Sensitive Super Bowl anti-terror documents left on commercial plane

A passenger found something unusual in the back pocket of an airplane seat - documents from the Department of Homeland Security detailing anti-terrorism preparations for the Super Bowl.

A CNN employee discovered the document in December along with a boarding pass and a travel schedule of a DHS BioWatch program manager.

The documents, which came from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) BioWatch programme, were meant to be kept locked up during business hours and shredded before being thrown away.

"The contents should not be shared with individuals who do not have an operational need-to-know", it adds.

After multiple government officials voiced concerns over the impact publishing the secret Super Bowl documents would have on the security of the event, CNN chose to withhold publication of its article until after the Super Bowl.

DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q Houlton said in a statement that the agency had worked for two years to prepare local and federal law enforcement for Sunday's Super Bowl.

DHS is investigating how the documents were left on the plane. Other sensitive material was also found, CNN said, without further description.

The reports detailed two exercises - one in July, the other in early November - created to test the responses of public health, law enforcement and emergency management officials to a potential biological attack targeting Super Bowl LII, which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Who knows who else could have picked this up?"

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"The biggest outcome of this mistake", Kayyem 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".

Among the findings was that there were "differences of opinion" over how many people had been exposed, "which led to differences of opinion on courses of action".

The documents revealed that during the drills, conducted in July and November, local health agencies were confused about the meanings of alerts that were issued.

Since it was first announced in President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address of 2003, the program has faced a steady stream of criticism.

The DHS did not respond to questions about whether the issues laid out in the report had been resolved before the game. The system had cost the USA government and estimated $1bn by 2013, according to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's oversight subcommittee. The news agency did not disclose the most sensitive information in the documents.

The BioWatch programme is responsible for providing early detection of bioterrorism attacks, and helping communities prepare for such events.

An agency official noted in an email to CNN that "Biodetection is one aspect of a layered approach to biodefense", and that "DHS continues to develop requirements and field enhancements to our national biodefense".


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