- A CNN employee found sensitive government documents while flying on a commercial plane.
- The documents detailed a simulated biological-warfare exercise by the Department of Homeland Security.
- The exercise was meant to assess authorities’ response to a potential anthrax attack during the Super Bowl.
While aboard a commercial flight en route to a wedding, a CNN employee discovered sensitive government documents in one of the plane’s seat-back pockets, CNN reported Monday.
CNN said the documents – marked for official use only – detailed the Department of Homeland Security’s response to a series of simulated exercises testing how authorities would react to an anthrax attack during the Super Bowl.
The exercises took place last July and November, according to the documents, which were found along with the travel itinerary and boarding pass of Michael Walter, the program manager for BioWatch.
BioWatch is a government program responsible for detecting bioterrorism incidents and helping communities plan a response.
The DHS report noted some vulnerabilities in how authorities responded to the simulated exercises, including confusion among some officials about alerts sent out during the tests. Juliette Kayyem, a former DHS official, told CNN that the purpose of conducting simulated exercises is to expose such vulnerabilities.
“The biggest consequence of this mistake may have less to do with terrorists knowing our vulnerabilities and more to do with confidence in the Department of Homeland Security,” Kayyem said. “In the end, confidence in the federal government at a time of crisis is what the American public deserves.”
Kayyem added that the report’s misplacement was “a really stupid thing.”
The report was so sensitive that DHS officials requested that CNN hold off on reporting on it until after the Super Bowl because of concerns over security for the event.
CNN also said it withheld some of the details in the report at the request of the DHS.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, authorities deployed additional security reinforcements to protect against potential threats. Roughly 1,700 federal officials along with the Minnesota National Guard and officers from more than 60 law-enforcement agencies from around the US helped maintain security, according to ABC News.
The big game passed without any major security incident.