Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Your Government at Work

While the Transportation Security Administration has been tight-lipped about what transpired on AirTran Flight 297, the agency has been a little too open about some of its most sensitive screening procedures.

According to Brian Ross of ABC News, the TSA posted on-line its airport screening manual, including special rules for diplomats, CIA officers and law enforcement officials.

Call it an early Christmas present for Al Qaida--and anyone else interested in circumventing TSA security measures:

The most sensitive parts of the 93-page Standard Operating Procedures manual were apparently redacted in a way that computer savvy individuals easily overcame.

The document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials which experts say would make it easy for terrorists to duplicate.

The improperly redacted areas indicate that only 20 percent of checked bags are to be hand searched for explosives and reveal in detail the limitations of x-ray screening machines.

Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, blames part on the problem on a lack of leadership at TSA. The agency has been without an administrator for most of the year.

But that's a rather lame--and convenient--excuse. With minor exceptions, you don't need an agency director to decide what will (and won't be posted) on an organization's website. And, fostering a climate that promotes information security is a job for all agency employees, not just the administrator.

Sad to say, but it's highly unlikely that any TSA administrator could have prevented the "inadvertent" posting of that security manual. Such mistakes are a reflection of the organization and its culture. Changing that should be Job #1 for whoever winds up running the agency.

ADDENDUM: Readers will note that neither ABC News (nor Congressman Thompson) offered a satisfactory answer to a salient question: namely why hasn't the Obama Administration appointed someone to take charge of TSA? Instead of filling up the West Wing with all of those "czars,"--or spending months on his health care scheme--the President might devote a little time to filling a key agency appointment.

No comments: