Families of September 11 is now operating as the For Action Initiative. The web pages on this site are available for informational purposes only. Please visit us at www.foractioninitiative.org.

June 26, 2006

Dear Families of September 11 members,
 
An issue is being decided in Congress this week, and we thought you might want to know more about it to decide if you want to take action.  The legislation being debated deals with TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and how they decide what material and information can be considered SSI (Sensitive Security Information, like a sort of "classified" information for the TSA). 
 
Since 9/11, TSA has gotten stricter and stricter with what information it considers to be SSI.  For example, you may remember the film of the hijackers going through the Dulles airport checkpoint that came out in 2004.  It was shown on national television, even worldwide.  But now, TSA considers that footage SSI, so it is illegal for someone without a clearance to see it. 
 
For those looking to find out all that went wrong on 9/11, and hoping to get full transparency, this SSI issue has come to a head.  The House passed language last week requiring all information more than 3 years old to not be SSI, unless TSA has a good reason for it keeping it SSI.  
 
The Senate is debating this issue tomorrow (Tuesday) in a subcommittee markup hearing.  The Chair of the subcommittee is Sen. Gregg (R-NH).  Other members are listed below.  The TSA is very much against this bill, and, if you support the bill, these senators must hear your voice.  You can call them at the subcommittee's office number listed below, or you can call your specific senator's office (which you can find by locating them at www.senate.gov). 
 
We hope this information is helpful to you.
 
Sincerely,
Carie Lemack
Founding FOS11 Board Member


Please Call! It is imperative that you call your OWN Senators AND EACH of the Senators on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee before 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 27, 2006, and insist that the Homeland Security Appropriations bill being considered in Senate on Tuesday morning include the same language as Section 525 of the House of Representatives version (H.R. 5441), which the House passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on June 6.  The Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121.  Below is a list of the Senators on the Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee.  The Subcommittee is presently scheduled to mark up the language for the bill on Tuesday morning.
 
The message must be focused:  Section 525 (from HR 5441) is needed to prevent TSA’s use of excessive secrecy, which is contrary to Congress' charge to TSA to protect our national transportation system because TSA's excessive secrecy is Unnecessary, Divisive, and Dangerous:
 
• Unnecessary – Even under Section 525, TSA maintains the final authority to protect information that is truly necessary to keep secret to protect the nation;
• Divisive – It is dishonest and breeds distrust;
• Dangerous – It prevents public discourse that arms our citizens, encourages security improvements, dissuades lackadaisical approaches to security implementation, and permits exchanges of ideas for improvements.  It also handicaps our legislators (in both the House and Senate) from using information in public hearings that are essential for oversight to ensure or improve our safety.


The Senators on the Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee that need to be called immediately are (call your own Senators and these even if they are not your own; Remember the Republicans control the Senate and their votes are imperative -- so call them first):
 
Senator Judd Gregg (Chairman) (R-NH)
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM)
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID)
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Senator Robert C. Byrd (Ranking Member) (D-WV)
Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)


Background information: 
On June 6, 2006, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, the House of Representatives passed Section 525 as part of H.R. 5441, language intended to encourage the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to exercise more responsibly its authority to mark documents "Sensitive Security  Information" (SSI) and thereby keep them secret from public disclosure.  The language of Section 525 is now up for consideration in the Senate.  The TSA has strongly opposed it.  So we must be vocal.
 
Without the language, TSA will likely continue its current trend of keeping many items secret that are not entitled to be kept secret.  Notably, TSA has been warned by Congress, by federal judges, and many others that it was abusing its authority and asked to refrain from doing so.  This language is necessary to encourage TSA to exercise its authority responsibly to protect the nation's transportation system and to allow Americans and the Congress the ability to fully participate in that protection and ensure that TSA is functioning as it is charged.
 
The TSA's unsupported position has been that Section 525 will handicap national security and that TSA should be permitted to fix its own problems -- which it acknowledges exist -- administratively rather than having Congress legislate a fix.  But the House carefully drafted the provision to minimize any burden on TSA while improving TSA's long-recognized irresponsible performance of its SSI responsibilities.  As for TSA's promise of an administrative fix, despite being advised of the problem for several years -- by concerned members of the public, repeatedly by Congress, by the General Accountability Office (Congress's investigative office), and by at least three United States federal judges -- TSA has never taken any steps to modify its overuse of the SSI moniker.  The likelihood of any administrative fix without legislation is zero.
 
Though TSA very recently promised to cooperate with 9/11 families, its promise came only days after the language of Section 525 became public.  Since then its effort to address the problem has been limited to "re-reviewing” a single document that was previous labeled SSI, releasing a less redacted version, and "promising" to do the same for other documents.  But even the re-released document revealed what critics have been contending -- the information that had been kept secret ought not to have been kept secret in the first place; the only apparent reason for keeping it secret was to aid the aviation industry defending itself in litigation.  Not surprisingly TSA’s timeline for the “re-review” of other documents would allow TSA to claim to Congress that it is “co-operating” but will not necessarily require any co-operation before the Senate must make its determination whether to force a legislative correction.
 
Perhaps TSA's most shocking determination so far has been its willingness to disclose SSI to help an admitted terrorist -- Zacarias Moussaoui -- while refusing to disclose the same information to 9/11 families, victims of terrorists themselves, because the TSA is concerned that the families might collude with terrorists and provide them with SSI.  So despite TSA's small gesture as to a single document and promises for more transparency, TSA has remained steadfastly opposed to releasing information except to criminal defendants -- including admitted terrorists like Moussaoui.