TSA Misusing SSI to Avoid Embarrassment, Liability, Former FAA Special Agent Charges

Former FAA special agent says The public has the right to know in order to protect itself.

WASHINGTON, July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is designating many documents as Sensitive Security Information (SSI) not to protect national security but rather to hide negligence, incompetence and potential liability, former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Special Agent Brian Sullivan charged today.

Sullivan, who warned in May 2001 of the risk of multiple hijackings starting from Boston Logan Airport, joined with the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism in urging the U.S. Senate to enact language in the House DHS Appropriations bill that would end TSA's abuses and ensure that only truly sensitive documents are labeled SSI.

"I know from first-hand experience that roughly 95 percent of the materials that are labeled SSI have no national security value and should be released to help the American people arm ourselves against future terrorist attacks," Sullivan said.

"There are only three explanations for why TSA wrongly labels so much information as SSI," Sullivan explained. "The first is that TSA is too understaffed or too lazy to go through each document and redact the one or two paragraphs that are truly sensitive, so they place the entire piece off limits. The second is that TSA still has not put in place uniform guidelines, policies and procedures for making SSI designations. The third is that TSA is acting to protect the old FAA, the airlines and the screening companies from legal liability, a possibility that was brought into sharp relief when TSA attorney Carla Martin's alleged collusion with aviation industry attorneys was exposed during the Zacarias Moussaoui trial."

"Brian Sullivan was on the inside of the SSI process and his testimony and support proves that our mission of revealing the truth about how and why our loved ones died is not only right, but in the interest of our national security," said William Doyle of Staten Island N.Y., whose 25-year-old son Joseph died at the World Trade Center.

"This man is a truth-teller who warned about 9/11 in advance and told the FAA how vulnerable security was at Logan Airport," Doyle said. "Anyone who fails to listen to his view that it will strengthen our security for Congress to bring TSA under control would be making the same mistake the FAA did in the spring and summer of 2001."

Sullivan was special agent and risk management specialist for the FAA in New England, where he analyzed the security vulnerabilities of airports and aviation facilities in the region. He also served as the security control point for New England and, in this capacity, received and controlled the flow of secret information, including SSI. Sullivan retired in January 2001.

"It is critical to understand that SSI is not classified information -- it is a designation for lower-level 'proprietary information,'" Sullivan said. "Ironically, all classified materials must be reviewed after a designated period of time to see if they can be released. Yet the far less sensitive SSI materials are subject to no such review. All Section 525 of the House DHS Appropriations Bill would do is apply the same process to SSI -- have the documents reviewed after three years to see if their release would pose no security threat."

Sullivan cited two specific examples of wrongly-designated SSI documents. The first was the Checkpoint Operations Guide (COG) in place on September 11, 2001. "TSA changed its airport checkpoint procedures," Sullivan asked, "so why did it stubbornly resist the COG release for four years before finally relenting?"

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