Traveling with classified information.
The other day as I traveled home from
work I thought about my coffee pot. Did I turn it off? Am I sure it’s off? How
do I know it’s off? The only way I was able to hold anxiety back is to recall
my end of day process and determine with conviction that I had indeed turned
Imagine how the anxiety increase if you
can’t recall whether or not you secured the security container, removed
classified information from the printer, or set alarms. Well, the dedicated
security professional understands the need for process, procedure, and end of
day check lists. Without these controls, many would have a hard time sleeping.
You may be able to recall news reports,
security awareness training, briefings, or other notifications where someone
has had unattended sensitive information stolen from their rooms, vehicles, or
other location while in transit. These incidents are preventable with
application of process and procedure.
This prior planning (processes and procedures)
not only helps ensure classified information is protected during transport, but
it gives assurance that once planned and rehearsed, it should work well during
execution. Even with the many variables that could be faced during travel
(weather, delays, re-routing, cancellations, etc.) the process can be tailored
and applied with assurance of mission accomplishment.
This planning and rehearsal should be
conducted with the mode of transportation in mind. The remainder of this
article is from the book “DoD
Security Clearance and Contracts Guidebook” and discusses how to protect classified
information during travel.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo travel our roads,
rails, and airspace daily. America depends on transportation to get products to
customers safely and on time. When products are lost or damaged, carrier insurance
will reimburse either the shipper or receiver. However, there is no insurance
for damage to national security. Classified items lost, stolen or exposed
during shipment pose a threat. No matter how dependable a carrier’s track
record, the government approver, sender, and hand carrier should do everything possible
to transport classified information while mitigating any risk of loss or
The volume of material transported on any given day is staggering.
Transportation by any means is reliable but not risk free. Vehicle accidents, traffic
jams, break downs or any number of problems with land, air, rail and sea
transportation can threaten the security of the classified product. Natural
disasters and mechanical failure can cause delays in the reliable movement of
items. Air travel also has inherent risks including: late gate departures and
arrivals, crowded terminals, and maintenance problems significantly threaten
the ability of an escort to keep a close eye on the cargo hold. Those escorting
classified material via trains, over the road vehicles, and air carriers should
be aware of inconsistencies or events during the shipment that could negatively
impact the security of the item. When any event happens to cause an unscheduled
delay, the escort should immediately notify the shipper.
When shipping classified information by train the escort
should ride in the same car, keep the package under constant surveillance and
remain vigilant during stops and layovers. Experienced travelers understand the
frustrations involved when others have retrieved the wrong baggage. Escorts
should ensure they maintain their receipts and watch their package to prevent
such mistakes from occurring as well as other attempts to pilfer or steal.
Shipping classified material in a separate car poses a more difficult
challenge. Coordination with railroad employees will significantly reduce the
challenges while helping to strengthen security. When freight cars and passenger
cars are separated, the FSO should arrange with the railroad for the freight
car to be positioned immediately in front of the escort’s car. The biggest threat
occurs during stops. When time permits, escorts should leave the train at all
stops and perform a physical inspection of the protective measures (seals,
locks, etc) applied to the classified items on the shipment cars.
Overnight escorts should remain alert for security
violations, theft, piracy, pilferage, hi-jacking, damage or other incidences
that could jeopardize the shipment and compromise the classified information. Rest
and overnight stops, regulated driving hours and refueling pose additional
risks to the voyage. At every stop the escort should keep the vehicle in view
and remains alert to threatening actions. Highly sensitive items, urgency and
threat may require a carrier to provide enough escorts to work around the clock
Airlines also offer unique challenges to transporting
classified material. Air carriers are experienced in flying various types of
cargo to worldwide locations. Federal marshals fly prisoners, zoo keepers ship exotic
animals, and doctors transport donor organs. Those transporting classified
materials are also limited to the type of cargo the Federal Aviation
Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board authorizes. Prior
arrangements with the air carrier help them understand the unique requirements
for shipping classified material and will better meet the requests of the
Passenger travel is a choreographed event. Passengers board
when invited, remain in their seats during takeoff and landing and deplane when
instructed. When transporting classified material, the escort should request
boarding and deplaning services outside of normal operations.
When layovers are expected, the escort should be the first
off the plane and wait in an area where they can observe activities on and around
the cargo access door. If the cargo is transshipped using another airplane, the
escort should observe the process. When the plane is ready to continue the
journey the escort is again the last to board. Upon reaching the final
destination, the escort becomes the first to deplane.
Cleared employees traveling by commercial aircraft should
conduct extensive pre planning. In addition to identification, a courier briefing,
and notification to maintain accountability of the classified material at all
times, should be coordinated with the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA). For example, while traveling by automobile, the courier may only need to
drive to the final destination without having to speak to anyone. The route is
often direct to the destination with no interruptions. However more vigilance
is needed when traveling to and through an airport terminal.
Prior to a cleared employee traveling with classified
information on commercial airlines the FSOs should coordinate with the TSA. TSA
can help the courier or escort transition security with the least amount of
interruption or intrusion for both the courier and TSA agents. TSA agents might
examine the classified package with x-ray equipment.
Depending on the size of the airport, urgency and threat
level, the arrangements and coordination made with TSA can help make
negotiating through to the secure area easier. A good working relationship
between the FSO and TSA helps both parties understand the importance of the
courier remaining with the classified package at all times. When it is
necessary to send the classified material through the x-ray machine, the
courier must remain vigilant and know where the item is at all times.
A risk based approach should be undertaken prior to sending classified information outside of secure facilities. Every effort should be made to plan the trip to protect classified information by format and location along the route. Plan for delays and interruptions in schedules as many travel issues are out of the travelers control. Training, planning, process, procedures, and rehearsal can provide safe travels and keep anxiety levels down.
Red Bike Publishing provides downloadable training and briefings that are helpful in managing security programs that protect classified information. You can find training and briefings
that meet your need at our website.