But Terreri, who became an Air Marshal after 9/11, said he believed an Air Marshal who revealed the same gun info as the Sig Sauer company would have been in serious trouble. "If a Federal Air Marshal had disclosed the same information, they would be fired for disclosure of SSI -- it would be a breach of our rules," Terreri said, adding that "there's no upside to releasing this information."
Critics say that identifying the specific gun carried by air marshals makes it easier to impersonate a Marshal and, more importantly, lets would-be attackers know what they're up against. They can learn the gun's capabilities, and how to operate it should they seize one in an ambush.
Terreri said that would-be attackers now can "determine if the weapon has any type of safety mechanism, how many rounds each magazine can hold, and the typical characteristics of the weapon."
A former Air Marshal said the disclosure was a boon to potential hijackers. "Now they know which exact model to train with when they ambush a Marshal trying to stay alert in the most boring job in law enforcement."
The TSA's Soule countered that Marshals are trained to retain their weapons in such situations. Said Soule, "The training and marksmanship [of marshals] is more sensitive information than the type of gun that they have." The improperly redacted Standard Operating Procedures screening manual that the TSA posted contained closely guarded secrets like special rules for diplomats and CIA and law enforcement officers. The 93-page document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials that 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.
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.
TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides told Congress last week that the TSA manual posted online was outdated and therefore posed no security threat to holiday travelers.