Three days after the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that sensitive security details about Air Force One were publicly available on a Pentagon Web site - and more than a week after being notified by the paper - the Air Force finally removed the information from the Web, the Chronicle reports today.
The security information -- contained in a "technical order" -- is used by rescue crews in the event of an emergency aboard various Air Force planes. But this order included details about Air Force One's anti-missile systems, the location of Secret Service personnel within the aircraft and information on other vulnerabilities that terrorists or a hostile military force could exploit to try to damage or destroy Air Force One, the president's air carrier.
Apparently, the document was posted online out of laziness or stinginess.
Putting the order on the Internet, "was viewed (by someone) as a cost-effective method of making the information available," an unnamed official noted, "but it compromised information not only about Air Force One. ... It had information about our entire fleet."
"We can't even justify how (the technical order) got out there. It should have been password-protected. We regret it happened. We removed it, and we will look more closely in the future," Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Catherine Reardon said.
But it's worse. Air Force officials took no action for more than a week after the newspaper originally notified authorities. The Chronicle also contacted the White House; a spokeswoman said that notification of Andrews AFB officials was sufficient.
Reardon blamed the failure to act sooner on a general failure to appreciate the significance of the information. Officials at Andrews Air Force Base and the White House Military Office "missed the bigger picture (and) failed to raise the document to a higher level," she said. "They saw that the document was not classified and thought they could not do anything about it."
"It appears that this document shouldn't have been on the Web, and we have pulled the document in question," said Schaefer. "Our policy is clear in that documents that could make our operations vulnerable or threaten the safety of our people should not be available on the Web."