Getting called out by a Congressman

I must admit that being admonished by a Congressman has never been particularly high on my list of things to do.  I’ve generally tried to stay under the radar of Congress.  That all went out the window a couple weeks ago when the TSA’s Screening Management SOP document was published online with the supposedly redacted text still in the body.  I’ve been in contact with a number of Congressional staffers since then and have been trying to help them understand that this wasn’t the case of crazy hackers acting maliciously.  It is copy and paste.  Really quite simple.

I sat through about 90 minutes of hearings from the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection on Wednesday, hoping to hear that the congressfolk were going to do something about this event.  Instead I was treated to nuggets like this one from Congressman Charles Dent (R-PA):

To those who repost this security information on the internet you should share in the blame should security be breached as a result of this disclosure. In the future I would ask that you please, please use the whistleblower process congress has created for you. Call the department. call the inspector general. Call congress and its committees. But please do not circulate sensitive security documents. Rest assured that we will hold the department to account.

In essence he’s calling me out for sharing this document rather than using “internal” procedures to address the issue.  While I can understand the Congressman’s point – ideally truly secret information should never be made public – I must respectfully disagree with his thoughts on this topic.

Many minutes were spent throughout the hearing listening to TSA Acting Director Gale Rossides explain to the Congressmen that she would not provide them with copies of the current version of the SOP document even though she is bound by law to do so when requested.  She refused to provide a timeline under which such a delivery would be made.  It is quite humorous that Congressman Dent feels Congress can “hold the department to account” when the Agency shows no signs of actually respecting the rule of law.

The published version of the SOP contains many sections that were redacted seemingly out of convenience rather than a need to legitimately hide information.  Among other things, the Agency chose to hide the fact that their policies seem to be in violation of their own public policy on discrimination as well as international treaties and executive orders.  Is that a matter of actual security or hiding legal wrongdoing?

The TSA continues to hide their policies behind the veil of SSI while refusing to be held accountable to anyone for their behavior.  The Congressman may believe that the Agency can be controlled but all evidence thus far seems to prove otherwise.  In the meantime, it seems completely reasonable to me to continue to share when the Agency misbehaves.  Perhaps if more people did so they would actually be held accountable.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.