Secrecy News released an important document today, a notice from the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regarding “Sensitive Security Information (SSI) and so-called Sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (PII).” According to the notice, among the rules that users of SSI or PII should follow: “DO always use the SSI header and footer markings for SSI information.”
TSA failed to follow this rule when it sent out a notice to Air Marshals including Robert MacLean about its decision to reduce air marshal coverage of “high-risk” flights amidst heightened warnings based on intelligence that terrorists were planning on hijacking planes in 2003. MacLean blew the whistle on the decision and embarrassed higher-ups at TSA who were forced to change flight schedules. Now MacLean is waging a one-man battle against the Orwellian decision by the TSA to retroactively designate the flight information as SSI: a transparently johnnie-come-lately effort to undercut MacLean’s whistleblower case.
In the meantime, our jaws dropped to the floor when we heard the title of House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment hearing today: “Over-Classification and Pseudo-Classification: Making DHS the Gold Standard for Designating Classified and Sensitive Homeland Security Information.” DHS is likely the worst abuser of pseudo-classification in the federal government. Making it the gold standard, while a laudable goal, might be a tad bit optimistic. TSA Air Marshal P. Jeffrey Black had this to say about the hearing name: “If you looked up the word OXYMORON in the dictionary.... you'd see that title under examples. That’s like saying...... Icebergs are Deceiving and Dangerous: Making the Titanic the Gold Standard for Cross-Atlantic Travel.”
-- Beth Daley