Did you know that TSA began keeping a secret watchlist of flyers who fight back during enhanced pat-downs? At the end of May, the Transportation Safety Administration revealed that they created a watchlist, also known as the ‘95 list’, for passengers who openly cause problems in airports. Although this came as a shock to many concerned flyers, TSA justified this action by explaining that it was to not only protect flyers and airport staff, but to protect the TSA agents as well. They stated that screeners across a variety of US airports were assaulted approximately 34 times in the past year.
A Deeper Look into the Watchlist
Taking a closer look at the qualifications of landing on the watchlist, what level of troublemaking can really land a traveler on the watchlist? Well, according to a confidential memo that was released, actions and behaviors that are viewed as ‘offensive and without legal justification’ can easily put a traveler on TSA’s secret watchlist (source). Additionally, the memo stated that an individual can be placed on the watchlist if they pose any ‘challenges to the safe and effective completion of screening’. Unsolicited, suspicious loitering can also put you on this list. Basically, if you make the TSA suspicious of your actions in any way, you have a chance of being placed on their list.
In light of this discovery, Hugh Handeyside, an attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union, made a statement to the Washington Post. He stated that this policy gives the Transportation Safety Administration unbounded authority to ‘blacklist people arbitrarily and essentially punish them for asserting their rights’. Even state representatives shared a concern over this issue, as Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey) stated, “I am concerned about the civil-liberty implications of such list.” However, this is not the first time a list like this has been created based on the behavior of flyers. Back in 2016, Chinese airlines created a blacklist of passengers who misbehaved on flights. Once on the blacklist, these passengers were denied services from a variety of airlines, hotels, and even tourist attractions.
Although the protections of our people in airport facilities is an extreme importance, this secret list the agents of TSA have devised can cause a number of civil issues. Reports show that this list--the 95 list--was created back in February and as few as 50 people have been added to it. However, as much controversy this list may have in a civil rights aspect, it cannot determine who can and cannot board a plane. Agents are not permitted to use this list to deny passengers from boarding or force them to take part in additional security screening methods. When word spread about TSA’s new list, Darby LaJoye, TSA’s assistant administrator for security operations, decided to give a statement on the matter. LaJoye explains, “It’s simply an awareness that somebody is going through the checkpoint that has demonstrated concerning, assaultive behavior in the past to our officers” (source).
Currently, there’s no definitive way for passengers to know if they have been placed on this elite list.