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Unclassified Document with Excisions

Government Censors Aviation Warnings Leading up to 9/11;

New "Sensitive Security Information" Claim Blacks Out Titles of Alerts;

Dubious Secrets Were Fully Released in Best-Selling 9/11 Commission Report

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 137

Edited by Barbara Elias

Graphics by Jamie Noguchi

Posted October 14, 2004

For more information contact:
Barbara Elias (202) 994-7045

Update
February 10 , 2005
9/11 Commission Staff Report on FAA Failings Published on Web

Links
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission Report)
Transportation Security Administration protection of Sensitive Security Information
Dubious Secrets Electronic Briefing Book no. 90

Washington, D.C., 14 October 2004 - The Transportation Security Administration this week refused to release the texts or even the titles of five aviation warnings given to airlines just before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, even though the titles and substance of the warnings have been published in the best-selling 9/11 Commission report, according to an analysis of the documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

The five warnings - called Information Circulars - were sent to the civil air industry by the Federal Aviation Administration to summarize emerging threats between June 22, 2001 and August 16, 2001. The 9/11 Commission, the Congressional 9/11 Joint Inquiry, and White House briefings described and discussed these warnings in detail; and the National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for them in April 2004. By letter dated September 29, 2004 and received by the Archive this week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) withheld all the substance of the warnings, citing five different exemptions to the FOIA, and blacked out even the unclassified information - such as the document titles and numbers - claiming that this information fits in the new category of "Sensitive Security Information."

"This ranks as a dubious secret," said Barbara Elias, the FOIA coordinator at the National Security Archive. "The titles and document numbers are printed in the number one best-selling book in the country, but clearly our government has not acted on a central recommendation of that book, to reduce secrecy and share more information with the public."

"Public circulation of warnings like these would make our country safer," said Thomas Blanton, the National Security Archive director. "The government is choosing to hide our vulnerabilities rather than fix them."

The National Security Archive has posted on its website www.nsarchive.org a side-by-side comparison of the information withheld by the TSA and citations of the same information in public documents such as the 9/11 Commission Report. A recurrent theme throughout the 9/11 Commission's report is the need to prevent widespread overclassification by the U.S. federal government. The Commission found overclassification interferes with sharing critical information and impedes efficient responses to threats. The TSA's recent refusal to release its more than three-year-old Information Circulars and its decision to block the release of even the publicly-known parts of these documents serve to remind the public that the information-sharing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have yet to be put into practice.




Documents
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

TSA Release on the 6/22/2001 FAA Information Circular Compared with Public Records
The TSA's excisions on this unclassified FAA log referring to the requested June 22, 2001 Information Circular block the document number in full in some places and in part in others. The actual June 22, 2001 document was withheld in full. The substance of this Information Circular is discussed in the Congressional Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 Attacks and is quoted in the 9/11 Commission Report. The 9/11 Commission Report endnotes supply the Information Circular document number and title. Even though this information is available to the public, the TSA has withheld such references as Sensitive Security Information. How this three-year-old document number could be used to harm security is unknown.

TSA Release on the 7/18/2001 FAA Information Circular Compared with 9/11 Commission Report Endnotes
In this standard e-mail distributing the July 18, 2001 Information Circular, the TSA withholds the Information Circular (IC) number and a one-sentence summary of the document. The IC number and the title of the document have already been released to the public in the 9/11 Commission Report, as seen here in the report's endnotes.

TSA Release on the 7/31/2001 FAA Information Circular Compared with 9/11 Commission Report Endnotes
The July 31, 2001 Information Circular is also denied in its entirety and the document number, publicly released here in the 9/11 Commission Report endnotes, is also withheld in this TSA release.

TSA Release on the 8/16/2001 FAA Information Circular Compared with 9/11 Commission Report Endnotes
This ACI Intelligence Watch Log, clearly marked UNCLASSIFIED, was issued a day after the August 16, 2001 FAA Information Circular. The TSA has withheld the IC document number and the name of the FAA officer who is receiving praise for the IC. We cannot assess the quality of this document or the work of the officer because the IC document was withheld in full.

TSA Release on the 7/31/2001 FAA Information Circular - Comparison of Pages 8 and 9
Comparing these two pages related to the July 31, 2001 Information Circular further illustrates the unreasonable TSA Sensitive Security Information withholdings. The markings on the second page indicate that the TSA intended to excise the IC document numbers in this unclassified ACI Intelligence Watch Log, just as it had withheld every other IC document reference. The TSA however, for unknown reasons, neglected actually to block the IC numbers on this page. This apparent mistake reveals that material withheld as being Sensitive Security Information on other pages is identical to publicly, known information that has no evident impact on security. The 9/11 Commission Report endnotes cite the title of this Information Circular and its IC number, IC-2001-04A.

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