Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Should Cleared Employees Travel With Classified Information-FSOs Can Make Intelligent Assessments

I am writing this article just after a trip with multiple plane changes. I had travelled by air on many occasions, but this latest adventure had a new twist. Never in my life had I travelled without luggage and I must say it was quite liberating. It all started innocently enough and with a bit of routine. I am an experienced flyer and I had always begun each trip with a checklist to ensure I had packed everything and almost always load my car ahead of time.

However, this time was different. I packed my luggage with almost a careless flair. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I forgot my suitcase?” I had said to myself for no apparent reason. The next thing I remember is getting out of my car in long term parking and opening my trunk...no suitcase. Remember, I am an experienced traveler and I am supposed to remember these things. Perhaps my experience caused me to have a forgetful or may cavalier attitude.

I promptly walked to my gate with purpose and a spring in my step. I had checked in online and had my boarding pass. No luggage; no reason to stop at the ticket counter. I had what I really needed in my carryon bag; my computer for the new book I’m writing, and some necessary paperwork for my business trip.

I continued with this feeling of freedom, thinking it was nice to get off the plane and go to my rental car. I didn’t even have to go to baggage claim. I just had to make a stop for clothes from the department store on the way to the hotel. Change of clothes purchased, I went to my hotel and prepared for the next morning’s meeting. On my way back home, I repeated the process: Checked in on line, printed boarding pass, passed through security and went straight to gate. Upon arrival I by passed baggage claim and drove home.

You can also help others experience a similar freedom by not travelling with sensitive or classified information. Sure, your cleared employees may have a million reasons for you to prepare classified information for travel. However there may be alternatives. Let’s take a look a risk first.

Fatigue and forgetfulness-Just like my example of an experience traveler, even those who protect classified information on a daily basis can become forgetful. Long hours, constant movement, cramped quarters, convenience breaks, restaurant visits and etc can contribute to fatigue or distractions that can cause someone to possibly lose their luggage (classified package). Other contributions include cancelled flights or other changes that cause longer layovers or possible overnight stays.

Alternatives-Cleared employees should consider other alternatives prior to travelling with classified information. For starters, ensure that the classified information is indeed necessary. If so, is it already located on site? If not onsite, can it be sent ahead of time via approved mailing or overnight delivery, or can it be transmitted through approved fax or email?

If classified information is not necessary according to the contract or if work can be performed without it; don’t bring it. If similar classified information is already onsite, use it. If there is enough notice, send the classified information ahead without having to burden your cleared employee with carrying it.
When applying these alternatives, be sure to coordinate with the receiving FSO or sponsoring organization. Classified information may have to be introduced into their facility via their policies. Also, if hard copies are needed or other administrative and time consuming measures are necessary to prepare the classified for use, make sure it is pre-arranged and approved.

Sometimes travel with classified or sensitive information is the only option. However, there may be opportunities for safe and security methods of transmitting classified information without using a courier or cleared employee. Conduct a risk assessment, review options and make an intelligent decision.

No comments: