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Be Nice at Airport Security or Wind Up on a Secret TSA Watch List

Ever waited near a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint for another traveler, raised your voice at a TSA employee, or brushed away an agent’s hand? You might be on a secret TSA watch list and not even know it.

The New York Times obtained a five-page directive issued in February by Darby LaJoye, the TSA’s assistant administrator for security operations, which outlines the criteria for adding flyers to the watch list (different than the well-known “no-fly list” that flags known or suspected terrorists).

According to the Times article, passengers who “loiter suspiciously near security checkpoints,” “[swat] away security screeners’ hands,” or “otherwise [appear] unruly” could all wind up on the watch list, and quoted the directive as stating: “An intent to injure or cause physical pain is not required, nor is an actual physical injury.”

The TSA watch list, referred to as the “95 list,” was discussed in public for the first time at a recent House Homeland Security Subcommittee meeting, with representatives raising concerns over civil liberty implications. People placed on the list are not notified, and being on the list may not automatically result in being denied boarding or trigger a secondary screening. “This is simply an awareness that somebody is going through the checkpoint that has demonstrated concerning assaulting behavior in the past to our officers,” LaJoye told the subcommittee. LaJoye also denied that smaller infractions, like loitering by a checkpoint, would result in being placed on the list, telling CBS News: “In most cases this is someone where there was assaultive behavior or someone tried to circumvent security screening”.

The TSA drew criticism for not having a way for passengers to appeal being on the list. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) said during the hearing, “What I don’t want—what I think no American would want—is an excuse for unfair, secret profiling that doesn’t even offer a chance for people to contest their name appearing on such a list.”

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