There Have Been Over 100 Instances of Homeland Security Spilling Classified Information


The Department of Homeland Security suffered over 100 “spills” of classified information last year, 40 percent of which came from one office, according to a leaked internal document I obtained.

Officials and lawmakers told me that until the Department imposes stricter policies and sounder practices to better protect sensitive intelligence, the vulnerabilities there could be exploited. Not only does this raise the threat that hostile actors could get their hands on classified information, but may lead to other U.S. agencies keeping DHS out of the loop on major security issues.

A spill is not the same as an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. A Homeland Security official explained that spills often include “the accidental, inadvertent, or intentional introduction of classified information into an unclassified information technology system, or higher-level classified information into a lower-level classified information technology system, to include non-government systems.”

Examples include: using a copier not approved for the level of classified information copied; failing to properly mark a classified product; transmitting classified information on an unclassified system like Gmail; or sending classified information to someone who, while having the proper level of clearance, is not authorized to read a section of information sent to them, the official said.

There were 119 of these classified spills reported throughout the Homeland Security Department in fiscal year 2015, according to the internal document, which itself is unclassified. The section with the most spills by far was the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, headquartered at building 19 of the Nebraska Avenue Complex in Washington, led by retired General Francis Taylor. This office is composed mostly of intelligence analysts assigned to produce and review classified reports that are often the work of other intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

One senior Homeland Security official told me that the intelligence and analysis office at DHS suffers from lax enforcement of the established policies and practices to protect classified information. This official said the numbers of classified spills in the internal report only represents those incidents that were officially reported, and the actual number is much higher.

S.Y. Lee, a department spokesman, told me that DHS does not comment on reports of leaked information, but that the department is currently having mandatory employee training sessions on the handling of classified and sensitive information.

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SOURCE: Josh Rogin