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Emergency Action Alert to Curb TSA Abuse of its Classification Powers

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Concerned citizens urged to respond
by 10:30 AM EST, Tues, June 27, 2006
Posted on behalf of Bill Doyle
of 9/11 Families for a Secure America and
9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism

The Situation
On June 6, 2006, the House of Representatives passed Section 525 of H.R. 5441 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. Section 525 includes language directing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to exercise more restraint and responsibility when classifying documents as “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI), which can then be protected from public disclosure. The Senate is now preparing to also vote on Section 525 and the TSA is strongly opposing this language as unwanted interference in its internal affairs.

Without the language, TSA will no doubt continue to classify many documents that are not rightfully entitled to official secrecy. Indeed, the TSA has been repeatedly warned by Congress, federal judges, and many others that it was abusing its classification authority and asked to cease and desist. This language in Section 525 is necessary to push the TSA to exercise its authority responsibly both to protect the nation’s transportation system and to allow Americans and the Congress to fully participate in that protection and ensure that the TSA is actually doing its job.

The TSA maintains that Section 525 will handicap national security and that it must be allowed to resolve its own self-admitted problems administratively, rather than letting Congress legislate solutions. However, the House carefully drafted the provision to minimize arbitrary burdens on the TSA, but still correct its long record of irresponsibility with regard to its SSI powers.

The TSA’s promise of voluntary administrative reform is highly dubious. The agency has been repeatedly warned about its cavalier classification procedures for several years by Congress, the Government Accountability Office (Congress’s investigative arm), at least three federal judges, and many concerned citizens; but it has yet to take a single meaningful step to restrain overuse of SSI secrecy. Consequently the likelihood of any significant internal reform without legislative enforcement is next to zero.

Although the TSA recently pledged to cooperate more with 9/11 families, the promise was only offered after the Section 525 language became public. Since then its effort to redress the problem has been limited to “re-reviewing” a single document previously labeled SSI, releasing a less redacted version, and “promising” to eventually do the same for other documents. However, the “re-released” document itself corroborated the agency’s critics by clearly showing that the information that they had originally redacted should not have been withheld in the first place. The only apparent reason for its concealment was to abet the aviation industry’s legal defense in the face of ongoing litigation.

Not surprisingly the TSA’s “re-review” timeline for other documents allows it to claim that it is “cooperating” with affected families and relevant agencies, without actually requiring any concrete cooperation before the Senate decides whether to impose a legislative solution.

The TSA seems quite concerned that 9/11 families might collude with terrorists and provide them with sensitive SSI information. So despite its token “re-review” of a single document and its vague promises of greater transparency, the TSA has steadfastly opposed the release of any important information except to criminal defendants — including admitted terrorists like Zacarias Moussaoui.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
It is imperative that you call your OWN Senators AND MOST IMPORTANTLY the Senators on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee before 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 27, 2006,

This is one of the most important issues we have faced in the past 4 years and I am pleading with you to call 202-224-3121 by the 10:30 AM deadline Tuesday morning.

Ask to speak with:

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Senator Judd Gregg (Chairman) (R-NH)

When you reach them INSIST that the Homeland Security Appropriations bill they are considering 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.

Perhaps TSA’s most shocking behavior thus far has been its willingness to disclose SSI information to admitted terrorists like Zacarias Moussaoui, while continuing to deny the same information to 9/11 families.

It is imperative you call your OWN Senator AND EACH of the Senators on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee (See list below) before 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 27, 2006.

If you know any of them personally or perhaps their Chiefs of Staff, PLEASE contact them immediately!!!!

The Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Below is a list of all the Senators on the Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee. The Subcommittee is presently scheduled to mark up the language for this Bill (H.R. 5441), on Tuesday morning.

Senator Judd Gregg (Chairman) (R-NH) 202-224-3121
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) 202-224-3121
Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) 202-224-3121
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) 202-224-3121
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) 202-224-3121
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) 202-224-3121
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) 202-224-3121
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) 202-224-3121
Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) 202-224-3121

Senator Robert C. Byrd (Ranking Member) (D-WV) 202-224-3121
Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) 202-224-3121
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) 202-224-3121
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) 202-224-3121

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) 202-224-3121

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) 202-224-3121

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) 202-224-3121

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 202-224-3121


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ALL EYES WILL BE ON THESE SENATORS.

LET US HOPE THEY LISTEN!