CNN Worker Finds Sensitive DHS Docs in Plane Seat Pocket

Papers were marked 'important to national security,' tied to Super Bowl bioterrorism exercises
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2018 7:51 AM CST
Whoops.   (Getty Images/VvoeVale)

(Newser) – Before you get off the plane, always check the seat-back pocket for your headphones, any magazines you might want, and those super-sensitive Homeland Security documents outlining how to protect Super Bowl attendees from an anthrax attack. One government scientist apparently didn't do so, as a CNN employee found out on a recent commercial flight, the network reports. The DHS paperwork, which was found along with a boarding pass and travel itinerary linked to a microbiologist and ex-CIA worker named Michael V. Walter, was marked "for official use only" and "important for national security" and detailed two exercises (one held last July, one in November) designed to gauge response from health and emergency management officials, as well as law enforcement, to a potential biological attack in Minneapolis on the day of the big game.

Noteworthy in the report were calls for improvements in certain areas, which is the point of the exercises so that officials can fix any issues beforehand, per Juliette Kayyem, a CNN national security analyst who used to work for the DHS. Still, Kayyem notes leaving the documents on the plane was a "really stupid thing," adding: "Who knows who else could have picked this up." It's not clear if Walter, who has headed up the agency's BioWatch program fighting bioterrorism for nearly a decade, was the one who left the documents on the plane. For national security reasons, government officials asked CNN to withhold certain details in the documents, as well as not to publish the story of the document gaffe until after the Super Bowl, which the network complied with. A DHS official would only say the incident is under "operational review." (Read more Super Bowl stories.)

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