Lawmakers seek to stop reposting of TSA security document

House Homeland Security Committee members want DHS head to examine legal options

Several lawmakers are asking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to examine if any legal remedies are available to stop Web sites from reposting a recently leaked Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security manual.

In a letter addressed to Secretary Napolitano on Wednesday, members from the House Committee on Homeland Security expressed concerns over the "repeated reposting" of the security manual on multiple Web sites and asked her to clarify if the sites could be compelled to take it down.

The lawmakers also demanded to know if the DHS was considering new rules to prohibit such posting in future and if criminal penalties are "necessary or desirable to ensure such information is not reposted in the future."

The letter seeks a response from Napolitano's office by Dec. 22 and is signed by Reps. Peter T. King (R-New York), Charles Dent (R-Pennsylvania) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida). A copy of the letter was originally posted on the Secrecy News Web site.

The letter is the latest indication of the growing concerns stemming from the inadvertent exposure recently of an improperly redacted document containing highly detailed information on the passenger screening procedures used by TSA officials at U.S. airports.

The Standard Operations Procedures manual was posted as part of a TSA contract solicitation process on the Federal Business Opportunities Web by a contract employee.

The manual provided detailed information on a range of TSA screening procedures at over 450 airports and included data on calibrating magnetometers, explosives trace detection and identifying law enforcement credentials.

It was discovered last Sunday by a blogger who posted links to it on his Web site and sent a copy of it to anti-secrecy site

The original document has since been removed by the TSA. But numerous copies of it have become available on the Web, including on whistleblower site, and news media sites such asABC News.

Even if such sites could somehow be compelled to take the documents down it is unlikely to make any difference or stop the document from being disseminated anyway. Wikileaks alone for instance, has already made the document available from various mirror sites located in Sweden, Finland, Tonga and elsewhere. meanwhile has been offering a direct download of the 1.8MB document since Dec. 8.

The DHS has launched an investigation into the breach as has the TSA. Several employees have been placed on administrative leave for their role in the incident and it is very likely that more heads will roll as the investigation unfolds.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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