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Homeland Security's culture of secrecy.

"The Department of Homeland Security is requiring thousands of employees and contractors to sign nondisclosure agreements prohibiting them from sharing sensitive but unclassified information with the public," reported the November 16 Washington Post. "The department was rebuffed, however, when it also tried to require congressional aides to sign the secrecy pledges as a condition for gaining access to certain materials...."

"We have steadfastly refused to sign any nondisclosure agreements," stated Ken Johnson, spokesman for Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "This is unclassified material and Congress has a right to it without signing away our lives." "They're forgetting who's overseeing who [sic]," commented another nameless panel official.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has adopted similar strictures. In October, former Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage, weary of being subjected to invasive and repeated pat-down searches at airports, demanded to see the regulation governing "secondary screening" searches at airports. "She said she wanted to see the regulation ... and she was told she couldn't see it," explained TSA official Julian Gonzalez to the October 10 Idaho Statesman. "She refused to go through additional screening [without seeing the regulation] and she was not allowed to fly. It's pretty simple."

Why wouldn't TSA simply allow the former congresswoman--or any other law-abiding American --to see the regulation? "Because we don't have to," insisted Gonzalez. "That is called 'sensitive security information' [SSI]. She's not allowed to see it, nor is anyone else."

So determined is the TSA to preserve such secrecy that it threatened to arrest and prosecute air marshals suspected of discussing non-classified SSI with the press or public. According to a Congressional Research Service report, "air marshals from two locations said they were threatened with arrest and prosecution if they were found to have released sensitive security information ... even though release of SSI is not a prosecutable offense."
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Title Annotation:Insider Report
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 13, 2004
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