Congressional Report Slams TSA For Security Breach - InformationWeek

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1/11/2008
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Congressional Report Slams TSA For Security Breach

At least 247 travelers submitted their personal information through the unsecured "file your application online" link, a House Oversight committee said.

Hundreds of Americans inappropriately placed on airline security watch lists and either banned from commercial air travel or subject to additional screening have also had to worry about identity theft for the past year. The Transportation Security Administration Web site set up to help innocent travelers clear their name has been deemed "insecure."

A report issued on Friday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says that between October 6, 2006, when the TSA launched its Redress Management System [RMS] site, and February 13, 2007, when the site ceased operation following revelations about its lack of security, "[a]t least 247 travelers submitted their personal information through the unsecured 'file your application online' link."

The report, prepared at the request of Chairman Henry Waxman, accuses the TSA of "poor procurement practices, conflicts of interest, and weak oversight." It finds that the company hired to design the site, Desyne Web Services in Virginia, was awarded a "no-bid" contract, that the TSA official in charge of the site was a former employee of the contractor, and that the TSA did not detect the security issues for months.

The report also states that neither Desyne nor the TSA site's technical lead have been sanctioned for their roles in deploying the insecure site and that the TSA's relationship with Desyne remains ongoing.

The TSA maintains the problems covered in the report have been dealt with. "Each issue that the Committee has raised has been thoroughly addressed by TSA many months ago," said TSA spokesperson Christopher White, adding that the TSA has no reason to believe that any of 247 individuals have been subject to identity theft.

The Department of Homeland Security launched its successor to the RMS, the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP), on February 20, 2007. DHS TRIP remains the primary resource for those seeking to correct information in government databases that might hinder their ability to travel.

More than 17,000 travelers have used DHS TRIP safely and securely since it launched, said White.

According to a September 2007 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, that "43% of the names reported to the TSC [Terrorist Screening Center database] are false positives." The TSC database, maintained by the FBI, is the source for names on the government's No-Fly List.

"Well-known false positives include Senator Ted Kennedy, whose name was close to the name of a suspected terrorist, and Catherine Stevens, the wife of Senator Ted Stevens, whose name was similar to 'Cat' Stevens, the former name of the singer Yusuf Islam," the House report says.

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