TSA manual misstep leads to discipline

By Spencer S. Hsu
Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security has initiated unspecified actions against personnel involved in the bungled online posting this spring of a government document that revealed airport screening secrets, Secretary Janet Napolitano told senators Wednesday.

A contract employee was responsible for not properly redacting a 93-page Transportation Security Administration operating manual that was put on a government procurement Web site, allowing computer users to recover blacked-out information by copying and pasting it into other documents, Napolitano said. TSA supervisors were also involved, she said.

"The security of the traveling public has never been put at risk," Napolitano assured the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing, repeating earlier TSA statements that the document was out of date, never implemented and had been revised six times after the breach.

She said DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner is conducting an independent review of the incident, in addition to TSA's Office of Inspections.

"We have already initiated personnel action against the individuals involved in this," she Napolitano told panel Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), without elaborating. "We have already instituted an internal review to determine what else needs to be done to make sure this incident never recurs."

The TSA confirmed Tuesday that the document was posted online as part of a contract solicitation. The manual details procedures for screening passengers and checked baggage, such as technical settings used by X-ray machines and explosives detectors.

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