected of any crime and then monitoring seemingly innocuous behavior such as whether a person slept on their plane, used the bathroom, or obtained a rental car,” Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote Monday in a letter to the agency that included a number of questions about the program. 

So they did see me sleeping. 

Is that wrong?

The Globe revealed the existence of the Quiet Skies program on Sunday, prompting complaints from lawmakers and civil liberties groups. In response, TSA officials said they have scheduled briefings later this week with the four committees that oversee the agency.

Agency spokesman James Gregory said that TSA had previously detailed the Quiet Skies surveillance missions to the committees in May.

Oh, so the Congre$$ critters already knew about it. 

Did one alert the Globe?

“In the world of law enforcement, this program’s core design is no different than putting a police officer on a beat where intelligence and other information presents the need for watch and deterrence,” Gregory said. “The program analyzes information on a passenger’s travel patterns, and through a system of checks and balances, to include robust oversight, effectively adds an additional line of defense to aviation security.”

And they have kept us safe.

The TSA plans to meet with the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees, as well as the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Oversight Committee. Markey serves on the Commerce Committee.

Massachusetts Representative Stephen F. Lynch and Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy were among those also demanding answers from TSA Monday.

Last week, the TSA refused to even acknowledge the existence of the program. Following the Globe report, the agency released more details about the broader initiative and confirmed that teams of air marshals began surveillance missions in March.

Gregory said Quiet Skies “doesn’t take into account race and religion, and it is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans.”

The overarching Quiet Skies initiative dates back to 2012, when TSA started screening the identities of domestic passengers — checking travel histories and affiliations — and selecting some for pat-downs or additional searches, Gregory told the Globe. But in March of this year, the agency started the intensive monitoring, or “special mission coverage.’’

Oh, no, this dates back the Obama Gods time! 


TSA documents show there are about 40 to 50 passengers on domestic flights that fall under Quiet Skies criteria each day. On average, marshals follow and surveil about 35 of them.

Gregory declined to discuss the criteria for inclusion in the program’s watch list or the recent escalation to surveillance missions. He declined to say whether Quiet Skies has intercepted any threats.

All US citizens who enter the country are automatically screened for inclusion in Quiet Skies, according to agency documents. The program relies on 15 rules to screen passengers, according to an agency bulletin issued in May.

So don't leave, huh? 

Or if you do, don't come back.

Air marshals are directed to follow targeted passengers on subsequent domestic flights from the time they pass security, during such flights, and through the time they leave their destination airports, going so far as to document the license plate of the vehicle picking up the person, according to agency documents.

Some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, have said they closely monitored travelers who posed no threat, such as a businessman, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, and a fellow law enforcement officer. Several air marshals said they were tasked with monitoring US citizens because they had previously traveled to certain countries, such as Turkey.

And now they are angry at us and under sanction.

TSA would not say how the information on travelers is collected or stored. Documents show that the information is largely kept within TSA and not shared with partner agencies unless “significant derogatory behavior” is observed.


That means they are sharing it with anybody and everybody.

News of the Quiet Skies program prompted a sharp response from groups concerned with civil liberties, privacy, and profiling.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on TSA to abandon the program.

“The arbitrary surveillance of innocent people at airports guarantees that Muslim passengers will be disproportionately harassed by federal officials based on racial and religious profiling, with no benefit to the traveling public or to our nation’s security,” senior litigation attorney Gadeir Abbas said in a statement.

“This is just the latest example of the federal government’s counterproductive and misguided approach to aviation security. Congress never authorized any agency to actively surveil innocent travelers.”

The Federal Air Marshal Service, which is part of TSA and falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has a mandate to protect airline passengers and crew against the risk of criminal and terrorist violence.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.

TSA, which spent $800 million in 2015, has come under fire in recent years for its use of resources and deployment strategy. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report found the agency has no information about its effectiveness in deterring attacks.


So how many terrorists did they nab?

"TSA admits ‘Quiet Skies’ surveillance snared zero threats" by Jana Winter Spotlight Fellow  August 03, 2018

Federal air marshals have closely monitored about 5,000 US citizens on domestic flights in recent months under the controversial “Quiet Skies” program, but none were deemed so suspicious that they required further scrutiny, according to three people with direct knowledge of a congressional briefing held Thursday with the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA officials were summoned to Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday afternoon following Globe reports on the secret program, which sparked sharp criticism because it includes extensive surveillance of domestic fliers who are not suspected of a crime or listed on any terrorist watch list.

“Quiet Skies is the very definition of Big Brother,” Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, said broadly about the program. “American travelers deserve to have their privacy and civil rights protected even 30,000 feet in the air.”

In an hourlong briefing with congressional committee staffers, TSA officials provided details on the Quiet Skies program, which expanded in March to include monitoring by teams of armed, undercover air marshals.

The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, or have a “cold penetrating stare,” among other behaviors, according to agency documents.

The TSA defended the program, said it would continue, and announced plans to better educate and communicate with members of the Federal Air Marshal Service, or FAMS, according to four people with knowledge of the exchange.

The TSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.

So much for communicating.

The air marshals union, which represents many of the 2,000 to 3,000 so-called flying FAMS, criticized Quiet Skies last week, saying that the criteria of the program were unacceptable and that the public would be better served to have air marshals assigned elsewhere.

Several members of Congress said they were caught off-guard by the revelations surrounding Quiet Skies.....

Even though the committees knew about it in May?

Let's hope the TSA doesn't get caught off guard in the next few months.


Of course, what do you really know of that person sitting beside you?