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Project on Government Oversight




POGO Calls on Congress to Stop the Department of Homeland Security from Mislabeling Average Information as "Sensitive"

July 7, 2006 


The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) today urged House and Senate appropriations committee members to demand that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stop designating information that is not crucial to national security as "sensitive."

In a letter to the appropriators, POGO stressed that a provision in the House version of the DHS appropriations bill that would change how the agency classifies information as "Sensitive Security Information" (SSI) needs to become law. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Government Accountability Office have found that DHS, specifically the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has labeled even widely available information as SSI to cover up embarrassing information.

The legislative provision would make information marked SSI available to the public after three years, unless it is part of a "current, active transportation security directive or security plan" or the DHS Secretary "makes a written determination that identifies a compelling reason why the information must remain SSI."

Former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Special Agent Brian Sullivan has charged TSA with designating many documents as Sensitive Security Information (SSI) to hide the agency's negligence and incompetence in carrying out its function. The FAA became TSA after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Sullivan, who warned in May 2001 of the risk of multiple hijackings starting from Boston Logan Airport, yesterday joined with the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism in urging the U.S. Senate to enact language in the House DHS Appropriations bill that would end TSA's abuses and ensure that only documents crucial to national security are labeled SSI.

"I know from first-hand experience that roughly 95 percent of the materials that are labeled SSI have no national security value and should be released to help the American people arm ourselves against future terrorist attacks," Sullivan said.

"SSI, as it stands, is an unaccountable secrecy stamp," POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian noted.  "Clearly, Congress needs to reign in use of this easily-abused classification to protect not only our right to know, but our safety and security." 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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