For 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.
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Image: flickr/ eschipul