Editing Goof Puts TSA Airport Screening Secrets on the Web

By Andrew Moseman | December 9, 2009 2:39 pm

airline220For an organization dedicated to not letting anything get by them, the Transportation Security Administration seriously dropped the ball this week when a full copy of its standard operating procedures for airport security leaked on the Web.

TSA officials said that the manual was posted online in a redacted form on a federal procurement Web site, but that the digital redactions were inadequate. They allowed computer users to recover blacked-out passages by copying and pasting them into a new document or an e-mail [Washington Post]. Among the information accidentally made public in the PDF: pictures of the passes that CIA officials and members of Congress use, as well as a list of the 12 countries whose passport holders are flagged for extra security checks. The document also revealed technical settings used by airport X-ray and explosive-detecting machines.

The Senate’s homeland security committee got its Festivus airing of grievances in early this year, lambasting the TSA for recklessness and providing useful information for terrorists. However, some say that Senators ought to point at least one finger at themselves for the disorganization at the TSA, as they blocked the nominee for TSA administrator, leaving the agency with an acting leader but no formal one. “One of the problems I see is we don’t have anybody in charge,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “We’ve been without a TSA administrator a good part of this year” [ABC News].

However, the TSA workers who goofed will take the lion’s share of the blame. Assistant Homeland Security secretary David Heyman told senators Wednesday that a full investigation into the Internet security lapse is under way and the TSA employees have been taken off duty pending the results of that probe. He did not say how many employees were put on leave [AP]. TSA took down the document in question on Sunday after officials learned of the leak.

Related Content:
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DISCOVER: A Wing and a Prayer: The U.S.’s Crumbling Air-Travel Infrastructure

Image: flickr/ eschipul

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
  • bflaska

    I didn’t get through all of their top secret document. If you did, was there a section on how TSA personnel are to pull terminally ill cancer patients out of their wheelchairs and drop them on the floor of the airport? And how not to apologize? That’s what they did in Hawaii to a friend of mine, on her way to the hospital for the last time. I just want to be certain the TSA personnel were “just following orders” to the absolute letter of their prescribed duties and really, really protecting national security in so doing. Otherwise, I’m afraid they showed themselves to be inept, cruel, and callous bunglers.

  • http://blog.denniswilliamson.us Dennis

    You mean to say they simply did this in order to redact the text? Those idiots!

  • Fatkid

    Hey did Dennis redact himself? Its funny, but I spoke to an FAA oficial, he said the most dangerous thing you can do at the airport is__________________________________________________________________________________________________ And that was what happened on the best Spring Break of my life!

  • Nicole

    And they expect us to believe that the naked pictures they take of us every day with their new machines somehow WON’T get leaked, when they can’t even protect their most closely guarded secrets!?

  • George

    The body scanners can’t see inside body cavities so they are useless . Duhh…..

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