TSA announced today that approximately 10,000 of their workers will began the process of getting Secret clearances so they can receive better intelligence related to the current threats. Click here.
While I applaud TSA’s latest action, I’m stunned that it had not been done before. This is Anti-Terrorism 101. I was in intelligence for the U.S. Coast Guard many years ago and it was part of the job to have the appropriate clearances to do one’s job. If TSA Behavior Detection Officers and others who come into contact with the public are not properly advised about the threat, then how do they know when they see something they should pay more attention to?
Already there are those that are saying that if we allow more people access to information, the risk of that information spreading to unauthorized sources is increased. Yes, it is. But this is all part of the risk assessment. While information benefits both sides of a conflict, the lack of information on one side obviously handicaps that side. Case in point, prior to the publication of Practical Aviation Security, many people who work in aviation security did not even know the fundamentals of protecting aviation, while the bad guys certainly knew how to exploit the weaknesses.
It’s an operational risk that you take when you share intelligence. You hope that sharing the intelligence will benefit your side before the other side figures it out. Besides, what information are we trying to prevent from releasing here? Don’t the bad guys already know what they are planning? Shouldn’t we?
Now, since I was in the intel community I’m not so naive here to understand some basics, like certain sources and methods of information need to be protected and while we wrote a book on aviation security, we didn’t give away everything — my analogy is like calling the cops to ask their advice on how to protect your home from being robbed. They will tell you the basics of home protection, but you’re not publishing your security alarm codes and your travel schedule on the front door.
I have watched the protection of sensitive information go too far in my former work environment when even the good guys wouldn’t tell each other what was going on and we’d have to go get the information elsewhere, wasting time and resources, and ultimately exposing sources and methods as we double and tripled collected data. Reminds me of the old Get Smart movie with the Cones of Silence — we’re so secret even we don’t know what we’re doing.
I believe that sharing certain information is good. TSA officers should be aware of what the bad guys are doing. The general public should be aware of the threat. Remember, the passengers on United 93 were INFORMED about what the true intent of the hijackers was and that ENABLED them to take appropriate action. The passengers on the other flights did not have that data.