DENVER -- A federal agent's credentials, and high-powered semi-automatic handgun have been stolen from his car yet neither the U.S Air Marshals nor Westminster police were going to tell the public about this serious security issue until 7NEWS investigated.

This has been kept under wraps for about a month.

The incident occurred three days before Christmas when a Denver federal air marshal violated a cardinal rule for agents -- he left his gun and his federal identifications in his car while stopping at a restaurant for dinner.

The agent parked his truck in a Westminster parking lot, leaving it for nearly an hour to have dinner at a restaurant. While he was gone, a thief smashed the passenger-side lock.

According to a Westminster police report, the thief's haul was substantial and troubling.

It included a high-powered .357 Sig Sauer handgun with three loaded magazines, 36 rounds of ammunition that can penetrate a bulletproof vest, handcuffs and the federal air marshal's official ID -- the ID that an agent must show to get on an airplane -- and the agent's ID as a retired secret service agent.

He also lost a number of airport passes, which have now been cancelled, and a government communication device which could contain stored information.

What makes this incident so serious is that the federal air marshal is a veteran training and operations supervisor in Denver -- a supervisor who did not retain control over his weapon, badge and credentials -- a serious violation of federal policy, 7NEWS reported.

A federal air marshal spokesman in Washington said even though law enforcement across the country has been notified, none of the stolen items have been found. He said the agency "is taking this very seriously" and that "the incident has been turned over to internal affairs for investigation."

Officials say that investigation might well bring serious disciplinary action against the veteran supervisor.

Meanwhile, the threat posed by the theft of the credentials is really unknown. If the thief knows what he has, it could be worth a lot to a terrorist group. But just as likely, the IDs may have been discarded. Federal authorities just don't know.

In any case, it is the kind of incident that gives security experts nightmares, especially with the Super Bowl only two weeks away.

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U.S. Air Marshals Investigating Theft

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