TSA Withdraws Blogger Subpoenas, Offers New Computer

The new year is starting off pretty well for bloggers Chris Elliott and Steve Frischling, who had been targeted by the Transportation Security Administration after they posted the TSA’s bizarre Christmas Day Security Directive. Elliott reports that the agency has withdrawn its subpoena against him, and that Frischling, whose laptop was confiscated, is getting a new computer courtesy of Uncle Sam.

According to Elliott:

The Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn a subpoena that would have required me to furnish it with all documents related to the Dec. 25 TSA Security Directive published on this Web site.

The move came after I was granted an extension on the government’s request earlier today. I also signaled my intent to challenge the subpoena in federal court next week. …

I also just spoke with Steve Frischling, who had also been served with a subpoena in connection with the security directive. He says he received a phone call from a deputy chief counsel for enforcement at the DHS to let him know he was off the hook and that the agency had offered to buy him a new computer.

As is usually the case in situations like this, the TSA hasn’t admitted to doing anything wrong, and in a letter to Elliott’s attorney, simply states that his subpoena is “being withdraw [sic] as no longer necessary.”

Funny how a little media exposure and the threat of a public hearing to challenge the subpoenas changes things. Happy New Year, Steve and Chris!

Department of Homeland Security: Your subpoena “is no longer necessary” [Elliott.org]

Previously: TSA Targets Bloggers Who Exposed Draconian Policies


Edit Your Comment

  1. kujospam says:

    So what did they do with his old computer give it away to some homeless people? If I were them I would demand they pay for identity theft protection for at least 2 years.

    • digitalgimpus says:

      From what I’ve heard/seen from others who have blogged about being investigated, they literally tear your computer to shreds. There’s nothing really salvageable in most cases.

      Depending on your local laws… after if you don’t pick it up from the police within X days you may be charged a fine (which they use for disposal costs)… so you may still need to pick it up and throw it out yourself.

      • MrEvil says:

        Unless they’re litterally acting like the schoolyard bully. I don’t think they’re ripping computers into their individual components. I’m pretty sure his hard drive can be kissed good bye though since they tend to do some deep data mining on there. But there’s no reason for them to destroy his computer OTHER than because they smashed it like a schoolyard bully would do. My guess is Uncle Sam is offering to buy a new one so they can keep the old one to dig up some dirt on this guy that they can later use against him. I’d demand for my old laptop back along with all storage media they seized, functioning or not.

    • Bohemian says:

      This is the really confusing and suspicious part. Why not give him back the laptop. If they were looking for data rather than looking to see if he had a bomb inside his laptop the hard drive is where they would have been looking. The damage has already been done with this whole mess. They were questioned by DHS and had a computer and data confiscated. Any personal information they had on there is now in the hands of DHS. Their school yard bully behavior is reason enough to not want them to have your personal life details.

      • sonneillon says:

        They did give it back, but they broke it. Apparently TSA mistreats expensive equipment at all levels.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      the other blogger’s laptop came back busted and wouldn’t turn on. i suspect they did the same thing to the one they are proactively replacing and didn’t want to give it back knowing it was busted and it would cause bad [worse] PR

  2. thaJack says:

    It’s still absurd that it happened at all. We (the taxpayers) shouldn’t have had to buy them new computers. Their old computers should still be working fine as nobody should have had their hands on them.

    • Kerov says:

      Amen. Fire the TSA official who approved this strong-arm “subpoena” tactic to seize an innocent citizen’s laptop.

      This one particular act of un-American jackboot thuggery happened to get publicized because it happened to people with good media connections. Who knows how many times the Feds have used the same play before, with no media attention?

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      Who says we paid for them. The new laptops could have been ones that were foolishly checked by others during the whole brouhaha which instigated this incident. :/

  3. Darkneuro says:

    I’d be suspicious of a computer given to me by the government. But that’s just me.

  4. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I think we all know what happened here. The TSA, having no one competent or “certified” to examine computers, outsourced to an agent from another qualified organization. The Geek Squad. Upon receiving the computer, they off loaded all the porn, securely deleted all existing data, and installed a new optimized OS on it. Then then set about performing the task the customer requested, namely examine the computer for specific data.


    • The_Legend says:

      Noooooooooo! not the pron! Or maybe Nooooooooo! not the Geek Squad! Get your hands off my laptop, you damned dirty TSA!

    • uber_mensch says:

      The computer probably had some ‘strange’ operating system on it that they weren’t familiar with, like MacOS X or Ubuntu. They probably thought it was alien technology and gave to another dept.

  5. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Umm, what about the data that was on the computer that was confiscated? Will he get that back?

  6. mopman64 says:

    Well if the gov does this, like the way they do anything else, it will be many many years before he gets it.

  7. Mr. Gunn says:

    Yeah, I’d want my old computer back too. WTF?

  8. toastydoc says:

    10 bucks says that the new Laptop has tracking hidden in it.

  9. dcarrington01 says:

    So I am surprised they haven’t talked to a lawyer about their 4th amendment rights that were violated. Is the TSA above the law/constitution?

  10. lehrdude says:

    TSA didn’t really examine the computer…all they did was make sure it turns on and off a few times.

  11. dg says:

    Despite the fact that this turned out well for the Bloggers in question – it still has a chilling effect on journalistic, and free speech. The next time one of these things shows up – what are the chances that a small blogger will post it? Diminished to be certain.

    And we all know that you can’t trust the mainstream media to report accurately on a damn thing. They’re subservient to their advertisers and the bosses. The small guy is really the only place you get anything of any substance or accuracy any more.

    What really needs to happen is for the TSA to get bitch slapped in public by a Federal Judge, for the bloggers to get $10 million each – tax free – and for a foundation to be set up for the defense of the small, developing media outlets (under $1M/year in revenues) – funded $10M per year by the TSA.

    Finally, the schmucks at the TSA that requested the subpoenas need to be fired and made to pay the bloggers $50,000 each out of their own personal funds. The lawyers that signed off on the subpoenas need to be fined $100,000 each out of their own personal funds – paid to the bloggers, and everyone involved gets fired immediately and can never work for the Government again.

    Then, and only then, would that send a clear message that We, The People, are not going to stand for this kind of unconstitutional crap any longer.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      The sheeple of America don’t get it. This is a variation of good cop bad cop.

      So we now have the agency that went after a blogger now relent and give the blogger a new computer to make it seem like they’re ” ok ” people. Pfffttt

      It might not be the agents given the orderes to question and sieze the blogger/computer but someone with an agenda is giving orders.

      I find it too much of coincidence that supposedly high securtiy areas have been breeched OR tested. They want that word in your mind: security so they can say everything is for your safety.

      ‘How dare you question draconian measures that are for your safety even though they violate your’s and everyone else’s rights and freedoms’

      If you were against The Patriot are were/are supposed to be considered UNpatriotic. If you are against tighter securtiy measure you don’t want to be safe. This is nothing but flag waving for the little old ladies/senior citizens who are turning into a powerfull voting lobby. At what point does feeling safe and secure turn your LIFE into mear existence .

  12. MrHacks says:

    Get a different computer than the one the TSA offers. Who know what bugs are in it.

    Not to be paranoid or conspiracy-wary, but if the TSA offered you a computer after taking your old one, I’d demand cash for my troubles. A good sum of cash.

  13. BoredOOMM says:

    Will the new computer be a replacement from a reputable company or the cheapest off the shelf from Best Buy?

  14. Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

    I still think this was a knee-jerk reaction by some high-up official trying to divert blame from him/his department. They knew this was going to go bad quick and hoped they could scapegoat someone. These two bloggers didn’t fold, didn’t supply a name and the publicity got even worse.

    I wonder what they’ll do next to “proctect” us from ourselves?

  15. uber_mensch says:

    Lets give credit where credit is due.

    “On December 31, 2009, the Transportation Security Administration backed off on an ill-considered administrative subpoena it issued to trasportation industry blogger, Christopher Elliott. EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) assisted Mr. Elliott in responding to the subpoena.” – http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archive/2010/01

  16. _hi_ says:

    So basically they act like they did nothing wrong and give him a new computer. F that. charges need to be pressed. They need to sue. I’m not for sueing people but seriously they need to sue the hell out of them for this and take everything they got and make that agency disappear forever.

  17. Marshfield says:

    I love the picture at the top of the article. Who would have guessed there would be a “play” airport screening toy. I just love it.

  18. P_Smith says:

    One solution to avoid such fascist invasions of privacy is to wipe the hard drive (no operating system, never mind software or data) and travel with a pre-made reinstall/ghost CD and a microSD flash RAM (you can hide it easily and adaptors are cheap) for data so you can do a quick restart at your destination.

    If the computer is stolen (yes, stolen) by TSA, you could at least buy (if you had to) or perhaps borrow a laptop at your destination (if you know somebody or a business will let you) and be able to do the same.

  19. dolemite says:

    I dunno, I’d be picking out a mighty expensive laptop. Alienware, here I come!