A CNN employee found sensitive national security documents about the Super Bowl in the seat-back pocket of a plane

 

  • 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 back-seat 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 a potential 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 CNN hold off on reporting on it until after the Super Bowl to avoid jeopardizing security for the event. 

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Major moments from Super Bowl LII
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Major moments from Super Bowl LII
NFL Football - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots - Super Bowl LII - U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. - February 4, 2018 Philadelphia Eagles�Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins during the national anthems before the game REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
NFL Football - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots - Super Bowl LII - U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. - February 4, 2018. Philadelphia Eagles? Alshon Jeffery scores a touchdown. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Feb 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan (15) carries the ball after a catch past Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (93) during the first quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a touchdown catch against New England Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe (25) during the first quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Brandin Cooks #14 of the New England Patriots is tended to by the trainers after sustaining an injury during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Brandin Cooks #14 of the New England Patriots is tended to by the trainers after sustaining an injury during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Patrick Robinson #21 of the Philadelphia Eagles and Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots are seperated by Malcolm Jenkins #27 after they exchange words after the whistle during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots drops a pass inteded for him from teammate Rob Gronkowski #87 (not pictured) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Stephen Gostkowski (L) of the New Enlgand Patriots walks off the filed following an unsuccessful field goal attempt against the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Corey Clement #30 of the Philadelphia Eagles makes the catch defended by Jordan Richards #37 of the New England Patriots in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: The New England Patriots defense tackles Nelson Agholor #13 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Tom Brady #12 celebrates with David Andrews #60 of the New England Patriots during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles bobbles the pass under pressure from Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots as teamamte Duron Harmon #30 (not pictured) intercepts the ball in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Corey Clement (L) of the Eagles scores against the Patriots during Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Chris Hogan #15 of the New England Patriots makes a catch defended by Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter of Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Chris Hogan #15 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a 26-yard touchdown catch against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots catches a 5-yard pass for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots has the ball stripped by Brandon Graham #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles late in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Brandon Graham #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates with teammates after forcing a fumble by Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots (not pictured) during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after fumbling the ball during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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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 over 60 law-enforcement agencies from around the country helped maintain security, according to ABC News

The big game passed without any major security incident. 

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