Private Contractor Posted Secret TSA Screening Manual Online

While insisting the security of the public was never placed at risk, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that her department is conducting a review to determine how the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) air passenger screening manual ended up online.

Napolitano also confirmed that a private contractor had posted the manual online. The most sensitive parts of the Standard Operating Procedures manual were redacted in a way that computer-savvy individuals easily overcame, revealing sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials, and that only 20 percent of checked bags at airports are to be hand searched for explosives.

Video of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano addressing TSA security breach.
Janet Napolitano: Public Never at 'Risk' from TSA Security Breach


In a brief exchange during an oversight hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), asked Napolitano who should be held accountable for the security breach.

Napolitano responded that although the document posted was out of date, "The posting of it did not meet our own standards of what should be available on the net."

"We have already initiated personnel actions against the individuals involved," said Napolitano. She said DHS is already doing a department-wide internal review, and she has asked DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner to conduct his own independent review of the security breach.

When Leahy asked if the individual involved was a contractor, Napolitano said yes, but also noted that "some of the supervisors ultimately were at TSA."

The Standard Operating Procedures manual that the TSA inadvertently posted contained some of the most closely guarded secrets regarding special rules for diplomats and CIA and law enforcement officers. The 93-page 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.

TSA Screeners Told To Target Residents From Certain Countries

The redacted portions also indicate which law enforcement personnel are specially screened or exempt from some screening procedures, and indicate what requirements they must meet to be eligible for special screening.

TSA screeners are also told to require extra screening for any passenger whose passport was issued by Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen or Algeria.

The document also reveals that during peak travel times, TSA screeners who check identification can reduce from 100 percent to 25 percent the times they use black lights to authenticate documents.

But officials say the most damaging information in the unredacted manual is what size electrical wire can go undetected by airport screening machines -- valuable information for a bomb maker.

"This is an appalling and astounding breach of security that terrorists could easily exploit," said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security. "The TSA should immediately convene an internal investigation and discipline those responsible."

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