Everyone's heard stories, always officially denied, that you're more likely to get a traffic ticket near the end of month because the cops have a set quota of tickets they need to write each month. According to KMGH, the ABC affiliate in Denver, your traffic misery may be following you into the skies, with potentially nastier consequences than a fine.

The Quota System (Friendly Skies Edition)

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they're reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

"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," said one federal air marshal


What kind of impact would it have for a flying individual to be named in an SDR [Surveillance Detection Report]?

"That could have serious impact ... They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious," said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.

As far as KMGH was able to determine, the quota system seems limited to the Las Vegas office of the air marshal service, (a division of Homeland Security, of course). As noted, an official denial of the quota system was issued. On the other hand, there are those memos.

... [S]everal air marshals object to a July 2004 memo from top management in the Las Vegas office, a memo that reminded air marshals of the SDR requirement.

The body of the memo said, "Each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month."

"Does that memo read to you that Federal Air Marshal headquarters has set a quota on these reports?" [KMGH reporter Tony] Kovaleski asked.

"Absolutely, no doubt," an air marshal replied.

A second management memo, also dated July 2004, said, "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."


Although the agency strongly denies any presence of a quota system, Las Vegas-based air marshals have produced documents that show their performance review is directly linked to producing SDRs.

So, the next time you're headed for Vegas, just remember, while the commercials say what happens there, stays there, that may not apply to Las Vegas' air space.


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