Sensitive Security Information

By the end of this training, you will be able to:

  1. Differences between Sensitive Security Information (SSI) and the following three types of information: Classified National Security, For Official Use Only (FOUO), and Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) 
  2. Requirements listed in the SSI Federal Regulation (49 CFR Part 1520), and 
  3. Best Practices” for safely sharing and protecting SSI 



This course contains government-regulated topics

Completion of this course in its entirety as well as successfully passing the assessment at the end of this lesson is required. You are responsible for ensuring compliance with all information in this lesson as well as remaining up-to-date on any changes to government regulations pertinent to your job.

Cheating or manipulating training records for government-regulated training may subject you to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or contract, as well as civil and criminal penalties for those involved.

Brief History of SSI

SSI was not developed post-9/11. Instead, it was created in response to hijackings occurring in the early 1970s.

The Air Transportation Security Act of 1974 required the FAA to establish regulation for sharing SSI with airlines and airports. The FAA published the first regulation regarding SSI in the Federal Register in 1976

After 9/11, SSI was expanded to include all modes of transportation.

Classified Information vs. Sensitive Security Information (SSI)

All information held by the government falls into two categories:

Classified National Security Information (ConfidentialSecretTop Secret)

and Unclassified (SSI, For Official Use Only (FOUO), Public Information, etc.)

Classified Information

Information whose “unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security” (Source: Executive Order 13526, Dec. 2009)


A U.S. Special Operations team conducts a raid, driven by intelligence, on an al-Qa'ida compound on the Afghanistan border. The identity of the “source” of data and the information he provided would both be classified.

Unclassified Information Falls into Two Categories

  • Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) - A broad category that includes a federally regulated means of protecting information such as SSI and unregulated means of protecting information such as For Official Use Only (FOUO) and Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) 
  • Public Information - All other information 

Sensitive Security Information

Sensitive Security Information (SSI) is information obtained or developed which, if released publicly, would be detrimental to transportation security.

Examples include:

  • No-Fly List and Selectee List 
  • Screening Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) used by Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) 
  • Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (AOSSP)

For Official Use Only (FOUO)

Information not protected by regulation that could adversely affect a Federal program if publicly released without authorization. 

Example: Federal building security plans

* Source: DHS Management Directive 11042.1

Law Enforcement Sensitive

Documents marked LES are intended for official use only. No portion of the document should be: 

  • Released to the media or the general public 
  • Posted to or sent via non-secure Internet servers 

Release of LES material could adversely affect or jeopardize investigative activities. (Source: FBI Website)


FBI Intelligence Bulletins

What are the differences?

FOUO, LES, and SSI are all categories of Sensitive But Unclassified information, but: 

  • SSI is based on U.S. law and protected by a Federal regulation; FOUO and LES are not; 
  • SSI protects information related to transportation security; FOUO and LES have no subject matter limitations; 
  • Unauthorized SSI disclosure may result in a civil penalty; FOUO and LES breaches cannot
  • Documents that contain SSI must be marked as SSI 

  • When information is pulled from reports marked Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES), For Official Use Only (FOUO), and SSI, the new report must be marked as SSI 

SSI Regulation

SSI Categories

In order for information to be SSI, the information must be related to transportation security, its release must be detrimental, and it must fall under the one of the 16 categories of SSI defined by the Federal Regulation (49 CFR Part 1520.5(b)). This training will discuss each category and provide examples of information protected under that category.

Security Programs and Contingency Plans

The Airport Security Program (ASP), Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (AOSSP), or other modal security programs /plans

Security Directives (SDs)

TSA sends out SDs to transportation stakeholders advising them of developing threats and provides security measures they must put into effect to counteract the security threat.

Information Circular (ICs)

TSA sends out ICs to stakeholder advising them of threats to transportation (rarely used).

Performance Specifications

Specifications for any checkpoint or checked baggage screening equipment deployed at airports (including specs for communications equipment)

Vulnerability Assessments

Assessments for or by DHS/DOT for any mode of transportation including the vulnerability of airports to a shoulder-fired missile attack

Security Inspection or Investigative Information

Unplanned (incident or violation) inspection or investigation that could reveal a security vulnerability may include TSA incident reports, Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs) PARIS reports, and Federal Air Marshal (FAM) incident reports

Threat Information

Information held by the government concerning threats to any mode of transportation

Security measures

Specific details of transportation security measures including: (i) Security measures or protocols recommended by the Federal government (airport access control measures) (ii) Information concerning the deployments, numbers, and operations of FAMS (iii) Information concerning the deployments and operations of Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs)

Security Screening Information

(i) Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to screen passengers, their baggage, cargo and U.S. mail 

(ii) Names on the No-Fly List and Selectee List 

(iv) Any security screener test and scores of such tests 

(v) Performance data from screening equipment includes info related to covert testing 

(vi) Electronic images shown on any screening equipment monitor

Security Training Materials

Records created or obtained for purposes of training personnel

Identifying Information of Certain Security Personnel

(i) Lists of names that identify persons as – 

(A) Having an airport SIDA badge 

(B) Complete list of all TSOs at an airport 

(D) Holding a position as Federal Air Marshal 

(ii) name that identifies a person as current, former, or applicant of Federal Flight Deck Officer

Critical Aviation, Maritime or Rail Infrastructure Asset Information

List prepared by DHS or DOT identifying assets so vital to transportation that incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on transportation security

Systems Security Information

Security plans or vulnerability assessment of IT systems for vital systems

Confidential Business Information

Proprietary Business Information (rarely used)

Research and Development

Research results that were funded or directed by DHS/DOT

Other Information

The TSA Administrator (and only the TSA Administrator) can determine information to be SSI that is not otherwise defined in 1520.5(b)(1) – (15) (rarely used)

Covered Persons

According to the SSI Federal Regulation, covered persons may access SSI. This includes airport and airline officials, maritime operators, Federal employees, contractors, and grantees, among others.

Persons with a “Need To Know”

Covered persons have a need to know SSI if access to information is necessary for the performance of official duties. DHS or DOT may limit access to specific SSI to certain employees or covered persons. 

Example:  A screening equipment vendor does not need access to the FAM schedules.

Requests from the Media for SSI

Under the SSI regulation, members of the news media are not covered persons and do not have a “need to know” SSI. 

Requests for SSI from the media should be forwarded to TSA for review.

Proper Marking and Handling of SSI


Protective Marking

Any person who creates a record containing SSI must include an SSI header and footer. 

Even if there is only one sentence containing SSI in a 50-page document, every page must have an SSI header and footer.

The SSI footer informs the viewer that the record must be protected from unauthorized disclosure.

“WARNING: This record contains Sensitive Security Information that is controlled under 49 CFR parts 15 and 1520. No part of this record may be disclosed to persons without a “need to know,” as defined in 49 CFR parts 15 and 1520, except with the written permission of the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration or the Secretary of Transportation. Unauthorized release may result in civil penalty or other action. For U.S. government agencies, public disclosure is governed by 5 U.S.C. 552 and 49 CFR parts 15 and 1520.”

Storing SSI: Lock it Up!!!!

When not actually working with an SSI record (lunch break, end of the day, etc.), store the SSI record in a locked desk drawer or in a locked room to prevent unauthorized access by persons who do not have a ‘need to know.’ 


“Best Practices” for DHS Stakeholders in Protecting SSI


Other than locking SSI in a locked drawer or cabinet, which is a requirement, DHS stakeholders and other non-DHS covered parties are mandated under the SSI regulation to take “reasonable steps” to prevent unauthorized disclosure of SSI. 

The next set of slides describes “Best Practices” that stakeholders may use in handling and protecting SSI. 

These “Best Practices” are based on policies and procedures developed for DHS personnel to protect SSI.

SSI Transmission: E-Mail

SSI information transmitted by e-mail should be in a separate password-protected record, and not in the body of an e-mail. Passwords should be sent separately, and should: 

  1. Be at least eight characters in length 
  2. Have at least one letter capitalized 
  3. Contain at least one number and one special character 
  4. Not be a word in the dictionary 

Web Posting SSI

TSA does NOT post SSI on its public website or the agency-wide Intranet portal areas that have open access for all TSA employees and contractors. If posting SSI to a company intranet portal, ensure that access is restricted to only those with an authorized "need to know".

SSI Transmission: Facsimile

The sender of faxed SSI should confirm that the fax number of the recipient is current and valid and the intended recipient can promptly retrieve and secure the document.

Mailing SSI

SSI may be mailed to covered persons via U.S. Postal Service (First Class only) or reliable commercial delivery services (FedEx, UPS, etc.). 

When using Interoffice Mail to send SSI to covered persons, SSI should be placed in an opaque, sealed envelope. Do not write “SSI” on the outside of the envelope.

Storing SSI on CDs

SSI documents saved on compact discs (CDs) must be password protected. 

The CD’s outside jacket must be marked with a label that contains the SSI footer.

CDs must be protected as though they were documents (i.e., store the CD in a locked drawer.)

Storing SSI on Flash Drives

Personnel should only use encrypted thumb drives or password-protect documents that contain SSI. 

Portable drives are convenient, small, and can store a large volume of information. They are also easily lost or misplaced.

Be careful about, what information is placed on these devices, how they are stored, and who is walking out the door with them.

Taking SSI Home

It is not recommended! 

However, if taking SSI out of the office is necessary, employees should have the permission of the supervisor and should ensure that SSI is locked away at night to prevent unauthorized access of persons who do not have a “need to know.”

Destruction of SSI

Regulation for Destruction of SSI

“A covered person must destroy SSI completely to preclude recognition or reconstruction of the information when the covered person no longer needs the SSI to carry out transportation security measures.” 

49 CFR Part 1520.19(b)(1)

“Best Practices of Stakeholders” Destruction of SSI

The most common methods used to destroy SSI material include:

  • Cross-cut shredders 
  • Contract with a shredding company 
  • Cutting or tearing into pieces that are no longer than ½ inch on a side and mixing with other trash


Discussing SSI in Public Areas

Personnel must be very careful when discussing SSI in public areas. 

You never know who is listening and not everyone has a “need to know” the information.

DO’s and DONT's – SSI Safeguarding

Do – Lock up material containing SSI. 

Do – Turn off or lock computer whenever left unattended. 

Do – Properly destroy all SSI when no longer needed. 

Do – Be conscious of surroundings when discussing SSI; remember not everyone has a “need to know” SSI.

Don’t – Leave SSI unattended. 

Don’t – Discuss SSI with individuals who do not have a “need to know.” 

Don’t – Put SSI in the body of an e-mail.

Consequences of Unauthorized Disclosure of SSI

  • Lost lives – terrorists could use the information to plan an attack 
  • Lost jobs – for Covered Persons employees, appropriate personnel action may be a letter of reprimand, suspension, or even dismissal depending on the circumstances 
  • Lost money – the government can impose a $10,000 civil penalty per offense

More Information about SSI

The SSI Program maintains SSI site on TSA website:

For additional questions, contact the Transportation Security Administration.

SSI Program 

Office of Security Services and Assessments 

Office of Law Enforcement/ 

Federal Air Marshal Service 

Transportation Security Administration 

601 S. 12th Street, East Tower 

Arlington, VA 20598-6031 

E-Mail: [email protected] 

Phone: 571-227-3513 

Fax: 703-603-0902



Important Instructions

You must successfully pass this assessment with a score of 100% in order to complete the course.

Which of the following would NOT be considered SSI?

  • Internal training records related to security testing
  • A vulnerability assessment from TSA on air cargo security
  • A business proposal from a client
  • The identities of TSA inspectors

True or False: When sharing SSI via email, it is acceptable to include SSI in the body of an email in an unprotected format.

  • True
  • False

True or False: As a stakeholder in transportation security, I can be personally fined up to $10,000 by the TSA for failure to protect SSI.

  • True
  • False

True or False: Even if a single sentence in a 50-page document is SSI, the entire document must be marked as SSI.

  • True
  • False

What is the proper way to secure paper copies of SSI?

  • Locked up in a filing cabinet or safe when not in use
  • On your desk in a locked office
  • Out in the open with colleagues

Password-protected SSI documents should meet what requirements? (check all that apply)

  • Be at least eight characters in length
  • Have at least one letter capitalized
  • Contain at least one number and one special character
  • Not be a word in the dictionary