A secret Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document detailing the response plans for a simulated biological attack on the Super Bowl was left in the seat pocket of a commercial airplane, CNN reported on Monday.
A CNN employee discovered the document in December along with a boarding pass and a travel schedule of a DHS BioWatch program manager.
The DHS report was marked “For Official Use Only” and “important for national security” and its recipients were instructed not to share the contents with anyone without “an operational need-to-know.” People who were in possession of the report were advised to keep it locked up after hours and to shred it before discarding.
Government officials advised CNN to withhold the publication of the report since the details within could compromise security at the Super Bowl.
“This exercise was a resounding success and was not conducted in response to any specific, credible threat of a bioterrorism attack,” DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton told CNN.
DHS is investigating how the documents were left on the plane.
“Who knows who else could have picked this up,” Juliette Kayyem, a former DHS official, told CNN. ”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. In the end, confidence in the federal government at a time of crisis is what the American public deserves.”
The report details two exercises created to gauge how public health, emergency and law enforcement officials would coordinate in case of a biological attack on the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
The exercises simulated the event of an intentional anthrax attack. The report showed that local health agencies were confused about the meaning of emergency alerts issued during the exercise. The officials were also unclear on who they could share information safely with during an emergency.