War on Terror

Bloggers Who Posted TSA Instructions Get TSA Subpoenas

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Chris Elliott, a travel writer who posted the Transportation Security Administration's instructions to airlines following last week's attempted bombing of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, is fighting the TSA's demand that he reveal the source who leaked the directive to him. On Tuesday a TSA agent served Elliott with an administrative subpoena commanding him to surrender "all documents, emails, and/or faxsimile transmissions in your control possession or control concerning your receipt of TSA Security Directive 1544-09-06 dated December 25, 2009." The directive laid out new security measures triggered by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's underwear bomb, including gateside pat-downs, inspections of belongings, and widely ridiculed restrictions on passengers' access to bathrooms, blankets, video entertainment, and carry-on bags. These measures quickly became apparent to travelers, undermining the argument that publishing the directive jeopardized security by letting terrorists know what to expect. But the leak did confirm who was responsible for the new policies, exposing the TSA to embarrassing but appropriate criticism. Elliott plans to challenge the TSA subpoena in federal court next week on First Amendment grounds.

A.P. reports that "another travel blogger who received a subpoena, Steve Frischling, said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning, when he was forced to hand over his laptop computer." Frischling (who, like Elliott, posted the TSA security directive on Sunday) told A.P. "the agents threatened to interfere with his contract to write a blog for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn't cooperate and provide the name of the person who leaked the memo." His account of receiving the subpoena is here.

I discussed the TSA security directive in my column this week.