WASHINGTON, D.C.¬ – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today blasted the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), which has been charged with protecting America’s airports since the terror attacks of 9/11, for committing a “significant breach of security” by inadvertently posting its complete, 93-page airport screening manual on the World Wide Web.
The recent Web posting of the TSA’s manual, “Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures,” was done incorrectly, allowing all portions of sensitive, redacted material to be fully accessed and read by sophisticated Web users.
The Senator called the bungled posting “shocking” and “reckless.”
“As Americans make travel plans for the upcoming holidays, this shocking breach undercuts the public’s confidence in the security procedures at our airports,” said Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., ranking Republican member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“On the day before the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s hearing on terrorist travel, it is alarming to learn that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inadvertently posted its own security manual on the Internet. This manual provides a road map to those who would do us harm. The detailed information could help terrorists evade airport security measures.
“I intend to ask DHS how this security breach could have happened, what specific actions will be taken to prevent this type of reckless dissemination from ever occurring again, and how it will remedy the damage that has already been done.”
On Wednesday, the committee will hold a previously scheduled hearing, “Five Years After the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act: Stopping Terrorist Travel,” to evaluate anti-terrorist travel programs implemented since September 11, 2001. The hearing also is designed to assess the programs’ effectiveness and identify what further steps may need to be taken.
Witnesses include: Rand Beers, Under Secretary National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State; David F. Heyman, Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and Timothy J. Healy; Director, Terrorist Screening Center; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Department of Justice.
Although the TSA aviation security manual is dated May 28, 2008, with an implementation date of June 30, 2008, the information it holds is considered to be sensitive security data. On one of its opening pages, it carries the admonition: “NO PART OF THIS RECORD MAY BE DISCLOSED TO PERSONS WITHOUT A ‘NEED TO KNOW.’ ”
Examples of sensitive information – which were intended to be redacted — include details on how screening is to be conducted and explanations of the limitations of x-ray screening machines.
The TSA said it took steps to remove the document from the Internet, but since its posting, copies have been made and the full report can easily be found on the Web.