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

Joins With 9/11 Families in Urging Senate to Rein TSA In by Adopting House


Jul 06, 2006, 01:00 ET from 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism

    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
     "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?"
     The second document Sullivan cited was the staff monograph on aviation
 security that was part of the 9/11 Commission Report. When it was first
 released, TSA blacked out more than 50 percent of the monograph as SSI.
 Under pressure from the 9/11 families, TSA released another third of the
 document. Under further pressure, TSA reduced its redactions to just 2
 percent of the monograph. "When you look at the pages TSA originally
 blacked out and finally released, it becomes obvious the only reason this
 material was first denied to the public was because it was embarrassing to
 the FAA and the airlines," Sullivan said.
     "This is inexcusable," he charged. "It was my job to protect national
 security secrets and the last thing I would ever want is for this
 information to get out. But it is equally offensive to hide information
 that is no threat to national security just because it would invite public
 scrutiny or subject large corporations to legal liability. The public has
 the right to know so we can protect ourselves in the future. After five
 years of TSA intransigence, it's time to make this happen."
     The provision Sullivan and the 9/11 Families urge the Senate to pass,
 Section 525 of the House DHS Appropriations bill, would require TSA to:
     * Release all information that is more than three years old and not
       incorporated in a current, active transportation security directive or
       plan unless TSA demonstrates a compelling reason why it would present a
       risk of harm to the nation;
     * Standardize and justify its practices for classifying documents as
       secret; and
     * Turn over documents requested by a judge in a legal proceeding unless
       TSA demonstrates a compelling reason why it would present a risk of harm
       to the nation.
     Language in the DHS Appropriations Bill reported out of the Senate
 Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, would impose no such
 requirements, instead giving TSA 120 days to report to Congress on the
 progress it has made implementing provisions in last year's appropriations
 bill requiring it to fix the SSI process. "No one needs another 120 days to
 get the job done," Sullivan said. "Congress should hold TSA accountable
     The 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism represents more than
 6,000 survivors and family members of those who died in the September 11,
 2001, terrorist attacks. The 9/11 Families seek to hold al Qaeda's
 financiers accountable for their central role in these atrocities and to
 make America safer by cutting off the financial pipeline fueling global

SOURCE 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism