Plane passenger discovers something he was never meant to have seen… left in the back seat pocket in front of him

SNOOPING in the back pocket of the economy seat in front of him, one CNN reporter stumbled upon the most shocking form of in-flight entertainment imaginable – and potentially his best scoop ever.

And it wasn't because he found a used sick bag, coffee-splattered safety card or a pair of false teeth nestled in someone's discarded underwear.

Instead, the curious newshound came across a bundle of top secret, highly sensitive US government documents.

The Department of Homeland Security files – marked "for official use only" and "important for homeland  – security"- contained Super Bowl anti-terrorism information.

They were left behind on a commercial flight, along with the boarding pass and travel itinerary belonging to a scientist in charge of anthrax drills ahead of last Sunday's Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

The paperwork included a note saying it should be locked up after business hours and shredded prior to being destroyed.

Another note said the documents were intended only for the eyes of those with “an operational need-to-know”.

CNN reports the documents, dated December 2017, slammed the planned response to an anthrax attack on the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis by terrorists.

The network also claims the papers made recommendations for improvement based on simulation exercises to assess the authorities’ ability to respond to a biological attack.

CNN said it made the decision not to report the shock find until after the game – because Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials feared it would jeopardise security at the event, attended by 73,000 people.

The network has also opted not to publish much of the information found in the documents, which could threaten national security.

A DHS official told CNN that the issues in the report had been addressed and that the agency had “great confidence” in its ability to respond to an attack.

Juliette Kayyem, a former DHS official who is now a CNN contributor, told the network that the report was typical of the kind of reviews carried out before a major event, but revealed a weakness in the Department of Homeland Security.

She said: “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.”

CNN said while they were unable to verify who left the documents on the plane, they were accompanied by the travel itinerary and boarding pass of a Michael V. Walter, program manager of BioWatch, a DHS program.

According to a Congressional biography, Mr Walter has been the BioWatch programme manager since 2009.

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