Skip to comments.Tiger team tackles operational security violations
Posted on 02/28/2006 4:42:12 PM PST by SandRat
2/28/2006 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- A couple of Airmen sat in the base food court chatting about their return to the United States the next day. Excited to be going home, they compared flight times. Meanwhile, 3 feet away, a third-country national took mental notes. He knew someone who would pay for flight information. The aircraft takeoff time happened to be the last piece of information that an Al Qaeda terrorist needed to coordinate a deadly attack, killing hundreds of servicemembers on a flight home.
The scenario presented by Capt. David Quinlan, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing plans officer, isnt necessarily farfetched fiction.
Unguarded communications in public are the most common (operational security) violations, said Captain Quinlan, who leads a tiger team charged with tackling operational security concerns. All it takes is one unguarded discussion of times, locations or numbers, and the enemy can start piecing things together for a deadly attack.
Operational security, or OPSEC, has been a documented concern for warfighters for more than 2,600 years. Legendary warfighter Sun Tzu said: Knowledge of the enemys dispositions can only be obtained from other men.
Todays battlefield is no different.
Master Sgt. Shelby McFadden, 379th OPSEC manager, agrees the same security concepts apply today. He thinks many servicemembers are becoming more lax in their discussions about OPSEC-related issues, and this poses a problem.
The slip of isolated information in casual conversation presents vulnerabilities to everyone, Sergeant McFadden said. As the old saying goes, loose lips sink ships.
The OPSEC Tiger Team was recently created to address this issue, placing security in the forefront of the minds of servicemembers serving in Southwest Asia. The teams strategy focuses on awareness, policies, verification and equipment strategies.
One of the wings defensive goals is to become a no paper trash unit, where all paper is shredded, ranging from sensitive documents to chicken-scratch reminder notes with numbers and dates. A large shredder nicknamed The Monster Masher facilitates the disposal of this information by shredding hundreds of documents at a time.
Telephone communications are also targeted. Around base, Airmen answering phones have been instructed to identify themselves, and tell the caller the line is unsecured before offering to help.
Answering the phone this way is a two-prong strategy, Captain Quinlan said. You remind yourself to watch what you say, and at the same time, remind the person on the other end to watch what they say too.
The plans officer says OPSEC is similar to a team sport.
Staying vigilant about what youre saying and who may be listening, is only half the battle, he said. What your buddy exposes can do the same amount of damage.
Its been proven; the enemy can piece together different information from multiple phone calls. When in doubt, its better to opt for a secure line over the SIPRNET or a STE, said Captain Quinlan, referring to the secure internet protocol router network and telephone systems available on base.
Other tiger team strategies include a renewed emphasis on trash disposal policies. Base policy mandates all mailing labels should be shredded, as should any paper containing personal information. Improper disposal of personal information could lead to identity theft and vulnerabilities to family back home.
Uniforms should also be properly disposed. Once rank, insignia or nametapes are removed and destroyed, uniforms should be turned in.
Servicemembers should also check their pockets for personal items before turning in their laundry. Common access cards, wallets and restricted area badges have been left in pockets. ID card holders have also been inadvertently left in bathrooms on base. Any of these misplaced items pose vulnerabilities to the base population as a whole by opening the door for unauthorized entries.
People forget we are at war with a very determined opponent, Captain Quinlan said. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of OPSEC violations going on daily in Southwest Asia. All of them are preventable if people focused more on incorporating OPSEC into their daily routine.
Captain Quinlan and Sergeant McFadden compare OPSEC leaks to a boxer who gives away too much through body language before an attack.
If you telegraph a punch, your opponent knows how to dodge the attack, Captain Quinlan said. He also knows where your next vulnerability is.
This guy needs to have a talk with some Senators on the Intelligence Committee.
Yes, hopefully before they learn all the ins and outs of our port security.
And a good feint can open him up to your real attack. I like the idea of faking 'em out with disinfo and cleaning their clocks when they act on it.