Saturday, May 6, 2017

Hand Carrying Classified Information and Multi-mode Travel

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 it off.

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.

Modes of 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 compromise.

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 shifts.

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 consignor.
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.

This article is based on the book DoD Security Clearance and Contracts Handbook available at


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