The group 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism issued a press release today accusing TSA of excessive secrecy, in particular its use of the “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI) designation for many documents:
“SSI should have a different acronym — CYA,” said Dr. Stephen Alderman of Bedford, N.Y., whose son, Peter Alderman, died at the World Trade Center. “The materials we’re requesting deal with pre-9/11 security procedures that have changed, making them of no use to would-be terrorists. Some aired on national television and were published in newspapers. TSA’s only conceivable motive is avoiding embarrassment or protecting the airlines.”
Sweeney Roth, Dr. Alderman, and his wife, Elizabeth, are among a group of 9/11 family members meeting with members of Congress today as part of an effort to educate U.S. senators and representatives about the problems at TSA and to change TSA’s SSI practices.
Congress created the SSI designation to enable TSA to prevent the release of information that the agency determines presents a threat to the nation’s transportation system. The 9/11 Families made clear that they are not challenging TSA’s right to withhold information that could present a genuine security threat. Instead, they charged that TSA is abusing its authority by stamping as SSI and keeping secret a host of materials that clearly pose no threat whatsoever — including many documents once openly available but now shrouded in secrecy.
I’m in complete agreement that the SSI designation creates an invitation for unwarranted secrecy in TSA (and in the rest of DHS). It’s time for Congress to get rid of this “grey zone” designation, and have DHS operate within the long-standing system of classification that preceded the introduction of SSI.