WASHINGTON Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has sought disciplinary action against people responsible for posting online a manual of security measures at U.S. airports, and has called for a probe into the leak.
The 93-page Transportation Security Administration document was posted on a federal procurement website last spring and included procedures and technical details for screening operations, metal detectors and explosives detection systems at U.S. airports.
It was labeled "Sensitive Security Information" and dated May 28, 2008.
Napolitano told a Senate panel on Wednesday that the manual was outdated, but that disciplinary actions have been initiated against those involved in the posting of the document, an outside contractor and TSA supervisors.
"We have also asked the (DHS) inspector general to do his own independent review to supplement and complement our review," she told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The security of the traveling public has never been put at risk," she said, adding that some of the information from the manual had already been publicly available.
TSA said the individuals who may have been involved in improperly posting the document have been put on administrative leave pending the review by TSA's Office of Inspection.
The document posted online also revealed information meant to be kept secret, such the dozen countries whose citizens should be referred for additional screening. They were Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen and Algeria.
Additionally, it provided sample pictures of the kinds of law enforcement identifications that could be presented at airport checkpoints, ranging from the CIA to members of the U.S. Congress.
"Clearly somebody could take advantage of those things," Republican Senator Jon Kyl told Napolitano, recommending the department assess any potential damage caused by the release of the document.
TSA said in a statement that while the secret information was not properly protected in that version of the manual, it was not the everyday screening manual used at airport checkpoints and it has since been updated six times.
"Thorough post-incident analysis has determined that our systems are secure and that screening protocols have not been compromised," the agency said. "TSA is confident that screening procedures in place remain strong and the many layers of security keep the traveling public safe."
Security at U.S. airports was heavily boosted after the September 11, 2001 attacks when 19 hijackers commandeered four planes and crashed three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Editing by Frances Kerry and Anthony Boadle)