News & Politics

CNN Finds Pre-Superbowl DHS Docs on Plane in Embarrassing Security Lapse

They were never supposed to leave the office.

Photo Credit: motive56/Shutterstock

It's alarmingly easy to leave a valuable item on an airplane. With cramped seats, dry air, and endless delays, we're all trying to get out of the cabin as fast as we can, and sometimes that means a treasured scarf, or even expensive electronics get left behind.

What doesn't usually get left behind are classified government documents from the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened to anti-terrorism documents related to the Superbowl. As CNN reports, documents, marked, "For Official Use Only" and "important for national security," wereleft in the seat pocket of a commercial flight

The documents were discovered by a CNN employee,"along with other sensitive DHS material, in the seat-back pocket of a commercial plane. The reports were accompanied by the travel itinerary and boarding pass of the government scientist in charge of BioWatch, the DHS program that conducted the anthrax drills in preparation for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis."

Prior to the Superbowl, the Department of Homeland Security staged a simulated anthrax attack on the stadium, standard procedure before gigantic public events, some agency staffers wrote critiques of the response.The reports, CNN notes, "were based on exercises designed to evaluate the ability of public health, law enforcement and emergency management officials to engage in a coordinated response were a biological attack to be carried out in Minneapolis on Super Bowl Sunday." The report was critical of the response to the simulated attacks, noting, "some local law enforcement and emergency management agencies possess only a cursory knowledge of the BioWatch program and its mission."

CNN Contributor and former DHS official Juliette Kayyem called the incident "a really stupid thing...The biggest consequence of this mistake," he said, "may have less to do with terrorists knowing our vulnerabilities and more to do with confidence in the Department of Homeland Security. In the end, confidence in the federal government at a time of crisis is what the American public deserves."

CNN withheld their report until after the Superbowl at DHS's request. They were unable to verify who left the documents on the plane. Regardless, someone probably had a terrible Monday morning. 

Read the full story here


Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.