There was an interesting article on MSNBC.com about the passenger blog TSA is maintaining of their web site. It allow passengers to air their complaints, ask questions and propose solutions about travel related security issues. According to the article TSA received over 1,000 responses in the first 48 hours and the blog was responsible for stopping a pilot program in mid-stream.
The idea of giving customers of a government agency a direct line to head quarters is a much needed step to provide for a responsive government. It also provides that agency a chance to explain why an inexplicable action is being under taken. In short it provides for a dialogue between civilians and an unappreciated and an unliked government agency; what an idea.
This is not the first such information sharing idea that DHS has undertaken. The extensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the Chemical Security web site appears to be updated fairly often as new questions arise on the CSAT help line about the CFATS implementation. Unfortunately it is very difficult to tell when a new question/answer is posted on this page and there is very little dialog involved.
DHS might want to look at establishing a blog page on their Chemical Security web site. It would allow for some public feedback on how the CSAT site is working out for users at chemical facilities. It could allow for DHS feedback about why something is being done, allowing for a more informed input from the chemical facilities.
A blog on this site could also be used to establish a community that could share lessons learned in the CFATS process. There could be on going discussions between regulators, service/equipment suppliers, consultants, and chemical facilities about how to deal with different types of security issues. Innovative ideas and ideas that did not work could be shared between members of the community.
In fact, DHS might want to establish two separate sites. An open access site similar to the one that the TSA has established could deal with general complaints, suggestions and questions about the CFATS regulations. The second site would be a restrictive access site where people would be able to discuss security issues that DHS might now want broadcast around the world on the Internet; no discussion of CVI, but general ideas about how to deal with security problems.
DHS could use the current CVI Training/NDA/background check as a vetting process for the semi-restricted site. People completing that process could then register at the Security Community Discussion Site and receive a User Name and Password much the same way that a facility’s Preparer and Submitter do when they register with CSAT. People would have to sign on to the site to read and post information or questions.
Because of the possibility of the inadvertent disclosure of CVI information in the posts to this site, entries would not be displayed until they had been reviewed/redacted by DHS security personnel. This would also allow DHS a feedback mechanism to facilities to help them understand what types of information are considered CVI.
It will take innovative thinking on the part of many people to adequately protect a wide array of high-risk chemical facilities from potential terrorist attacks. While DHS does not want to be prescriptive in their security requirements, they do need to provide a way to share good security ideas among the many high-risk facilities throughout the country. This discussion community would be one way to share such ideas.