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Blacklisting Americans on the quota system.

There are potentially serious consequences to being enrolled on a federal "watch list." Thus it is, to say the least, unsettling to know that "watch lists" compiled by the federal air marshals service are built on the quota system--meaning that the names of thousands of innocent U.S. citizens are being taken down and entered into a database used not only by the federal government, but by foreign intelligence agencies as well.

"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," a federal air marshal told Denver's ABC affiliate KMGH. Air marshals told the station's investigative team that they are "required to submit at least one report"--called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR--"a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments."

Asked if being listed in an SDR has "real-life impacts on people," one marshal replied, "Absolutely." Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta who was fired for trying to reform the agency, elaborated: "[People listed on SDRs] could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up in databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to aircraft. It could be very serious."

A July 2004 memo from top management in Las Vegas instructed that "each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month." A second memo circulated in the same month offered helpful hints on filling that quota: "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."

The marshals who spoke anonymously offered documents demonstrating that their performance reviews were based directly on producing SDRs--even if by doing so they imperil the rights of innocent Americans they were supposedly hired to protect.
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Title Annotation:INSIDER REPORT
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 4, 2006
Words:329
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