The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is maintaining a list of unruly and disruptive passengers, according to a five-page directive obtained by The New York Times.
Actions that could land a passenger on the TSA’s list — known as the “95 list” — include swatting away a security officer’s hand, loitering suspiciously near to a checkpoint, or anything that poses “challenges to the safe and effective completion of screening.”
Since the list’s creation in February, fewer than 50 people have been added. Guidelines in the directive prohibit profiling and inclusion in the list based on race, gender, or religion.
Agents cannot use the list to deny boarding to passengers or force them to undergo additional security screenings: “It's simply an awareness that somebody is going through the checkpoint that has demonstrated concerning, assaultive behavior in the past to our officers,” Darby LaJoye, TSA's assistant administrator for security operations, said at a House hearing of the homeland security subcommittee last week.
The TSA said the list was made in response to an uptick in assaults on security agents. Last year, there were at least 34 assaults on TSA officers. The agency said in a statement that it is “committed to its people and wants to ensure there are safeguards in place to protect Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) and others from any individual who has previously exhibited disruptive or assaultive behavior at a screening checkpoint and is scheduled to fly.”
At the hearing, lawmakers took problems with the fact that passengers have no way of knowing if they’re on the list and that there is currently no way to contest their inclusion.
The TSA said that this is the only list of passengers the agency keeps besides the “no fly” list (which is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center).
Critics of the list say that it is a civil rights violation and unnecessary government surveillance.
“This is conduct that’s so completely subjective, and in many cases likely completely innocent, it just gives officers too much latitude to blacklist people arbitrarily and to essentially punish them for asserting their rights and in doing anything other than complying with officers demands,” Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told the Washington Post.
The U.S. is not the first country to maintain lists based on behavior. In 2016, Chinese airlines created a blacklist of passengers who misbehave on flights. Those on the list can be denied service from airlines, hotels, and tourist attractions.