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Retired FAA Special Agent: SSI is Killing Accountability

The Transportation Security Administration's Sensitive Security Information (SSI) pseudo-classification marking is abused by the agency to shield it from accountability, argues one former Federal Aviation Administration special agent.  Brian Sullivan, who worked in FAA security in the New England region before the 9/11 attacks, works with 9/11 victim families to expose how airlines and the FAA skimped on security to minimize delays in getting passengers on planes (post 9/11, TSA was created to handle security).  Some snippets:

TSA�s abusive overdesignation of documents as �Sensitive Security Information� (SSI) is an endless source of frustration to 9/11 family members determined to learn the truth about how their loved ones died, to watchdog organizations determined to hold our government accountable, and to distinguished jurists determined to mete out justice.
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Fortunately, a solution is at hand. Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Martin Sabo (D-Minn.), the U.S. House included bipartisan language in Section 525 of the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would end TSA�s abuses without preventing the agency from keeping legitimate secrets. Section 525 would:

�Require the release of SSI that is more than three years old and not currently being used to protect the transportation system, unless TSA demonstrates a compelling reason why the release would present a risk of harm to the nation;

�Standardize and justify TSA practices for labeling documents as SSI, and

�Permit a judge overseeing legal proceedings to allow controlled access to SSI in the proceedings, unless TSA demonstrates a compelling reason why the release would present a risk of harm to the nation.

However, the Senate version of the bill would preserve the status quo. So citizens who want to make America safer and hold our government accountable should call their senators and representatives and tell them to demand inclusion of the House�s Section 525 language in the final, unified version of the bill (H.R. 5441).

As Sullivan wrote, the House of Representatives has worked in a bi-partisan way to craft language that would keep SSI from being an unaccountable secrecy stamp, while accomodating the need for secrecy when it is necessary and prudent.  However, the Senate language, likely shaped by DHS and TSA, according to a well-informed source working on the issue, would be a slap in the face to 9/11 victim families and allow the continued use of excessive secrecy to minimize accountability at TSA.

By: Nick Schwellenbach
Director of Investigations, POGO

Nick Schwellenbach At the time of publication, Nick Schwellenbach was Director of Investigations for the Project On Government Oversight.

Authors: Nick Schwellenbach

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