GAO praises TSA for its handling of sensitive info

The Homeland Security Department’s Transportation Security Administration, which has been at the center of privacy battles in recent years, has improved how it handles some sensitive but unclassified data, according to government auditors.

TSA has augmented its guidance, criteria and training for handling sensitive security information (SSI), which DHS components or aviation officers gather during security screening programs, according to findings released Nov. 30 by the Government Accountability Office.

Congress required the auditors to investigate TSA’s progress on handling SSI under the 2007 DHS appropriations bill. Last year’s funding bill also required TSA to review in a timely manner requests for the public release of SSI and come up with better guidance on how to make material available that is older or no longer sensitive. The agency is also responsible for standardizing what should be protected as sensitive data and how data should be made available when it is important for civil court proceedings.

GAO said TSA’s SSI Office, which was established in 2005, is mainly responsible for the agency doing everything Congress requested and meeting additional recommendations GAO specified in a 2005 report. Notably, the SSI Office has been providing training to all TSA employees and contractors.

The agency credits the increased training and improved efficiency in processing requests for the positive report from GAO, said Darrin Kayser, a TSA spokesman.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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