The Steamship Authority changes course in video

The Steamship Authority has reversed its denial of a request from Martha’s Vineyard Times for video that captures a transfer deck accident. The video is from August when a cable broke at the Slip 1 transfer bridge in Vineyard Haven and sent tons of counterweight into port. The SSA blamed a truck for the cable incident. The Times was blocked when it attempted to verify the SSA account via terminal images. The SSA declined to release any video associated with the incident, saying it was sensitive security information (SSI) that is restricted under federal law.

Following a call to the records supervisor, the SSA was ordered to provide the images for state review. Instead of doing this, the SSA consulted with the US Coast Guard and the TSA. SSA General Counsel Terence Kenneally told The Times it was a matter of checking whether it was legal to allow the supervisor to review the footage. The Coast Guard later told The Times it had no jurisdiction to assess whether or not the state could review the footage. The TSA did not respond to a request for comment from The Times. However, in a Nov. 4 letter, Kenneally said the TSA went further than asking if the state could review the footage. The TSA found that the images did not contain SSI. As a result, the SSA is providing the images to The Times.

“Recently, the Authority received responses from the TSA regarding its review of three (3) security videos that meet the criteria of your initial information request of September 7, 2022,” Kenneally wrote. “The TSA found that none of the three (3) videos in its review contained SSI. Accordingly, we send a DVD with copies of the three (3) videos to your office. »

The record fight has produced an additional benefit – a new avenue to assess the sensitivity and broadcastability of future footage requests. Kenneally wrote that the TSA will be asked to review similar requests.

“The Authority will treat all future requests for information that may be considered SSI in the same manner as it handled this request,” Kenneally wrote.

SSI, according to a TSA training brief provided to The Times by the SSA, is “information obtained or developed which, if made public, would be transportation security.”

Some of the 16 examples given by the TSA are:

  • ● Marine Vessel Operator Safety Program
  • ● Port security program
  • ● TSA intelligence products

The TSA brief also describes SSIs as useful information to a bad actor trying to attack a transportation system. The TSA declares that the following are not SSI:

  • Security information is not SSI
  • Fire evacuation plans are not ISS
  • Building plans are not SSI
  • Training materials for employees on security measures are not SSI
  • Infrastructure security inspections are not ISS

Kenneally also wrote that the SSA could have been subject to fines if it improperly transmitted SSIs.

“The authority is required to comply with its security plan and federal law and avoid fines for inappropriate disclosure of SSI,” he wrote.

On Friday, the same day it received Kenneally’s letter, The Times requested footage of a transfer bridge crash in May 2020, footage the SSA had previously refused to provide based on the same SSI reasoning. This incident also involved a set of counterweights falling into the port of Vineyard Haven.

Denise W. Whigham