Robert MacLean, the former federal air marshal who blew the whistle on a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plan to cut costs by reducing air marshal protection on long distance flights during a suicide hijacking alert, has needed a big break in order to get his job back. He may have just gotten one, with news breaking this week that TSA accidentally posted on the internet an internal manual on airport passenger screening procedures that was labeled "Sensitive Security Information" (POGO has long had concerns about the government’s misuse of SSI and has recommended that Congress take action on limiting these pseudo-classifications.)
This incident highlights the inconsistency and incompetency with which TSA applies the SSI label. Before it had accidentally been posted online, TSA had redacted portions of the document, which was already completely marked as SSI. (Unfortunately, TSA did not redact the information in a way that made it unavailable to users who could paste the redacted text into another document and retrieve it.) MacLean was fired for allegedly disclosing information that TSA retroactively labeled SSI, which they did four months AFTER firing him.
One quote from Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley really jumped out at me in the coverage of the snafu: "Hyperventilating that this is a breach of security that's going to endanger the public is flat wrong."
Hyperventilating is precisely what TSA has been doing with the alleged SSI that MacLean released.
MacLean told POGO he believes Senator Jim DeMint should remove the hold he placed on Obama's nominee to succeed Hawley:
"There has been a vacuum of senior executive leadership at the TSA. Now more than ever, the Senate should remove the hold placed on Los Angeles International Airports Police Assistant Chief Erroll Southers and confirm him to lead the TSA and salvage any morale left with the screeners and air marshals."
-- Ingrid Drake
MacLean offered more thoughts on the accidental posting of the manual last night on CNN: