Before any large sporting event or gathering of people, such as the Olympics, the World Cup, and even the Super Bowl, it is not uncommon for various organizations to run simulations of various possible attacks, and then to critique the response. These simulations serve to improve the responses and to solve problems before they occur.
The After-Action Report (AAR) for such a simulation is a very important document, one that often details how to improve the response to such attacks. Somehow, a CNN employee ‘found’ one such report concerning the Super Bowl in the seat-back pocket on a commercial airliner.
Yes, tucked into a seat-back pocket, a CNN employee found an AAR, as well as a number of other sensitive documents from the Department of Homeland Security.
According to CNN, the documents also included a travel itinerary and boarding passes for the government scientist currently in charge of the BioWatch program.
BioWatch is a DHS program that is responsible for running drills and simulations such as the anthrax drill mentioned in the AAR.
The exercises detailed in the report were specifically designed to test the ability of the local government and its public health partners to respond in the event of an anthrax attack. In other words, if the worst-case scenario were to happen, the report was meant to figure out how well (or poorly) Minneapolis and Minnesota would be able to handle it.
The findings were about what you would expect for a city that has never been much of a target of interest for most terrorists.
Further, the document asserted that “some local law enforcement and emergency management agencies” barely knew who BioWatch were and what they did.
Although this paperwork was found in December 2017, its existence (and the fact that it was leaked) were withheld from public knowledge until after the Super Bowl.
This was done because Department of Homeland Security officials and others involved in the planning of the Super Bowl worried that releasing the documents could encourage an attack, or inform various organizations of perceived weaknesses in the ability of the government to respond to issues and attacks.
The documents discovered in the seat-back pocket of a commercial airliner were marked as ‘For Official Use Only’ and ‘Important For National Security.’
Other recipients of this same report were instructed to keep them under lock and key and to shred the documents before discarding them. The document was also marked as ‘need-to-know’ information, meaning that anyone not directly related to the project wasn’t to be made aware of the contents.
Though the response of local agencies to the two simulated anthrax attacks at the simulated Super Bowl LII was less-than-perfect, the biggest problem revealed has nothing to do with the inability of Minneapolis to respond to an anthrax attack.
It’s the fact that a DHS official of some sort managed to leave a sensitive document in a commercial airliner.
Worse still, if the document was in the seat-back pocket, that suggests that at some point, someone from the Department of Homeland Security was sitting on a commercial airliner perusing materials that are obviously not intended for everyone’s eyes.
This should absolutely undermine confidence in the Department of Homeland Security and their ability to handle sensitive documents. A document outlining perceived weakness in the ability of the government to respond to an attack at the Super Bowl was left where anyone could have read it!
If government agents cannot keep track of sensitive documents, they need to be removed from their positions. If government organizations cannot keep track of sensitive documents, they need to be dissolved. And if government programs cannot operate without accidental or purposeful leaks, our government needs to consider changing the way they do business.
The Department of Homeland Security operates a number of government organizations of questionable value, including the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) which has made airline travel such a hassle. For all that, and for all the money they’ve spent, there is no evidence that we are any safer now than we were on September 11, 2011.
The government in the past few years has not taken good care of information classified information, and it’s time they started fixing leaks and ‘mistakes’ like this. If they fail to do so, it’s time to see them replaced.