TSA Targets Bloggers Who Exposed Draconian Policies

Update: The AP reports that Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is representing Chris Elliott, and has requested a delay in enforcement of his subpoena to allow it to be challenged in court next week.
According to the AP, Dalglish “could not remember the last time an administrative subpoena had been served on a reporter in last decade.”
“They should seriously reconsider this,” Daglish said. “Millions of fliers know these rules are out there.”

The Transportation Security Administration has discovered a major new threat, and is targeting it with all methods at its disposal. No, not terrorists. The agency is going after two bloggers, Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, for exposing its whopper of a policy document, issued Christmas Day in the wake of that day’s failed terrorist attack.

The agent who showed up at Chris Elliott’s home was polite, got along with the blogger’s cats — and demanded the name of the source that leaked the TSA document. “You’ve been served,” he said, handing over a subpoena. The armed agents who paid a visit on Frischling reportedly threatened to get him fired from his job with KLM, and left with his laptop, As Frischling reports:

The two Special Agents were at my house for more than two hours speaking with me as I held my youngest son in my arms most of the time. When the agent left they said they’d see me again tomorrow morning, and hopefully we come to a resolution. …

We are a free society, knowledge is power and informing the masses allows for public conversation and collective understanding. You can agree or disagree, but you need information to know if you want to agree or disagree. My goal is to inform and help people better understand what is happening, as well as allow them to form their own opinions.

While I sort out what happens next in this situation, and keep my opinions to myself to protect my family from the potential ramifications, I will continue working to keep travellers informed.

The subpoenas served on the two bloggers threaten them with “fines under Title 18, United States Code, imprisonment for not more than one year, or both” if they don’t turn over all information they have about the source that leaked Security Directive 1544-09-06.

Both men insist they got the document from an anonymous source, and have no idea of the individual’s identity. And the government may have a hard time tracking down that source, given that the “secret” document was circulated to thousands of airlines, airports and security personnel around the world.

The security directive required, among other things, a “thorough pat-down” at boarding gates of all passengers flying into the U.S, from oveseas and an inspection of “100 percent of all passenger accessible property.”

Full text of my subpoena from the Department of Homeland Security [Chris Elliott]
The Fallout From SD-1544-09-06 : The Feds At My Door [Flying With Fish]

Next Time You Fly, Prepare To Be Patted Down And Computerless


Edit Your Comment

  1. Aresef says:

    So the agency wasted their time and energy sending out that directive. Now they’re wasting more trying to find how it got out. Never mind the directive itself is irrelevant now.


    • Preyfar says:

      And by stealing people’s laptops, too.

    • Bohemian says:

      But nobody could find the resources to stop a guy on a terrorist watch list from getting on a flight without further inspection who paid cash and had no luggage on a transatlantic flight.

      So who showed up at this guys door, someone from TSA or someone from DHS? I didn’t think TSA had any sort of investigative arm ala FBI.

      • Shadowfax says:

        The article also doesn’t mention anything about a warrant. Unless that was left out, they robbed him of his laptop.

        I wouldn’t really be qualified to judge the identification credentials of Homeland Security agents (or TSA agents for that matter). And not many others are likely to have that expertise either. I think if they showed up at my door I’d be on the horn to the cops, because it seems to me like a really good way to steal laptops from people would be to show up in a government looking car (cheap Lumina or Crown Vic) and claim to be from Homeland Security, and oh by the way I want your computers. . .

  2. Kerov says:

    The terrorists have won.

    • DoubleEcho says:

      Well, they can’t hate us for our freedoms when they’re slowly becoming nonexistant.

    • ktetch says:

      They won years ago.

      • Difdi says:

        Terrorist is about the only profession where you can be wildly successful, by missing your targets entirely 100% of the time. The people a terrorist bomber blows up are not the targets of the terrorism. They’re collateral damage, almost incidental to the entire matter.

        A terrorist’s targets are the all the people who were not blown up, but are now so scared they might be next, that they change their behavior because of it. You beat terrorists by not giving in to fear; All the security theater since 9/11 has accomplished is letting the terrorists know they’ve won a total victory over us.

  3. u1itn0w2day says:

    If nothing else when documents like this get out it gives a potential terrorist something to think about. I still think the existing proceedures worked and still work because it’s darn impossible to smuggle a ready to go / use when ready bomb. The multi step assemble on site bomb hasn’t worked yet .

    To top it off if bloggers are getting this information you don’t think enemy operatives aren’t getting this stuff.

    And last but not least this is why you don’t blindly give the government or any agency the powers to come knocking at your door for a blog. I love those who cry ‘ but it makes us safer ‘ or ‘ if you don’t do anything wrong you have nothing to worry about ‘ . The problem is how safe are when ARMED federal agents come to YOUR to tell YOU they think YOU did something wrong.

    • xanxer says:

      So true.
      I have a feeling, that if left unchecked, this world is going to end up like that of V for Vendetta.
      We’re already living in 1984…

  4. Guppy06 says:

    So fliers aren’t supposed to be able to make an informed decision about how early they need to show up at the airport or even whether to fly to begin with? As much of a disaster that preventing business travelers from using their notebook computers en route is, it’d be even more of a disaster if they went into this blindly.

    Are we to expect the unexpected, that anything up to and including being required to fly in nothing more than a hospital gown? Are we to expect absolutely no consistency in our travel plans and agendas?

    Can we get a modem rail system and reintroduce ocean liners already?

    • Bohemian says:

      Cunard already has at least two transatlantic routes. We do really need some true investment into Amtrak.

      • Platypi {Redacted} says:

        Bullet trains! Maglev! Gotta get some speed out of them trains, days to travel is tough. Oh, and then we will need to pat down all boat/train passengers too, once the terrorists hit a train or ship. Who says the Titanic was TRULY sunk by an iceberg? I think it was Al Qaeda!

    • Corporate_guy says:

      hospital gowns? You are way to optimistic.

      My guess is that we will have to travel naked and be forced to shave off all body hair and pass a standard cavity search. It will be worse treatment than cattle.

    • PsiCop says:

      You are absolutely correct in that TSA wants travel to be unpredictable. They think that making law-abiding, peaceful passengers wonder what to expect when they get to the airport, somehow will make the malcontents and terrorists not wish to fly.

      Don’t ask me how that’s supposed to work. I have no idea. I suspect they cannot even show how it’s true. It is, nevertheless, the central axiom on which TSA operates, and they are not about to let go of it any time soon.

  5. Elphaba says:

    Thumbs down on the TSA. Their security theater policy got leaked, people rightly complained about all it did was harass and force people to hold it with nothing to do, read, or watch for an hour, and did nothing to resolve the fact that a terrorist smuggled explosives in his underwear on a plane. The policy did nothing to make the flying public safer, just made a lot of show of scaring and annoying everyone.

    • sleze69 says:

      If the document was labeled Secret, Top Secret or NOFORN (no foreigners), then they are in big trouble. They would have to prove that the document was not properly labeled; on the surface that wouldn’t sound so hard but since these are unpublished laws, all common sense goes out the window.

      If it was not, then the TSA is bullying them with no cause and they should lawyer up. They should contact the EFF.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        The TSA is a bully without a cause. Period.

        …well, maybe they have a cause. But they have no clue, and no valid reason for anything they do.

      • Kerov says:

        Actually, no. The US government and its employees/agents have a duty to protect classified information. But should the government fail in that duty, and the classified document leaks to a person who has not signed a non-disclosure agreement, then that private individual, thanks to a little thing called the First Amendment, can talk/publish all he wants.

        This is in sharp contrast to the United Kingdom, where their awful Official Secrets Act makes it a crime for anyone to talk about anything Her Majesty’s Government has designated ‘secret’. But hey, they have a monarchy and no constitution, so what do you expect?

        • utensil42 says:

          The UK does, indeed, have a constitution. It’s just not written out on the same format as ours and called “The Constitution.” How else could their government be called a “constitutional monarchy”?

    • magic8ball says:

      I cannot comprehend how they have not yet banned underwear on international flights. It seems like such an obvious move …

  6. coren says:

    And here we go. I bet this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  7. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    Hmmm, wonder if anyone got the armed agents with subpoenas treatment a few weeks ago for the improperly redacted TSA Screening Procedures?

  8. John B says:

    Dumb headline

    It should have read “TSA targets bloggers who exposed non-classified airline security directive”

    But that doesn’t make much of a splash, does it

  9. WraithSama says:

    They took his laptop? Surely he didn’t just voluntarily give it away. How could they take it from him without a court order?

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      subpoena = court order

      • utensil42 says:

        Yes, but was the subpoena for his source, or for his computer? Unless the subpoena specifically said they could seize the computer, they have broken the law.

        • MrEvil says:

          I thought a Subpoena was an order to present testimony that could possibly be presented in court. Not necessarily surrender property. Then again it seems alot of modern technology is being treated as both property and a repository of testimony that can either be seized via warrant or seized via subpoena.

          • utensil42 says:

            Depends on your judge. As you said, many newer technologies (e.g., laptops) can be deemed “testimony” if you pick your judge well.

      • WraithSama says:

        The mention of a subpoena in the post refers to the other person involved, Chris Elliot. There was no mention of a subpoena for the man whose laptop was taken, Steve Frischling.

  10. dryfire says:

    Why do the linked articles not mention the taking of Elliot’s laptop, but the Yahoo article does?

    He also declines to comment on his blog about the laptop removal. I hope you’ll keep us posted.

    • axhandler1 says:

      He might not be willing to comment on it because he has already obtained a lawyer and is in the process of bringing charges against them for taking his laptop. Although I’m just speculating.

  11. The Lone Gunman says:

    The nation I grew up in is rapidly vanishing, as apparently are the right of it’s citizens to be secure in their homes and persons–and to speak their minds.

    My exit plan to another country just moved closer to implementation.

    • Rachacha says:

      Well in this case, the blogger did not speak his mind, he posted a Government Security Directive that he obtained from an anonymous source, there is a difference. I can speak my mind and say that a rule is ineffective, or a leader in government is an idiot (hopefully) without fear of action from the government, but posting a government directive is not expressing my opinion.

      I have not viewed the SD, but I have to assume given its large distribution to non-government bodies, it was not marked as “Classified” or “Top Secret”. It is also my understanding that some specific security procedures were included in the document (such as the “pat down” and “1 hour in seat lockdown”), but anyone who purchased a ticket would be exposed to the procedures and could report back to a colleague to design a threat that might avoid detection. I am sure that there were also a number of other “secrets” that were also included, for example, procedures on video surveillance as well as uniformed and un-uniformed security staff. Did the posting of this document on the web pose a security threat? Possibly, but not likely.

      This act is comperable to Geraldo Rivera on live television telling the world of his location and the location of the troops he was traveling with and their planned actions during the Iraq war. In doing so, he potentially put the lives of the soldiers he was traveling with at risk, but the “enemy” may have already been aware of their position and was waiting for the right opportunity to strike (and to the best of my recollection he did not give out GPS coordinates, he simply told where they were coming from).

      My personal belief is that the TSA can do a lot more to improve safety as well as reduce inconvenience for travelers. Creating reactionary procedures that give the appearance of increased safety (while having little to no increased level of safety) is not the way.

  12. bben says:

    Note to Homeland Security – One of the the primary goals of terrorism is to disrupt our way of life. How is what you are doing NOT enabling that with your inane security theater. TSA is not the solution. It is part of the problem.

  13. saltyoak says:

    Just flew home and back attack took place in between and nothing was different either time except TSA seemed nicer after Christmas!

  14. godospoons says:

    Idiocy is like water… it always finds a way to leak.

  15. alstein says:

    We need to abolish the TSA. It does nothing beneficial for society, and doesn’t make us safer- just wastes our money.

    • redrolla says:

      Agree. May not be the answer, but maybe use that money to fund more marshals on the planes. When you have a high crime area, you don’t try to inspect everyone in the area. You increase law enforcement presence.

    • JollyJumjuck says:

      Well, it does allow for those employed by it to have a vastly superior sense of entitlement and ability to feel they can do whatever they want without repercussions.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      There is one airline, and one airport, that have never suffered a terrorist attack. They don’t make you take off your shoes, or ban your water bottle, or any of the other dopey things that the TSA fabricated to create an illusion of actually doing something.

      You want to be safe, check out El Al and Ben Gurion airport in Israel.

  16. Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

    I read this as a massive CYA attempt for some high muckety-muck at TSA or Homeland Security. Typical government thinking, we have to blame SOMEBODY and it can’t be me, so let’s troll for scapegoats. Aha, these people led to this being publicized, let’s use them. Good thinking, holiday bonuses for all and God Bless the USA.

    Lord help us all, that these types of people really are in charge.

  17. ConsumerWolf says:

    Can we please abolish the TSA already and send their workers back where they belong: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.

  18. dougp26364 says:

    I think that, if it were me, when they showed up at my house the next morning I’d try to have an ACLU attorney waiting for them with me. You know, just so I had someone to explain my rights to both the TSA and myself.

    • cnc1019 says:

      I agree. I normally think the ACLU can be a bit insane with some of their causes, but this seems to be one of those times when it fits perfectly into the purpose of the ACLU.

  19. rpm773 says:

    See? The system works.

  20. dolemite says:

    Here comes the “V for Vendetta” government. Government should be scared of us, not the other way around.

  21. twophrasebark says:

    This would normally go back and forth in the courts for awhile however the Obama administration is going to grow uncomfortable with this.

    If not immediately than soon. I expect the administration to try and resolve this so it just “goes away.” As in not dropping the case but quietly never pursuing it. That is, so they don’t have to confront the issue of freedom of the press versus national security.

    (I am an Obama supporter in case anyone reads this and thinks I am criticizing him).

    • ben says:

      This doesn’t really have anything to do with freedom of the press. They’re not trying to stop the bloggers who posted the directive. They’re trying to find out who (illegally) sent it to them. (Of course, it’s still a waste of time and resources.)

      • twophrasebark says:

        With all due respect, that has everything to do with freedom of the press. This is exactly why Judith Miller from the Times spent three months in jail. Because she refused to divulge her source regarding the Valerie Plame leak.

        If reporters or bloggers have to divulge their sources whenever the government wants, there will be no sources for the reporters to inform the public about, for example, the folly of the TSA.

        Now you can argue about national security versus freedom of the press, but that’s exactly what my post said. I don’t think Obama is going to want to be in the middle of that.

  22. pantheonoutcast says:

    So, the TSA, CIA and the DHS lack the time, resources, manpower, collective intelligence and desire to successfully prevent a Nigerian national with known ties to terrorists from boarding an American airliner, but when it comes to tracking down two bloggers who exposed the TSA’s abject failures and ludicrous policies, they all swing into full-on battle mode?

    Isn’t it about time for another revolution in this country?

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      The time for revolution comes every two to four years in this country. The only problem is the voters who keep sending the same retards back into office. This is why I vote against every incumbent when election day comes.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Oh yeah, democracy. That works. With democracy, the louder, richer idiots are guaranteed office. I sure feel safe now.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          Democracy is a process by which the people get a government no better than they deserve. Take a look around you…doesn’t take long to figure out why our politicians are worried about little else than their own petty ambitions.

      • failurate says:

        So… who else was there to vote for? We are trapped in a two party system where the differences of the two parties are essentially indistinguishable (expect for a few pointless buzz wordy issues), the republic has been replaced by an oligarchy.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          …which is why political parties should be outlawed. Either stand on your own merits and make your own decisions or get out of the way.

      • Major Annoyance says:


    • cwsterling says:

      just remember…the person’s DAD called a US Embassy warning them about what his son might possibly do. They had the intelligence…and chose to ignore it

  23. temporaryerror says:

    Was this a different document from the one that was available on the TSA’s job site?

    • Rachacha says:

      Yes. The improperly redacted documents were on the TSA website for several months, but the directive that was posted on the blogger’s site were the modified procedures that were in reaction to the undie bomber.

  24. jmhart says:

    If they haven’t called the ACLU yet, it’s past time.

  25. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    The TSA is desperately hoping that somehow, people won’t realize there’s not any value at all in their existence. It’s all a scam, and if the public were to actually learn how they’re being duped by these dopes, the gig would be up.

  26. vladthepaler says:

    If only they were as good at protecting us from terrorists as they are at protecting us from a free press…

  27. menty666 says:

    Just couple of questions….

    Does the TSA actually have any jurisdiction outside of an airport? That is, if they show up to your home, pat them down, confiscate their weapons, x-ray their skulls if you want, then feel free to welcome them in for coffee, but short of actual police, FBI, or ATF agents, there’s really not much they can do to come in your house.

    If I recall correctly, a TSA agent has no arresting power even AT an airport, rather,they can detain and then call in the local police, but other than that they can’t do much. So why were they at someone’s home…with weapons?

    • Rachacha says:

      I suspect that it was agents from TSA’s parent Agency, Department of Homeland Security, that visited the blogger, and not TSO’s that came knocking at his door.

  28. Telekinesis123 says:

    It looks like we have a problem with terrorists – The Dept of Homeland “Security” and the TSA.

  29. dg says:

    Three words: Journalistic Shield Law

    Bloggers are journalists. Tell TSA to serve you with the time and place of the Court date for the hearing. Have your attorney file a motion to quash the subpoena based upon the fact that you’re a journalist and don’t have to reveal your sources.

    But absolutely, positively, DO NOT LIE to a Federal Agent. It’s a Felony and it’s one of their typical bag of tricks. You say something that’s not true to them, they catch you in it, and then they get what they want because they threaten to charge you with a Federal Felony. Just take the subpoena, say “Thank you – I’ll be contacting my attorney about this. Good bye.” Do not let them in, do not talk to them for 2 seconds, let alone 2 hours. Tell them to go away. Invoke your right to silence. Keep your mouth shut.

    If they threaten to arrest you – great. Where’s the arrest warrant? I want an attorney. Get one for me now. Have that lawyer deal with things until your attorney shows up. Keep your mouth shut.

    You have no duty to protect or keep secret information which is provided to you – when you haven’t been a party to any confidentiality agreement. The source may be protected under whistleblower acts as well. And how do you know that the person who sent it to you didn’t find it unshredded in the trash? If they sent out 10,000 copies of it – WTF?! They expect that to remain secret or “sensitive” or whatever other kind of nonsense they claim? That’s just silly.

    Somewhere an East German Stazi is sitting in a dingy apartment with a cigarette, laughing maniacally about this whole thing…

    TSA: Terrorist Service Association.

  30. Damocles57 says:

    The government is not concerned with terrorists learning about their techniques from bloggers. Terrorists have other sources of information than bloggers.

    The government does not want the general public (sheep) to change their behaviors. There are billions of dollars of economic activity and social stability that may be lost if a good percentage of the law-abiding public – foreign and domestic – changes how, when or where they travel.

    In the name of safety and security, they will slowly edge us toward the totalitarian state that many have wanted but didn’t know how to achieve without the current “emergenicies” that seem to justify every intrusive, heavy-handed, and ill-conceived policies and laws that seek to control the masses.

    Check out Stanley Milgram and The Stanford Prison Experiment for background on how groups in power abuse that power.

  31. DanKelley98 says:

    How about some real journalism here. How could the TSA possibly arrive at somebody’s home and leave with that somebody’s laptop?

  32. Ixnayer says:

    I can’t believe they would go after Chris Elliott, I always thought he was a good actor

  33. gregnva says:
  34. Ronin Democrat says:

    Rule 1:
    when government agents come to your home or business, say NOTHING!!!!!
    Make no excuses.
    Admit or deny nothing.
    Explain nothing.
    If they have a warrant go with them and say clearly and repeatedly you want to speak to a lawyer.
    If they come with a subpoena accept it and ask them to leave.
    By talking to a federal agent you open yourself up to being charged with lying to a federal agent. They will go back to their office, write a report of what happened and that report may not be accurate but will be taken as gospel by a federal prosecutor.

    STFU. And get a lawyer versed in FEDERAL law.

  35. Winteridge2 says:

    No wonder they don’t have time to check known terrorists’ underwear.