Intimidation And Subpoenas Used To Demand Sources
ANN RealTime Update/Analysis,
01.01.10, 0015 EDT: ANN has confirmed reports that the
TSA is withdrawing subpoenas issued to tatl least two onlibne air
travel writers in the last few days. After one writer was
forced to surrender his computer (and reportedly trashed
it in the process) to TSA Agents, TSA is now telling media
sources that they are "nearing a successful conclusion, and the
subpoenas are no longer in effect.”
The subpoenas have had a chilling effect on online journalists
and bloggers while a number of legal associations, including
the Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press are said to be
looking at TSA's newest actions and their ultimate legality. The
general feeling among a number of the air travel writers we've
spoken to indicates that there is a genuine fear of future
reprisals from the TSA... especially in light of the bullying
and aggressive tactics used in this latest assult on Press
liberties. -- Jim Campbell, ANN E-I-C.
Report: Chris Elliott and Steven
Frischling were visited by TSA Special Agents armed with DHS
subpoenas after separately posting the TSA Security Directive
1544-09-06 sent out on December 25 after the Christmas Day bombing
attempt. The agents demanded the identity of the person who
sent the directive to the bloggers.
Both bloggers published the full text of the security directive
on December 27. The document outlined the additional rules
for screening, inspections, and in-flight procedures being mandated
by the TSA from December 25-30. Both men were then visited at
their homes by TSA agents on December 28. Frischling
eventually agreed to cooperate with agents while Elliot is
preparing to go to court to fight Homeland Security.
Chris Elliott is an established travel expert who reports for
National Geographic, The Washington Post, MSNBC and, others.
He posted the security document on his personal blog at almost the
exact same time as Frischling, prompting speculation that they have
the same source.
Elliott declined to cooperate until talking with his lawyer and
posted the text of his subpoena online for public inspection.
The document delivered to Elliott is a "administrative subpoena"
that was issued without a judge's approval. According to the
subpoena, refusing to cooperate with the DHS investigation could
mean up to one year in prison along with fines.
Steven Frischling is a freelance travel writer, photographer,
and blogger/Twitterer for KLM living in CT. The TSA agents
that visited his home made it clear he could be fired from KLM if
he didn't reveal his source. Frischling claims it was from a
randomized email address that has sent him credible information a
few times in the past.
"I received it, I read it, I posted it. Why did I post it?
Because following the failed terrorist attack on the 25th of
December there was a lot of confusion and speculation surrounding
changes in airline & airport security procedures," explained
Frischling on his blog Flying With Fish.
Eventually he handed over his laptop and cell phone for
inspection. "I did not have the email address and knew it was
not on my hard-drive, however the computer was removed to be
searched by a Secret Service computer forensics expert," Frischling
wrote. "The search yielded nothing." Frischling says they did
ruin his computer in the process of analyzing and copying his hard
"I really don't think they thought this one through," Elliott
told WIRED about the TSA tactics. His lawyer requested
additional time from DHS to respond to the request. Lucy
Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom
of the Press, told the AP that Elliott's subpoena will be
challenged next week in federal court in Orlando.
"It was sent to Islamabad, to Riyadh and to Nigeria," Frischling
told WIRED. "So they're looking for information about a security
document sent to 10,000-plus people internationally. You can't have
a right to expect privacy after that."