Wednesday, March 17, 2021

HR 1871 Introduce - Transportation Security Transparency Improvement

Last week Rep Bishop (R,NC) introduced HR 1871 (GPO version not yet published, this is link to the Committee Print of the bill), the Transportation Security Transparency Improvement Act. The bill would require the TSA to review procedures and guidelines for the use of the Sensitive Security Information (SSI) designation of information.

SSI Review

Section 2(a) of the bill would require TSA to {§2(a)(1)}:

• Ensure clear and consistent designation of ‘‘Sensitive Security Information’’, including reasonable security justifications for such designation;

• Develop and implement a schedule to regularly review and update, as necessary, TSA Sensitive Security Information Identification guidelines;

• Develop a tracking mechanism for all Sensitive Security Information redaction and designation challenges;

• Document justifications for changes in position regarding Sensitive Security Information redactions and designations, and make such changes accessible to TSA personnel for use with relevant stakeholders, including air carriers, airport operators, surface transportation operators, and State and local law enforcement, as necessary; and

• Ensure that TSA personnel are adequately trained on appropriate designation policies.

Additionally, TSA would be required to conduct an outreach program to affected stakeholders “that regularly are granted access to Sensitive Security Information to raise awareness of the TSA’s policies and guidelines governing the designation and use of Sensitive Security Information” {§2(a)(2)}.

Moving Forward

As I previously reported, this bill is being considered by the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday. I see nothing in this bill that would engender any organized opposition. I expect that it will receive broad bipartisan support in Committee. The bill would almost certainly be considered by the full House under the suspension of the rules process.


The TSA’s SSI program is one of the sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information protection programs established after the 9/11 attacks. As with any information restriction program, it has been subject to criticism for over classification and abuse of classification over the years. Periodic reviews of these types of programs are certainly necessary.

The other portion of this bill dealing with security at ‘last point of departure airports’ (and I am not expanding this blog to cover that nightmare) includes both a ‘report to Congress’ requirement and an prevention of judicial review statement. Neither apply to the SSI provision.

I find it odd that there is no report to Congress provision in Section 2(a). The whole point of conducting a review is to establish accountability. This would be easy to correct by striking §2(b)(2) and adding a new §3:

“Section 3 – Report to Congress - Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration shall prepare a report for the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate on the guidelines described in Section 2. A copy of the Report will be posted on the Transportation Security Administration’s web site.”

1 comment:

Laurie Thomas said...

"Develop a tracking mechanism for all Sensitive Security Information redaction and designation challenges;" Just my thoughts (and no one asked me for them): third-party contractors like me generate, transmit, and destroy SSI on a regular basis, without notifying anyone about the generation, transmission, or destruction. I do so while closely following the requirements of 49 CFR 1520. I can't imagine the nightmare that will result if I have to notify TSA, or worse, get TSA's permission in advance of, that generation, transmission, or destruction. Again, just my opinion, but using amorphous buzz words like "challenges" in legislation is going to lead to confusion. I guarantee my "challenges" concerning SSI tracking are not the same as those of the legislative staff who wrote this bill.

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