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.

NEXT: Of Course the Aughts Are Ending

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  1. Chris Elliott should have been subpoenaed to answer for Cabin Boy.

    1. Thanks. Laugh of the day for me.

    2. WTF? When he hallucinates the giant cupcake was fucking great. Elliot may be hit or miss but sometimes the hits are hilarious.

    3. Shatner still hasn’t made up for Star Trek V… or his singing.

      1. People give STV a bad rap because Shatner directed it and there are a few really silly moments. But overall, his direction wasn’t bad.

        And Shatner made up for his singing (not that he has to; it’s provided many with hours of laughter) by rapping Mark Antony’s soliloquy at the end of Free Enterprise.

        1. I’m a Trek fan, and serious about it. At least Shatner made up for #5 with his other good attributes.

      2. Shatner has to apologize for NOTHING.

        Without his Rocket Man, my life would be so much the poorer.

        1. Even T.J. Hooker?

          Seriously, I like the man, and even sat through Incubus even though I can’t understand Esperanto. IMO, Star Trek V was overwrought and reminded me of the over-the-top Batman movies.

          The rest of them, even the first one, are fine in my book. But the fifth one stank, One man’s opinion.

          1. I think it’s appropriate in a TSA post to point out that Shatner was the star of the early 1960s movie The Explosive Generation (not very explosive by today’s standards).

    4. But he returned a Cabin Man

    5. I’ll defend his record on that movie. Also, he did a great turn as Snow Plow Man in “Snow Day”.

  2. The Guy Under the Seats?

  3. I liked the scene on his show where he was in a bicycle race and they played the “Star Trek Fightin’ Song.” Well before anyone else (like Ben Stiller) did that bit.

  4. Kill the messenger!

  5. The only thing I can think of in which Chris Elliot didn’t completely and utterly suuuuuuuuck! was Groundhog Day.

    That is all.

    1. His part in the Thomas Kinkade biography is amusing, if only for the fact that I can’t imagine a worse fate for any actor.

  6. If I were one of these bloggers, I’d tell the TSA to collectively fuck itself and ignore the subpoenas. Who gave the TSA that authority, anyway?

    Okay, someone’s gonna say “Bush did”, and yeah, fine. But has Obama done anything to curb the trained security ape force known as the TSA? Or any other agencies that don’t do their jobs well and within strict guidelines?

  7. You all are sick and twisted. You should kiss the ground he deigns to tread on. Elliot’s a comic genius, so stfu.

  8. So the TSA has the same powers as all the administrations? I thought they were under the commerce committee of Congress and had limited power.

    The last people on earth that I would comply without outside of an airport would be the TSA. Just showing up at my door and demanding something would get them a fuck off. Come back with warrant and a tank before I even considered giving them anything.

    Their duces tecum and kiss my rectum.

    Do administrative subpoenas carry the same weight as Congressional subpoenas?

    1. Just showing up at my door and demanding something would get them a fuck off. Come back with warrant and a tank before I even considered giving them anything.

      I’d call 911 and report them as intruders.

      -jcr

  9. 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.”

    He was “forced” to hand over his laptop?? What the hell? Did they pull guns on him or something? Hey Steve, how about you tell them to fuck right off and see you in court? If you’re going to pretend to be an independent writer and post information like you did, you ought to at least have the backbone to defend your right to do so and protect your sources.

    Frischling said 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.

    Oh Christ on His throne; grow a pair. So the big bad TSA agent threatened to interfere with a private contract that they have absolutely no authority to interfere with (has he even heard of the first amendment?) and he just caves on the spot instead of standing up for himself? Nice. I at least hope this is a lesson to anyone who ever thinks of giving this guy a story or any information in the future. Expect him to use you and your info as long as it helps his page-hits but he’ll sell you out in a heartbeat if anyone with a badge knocks on his door.

    Look, before anybody says it’s easy for me to say since I’m not the one faced with federal agents threatening me, I am also not trying to attract readers by breaking stories and posting newsworthy information on a blog. I’m not saying everyone must always go to the trouble and expense and risk of fighting the government. Sometimes it is just not worth it. But, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer and news source and you hold yourself out as anything other than a boot-licking toady, you absolutely do have a duty to both your readers and especially to those who give you the information that makes your blog worth reading in the first place, to stand up for them.

    You can’t have it both ways, currying favor with the feds so they don’t bother your lucrative travel writing deal while being taken seriously as an independent writer. If you’re going to do the former, stick to posting press-releases and leave the real reporting to the professionals.

    1. I’m kind of with you on this, Brian. I mean, I haven’t read all the accounts here, but two guys I’ve never met before with a finely printed laminated card in their wallet knock on my door and “demand my computer”. I’m going to think of all sorts of clever and novel ways to go tell them they can fuck themselves sideways.

      Then I’m going to immediately blog and podcast my encounter with them. with videotape, because when two guys I’ve never met before with suits and laminated cards want to have a ‘chat’ with me in my livingroom, the video camera’s getting set up on the tripod, firmly pointed somewhere in the “their-ish” direction. If they don’t want to be videotaped, then they can leave the property, sans my computer. Bitchez betta reckanize.

  10. I’m in the habit, when people ask for information under some sort of legal authority, of asking for a written copy of their authority.

    90% of the time, I never hear back.

    I honestly have no idea what authority the TSA has here. Was a law broken? I’ll want to know, in writing, what it was, and what the TSA’s authority is for investigating said violation.

    If they threaten to interfere with a contract, well, that’s a tort, and I’ll see them, both the agents and the agency, in court.

    1. “” and what the TSA’s authority is for investigating said violation.””

      That’s what I was thinking. If a federal law was broken, shouldn’t the FBI be the one’s knocking on the door? Who do the guy’s think they are?

  11. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs is covering this:

    Frischling, a freelance travel writer and photographer in Connecticut who writes a blog for the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, said the two agents who visited him arrived around 7 p.m. Tuesday, were armed and threatened him with a criminal search warrant if he didn’t provide the name of his source. They also threatened to get him fired from his KLM job and indicated they could get him designated a security risk, which would make it difficult for him totravel and do his job.

    “They were indicating there would be significant ramifications if I didn’t cooperate,” said Frischling, who was home alone with his three children when the agents arrived. “It’s not hard to intimidate someone when they’re holding a 3-year-old [child] in their hands. My wife works at night. I go to jail, and my kids are here with nobody.”

    Sorry, but when the guys with badges and guns are in your house threatening you, it is too late to much other than call your lawyer. You can and will be arrested (and pepper sprayed/nightstick’d/shot) for anything they feel like.

    1. Hmmm, you would think they have no authority to do so, what would sending them a “fuck you”do? can they call the cops on you? I hope this story hits the msm or gets some press around the “blogosphere”… this shit has to stop…

    2. they could get him designated a security risk, which would make it difficult for him totravel and do his job.

      This I believe. Since we don’t know who’s on the watchlist, how you get on, how one gets off, what criteria go into getting you on the watchlist in the firstplace, anything is possible.

    3. Sounds like a good reason to take Paul’s advice above and videotape any encounter with these guys (of course you shouldn’t be talking to them without an attorney in the first place and they shouldn’t be in your home without a warrant, but that said,) because I’d argue that threatening to designate someone a security risk who is clearly no such thing simply to scare him could be considered a violation of his civil rights under color of authority. Having a tape of these goons threatening you would be good for the lawsuit.

    4. I hear ya, but I don’t why in Buddha’s name you’d open the door for goons with McAirport badges.

  12. were armed and threatened him with a criminal search warrant if he didn’t provide the name of his source.

    problem solved

    Sorry, but when the guys with badges and guns are in your house threatening you, it is too late to much other than call your lawyer.

    Bullshit. Show me a warrant or you can talk to my door. Even my 5′ wife understands this and has run two cops out of our house who invited themselves in while responding to a complaint.

    There’s no need not to play nice, but fuck handing over property or forgoing rights because you are scared.

    1. i gotta get me one of those…

      1. damn it!

  13. Bullshit. Show me a warrant or you can talk to my door.

    Uh huh.

    That worked out real well for a certain African American professor at Harvard University this summer, didn’t it?

    If the police want to fuck you over in your house, they can. That has been one of the ongoing themes at this blog.

    1. don’t think the dude had a door…

      either way, you can submit or possibly be forced… which one you choose speaks to character. sometimes character loses, sometimes it wins. but you still have a choice.

    2. He made the mistake of letting the officer in his home and not telling the officer to leave his property as soon as the issue was resolved. The officer would have never made it past the threshold in my house and as soon as he refused to leave the property with no further duty he would be trespassing.

      Read the last sentence I posted.

      There’s no need not to play nice…

      You get all the courtesy you give. The professor was a dick and looking to make a scene. I just want my rights intact. Preferably without a scene, but if we have to do it the hard way I’m willing.

    3. fuck that. Two guys named “agent smith” in civies at my front door? I’m going to say “Just a minute!” then I’m going to dial 911 and tell the cops that two strangers with guns are at my door, demanding entry.

      Oh the hilarity that would ensue.

  14. That worked out real well for a certain African American professor at Harvard University this summer, didn’t it?

    He botched it. Could have soaked the taxpayers for a couple hundred grand for that fracas if he’d played his cards right.

    -jcr

  15. (formerly pooppplsuck)

    There’s no need not to play nice, but fuck handing over property or forgoing rights because you are scared.

    Maybe not…but TSA will get what they want (espeically since they will tell a judge it is a national security breach) and they will make life VERY painful for you if they choose. If he thought there was a good chance that he would end up in jail that night and his kids in child protective custody (possibly for weeks), I do not blame him at all for cooperating, at least initially.

    That being said, anyone in that position needs to lawyer up immediately and say or admit nothing. I will agree that it would a good idea to not answer the door to begin with, if that can be helped. I don’t know what the response would have been, though.

    1. I do not blame him at all for cooperating, at least initially.

      I do. I blame him for not being smart enough to say “talk to my lawyer.” If you’re not smart enough and/or prepared enough to do that, you have no business trying to play in the big-leagues by posting leaked government documents. Obviously the guy was in over his head but that’s no excuse for selling out his source like that without so much as a whimper.

      That being said, anyone in that position needs to lawyer up immediately and say or admit nothing.

      Precisely.

      1. Most people would be stumped when they reply, “ok, who’s your lawyer?”

  16. He made the mistake of letting the officer in his home and not telling the officer to leave his property as soon as the issue was resolved. The officer would have never made it past the threshold in my house and as soon as he refused to leave the property with no further duty he would be trespassing.

    I believe that is the gist of what he told the cop to begin with. Make a scene with a cop or annoy them and they will take you for a ride. really annoy them, and you get hurt.

  17. You get all the courtesy you give. The professor was a dick and looking to make a scene.

    You sound just like the cop fluffers at Patterico. You accuse him of being a dick for being pissed that cops were in his house and yard for no good reason after he established his identity.

  18. The guy followed the cop yelling and screaming as he walked away. That if I remember correctly was admitted to by everyone. Note how I didn’t in any way condone the arrest. (Did you see that slight of hand?) What I said he was out to cause a scene. He was. He did. There were a lot of steps that could have been taken to avoid the outcome of that incident, on both sides.

    He let the cop in his house. That was his mistake. He didn’t ask the officer to leave as soon as his identity and the complaint were resolved, that was his mistake. For a professor he made a lot of stupid mistakes. He wanted to get arrested, he didn’t care about his rights he was mad, had a chip on his shoulder and wanted everyone to know. The officer failed in his duties by not walking away from an irrational man. He then over stepped his bounds by arresting a man on his own property for no reason.

    I wouldn’t have been caught out of my home, one of his mistakes. You have to play the game smart when the other guy has a badge and gun.

    Trust me. I’m no fan of the recent state of law enforcement. So you probably don’t want to play the “You’re just a shill for the police.” card so quickly.

  19. Q: Do you know why we’re meeting with you at your Connecticut home for about three hours?

    A: Because you didn’t do well in high school?

    1. A: Because you didn’t do well in high school? Can I see your warrant?

  20. People with badges, guns, and some sort of paperwork told him to hand something over while he was home with just his kids and no other adult to look after those kids. It’s no great mystery why he complied.

    In principle the response should be “I have nothing to say without a lawyer, and without a warrant I will not admit you to my property.” But in practice, if they want to enter your property despite the fact that you said “No”, anything that could be construed as physical resistance is a really bad move. Just reaching into your pocket for a key to lock the door from the outside could be construed as a hostile action.

    So, in practice, all you can do is let them do what they want, say nothing, and call a lawyer first chance you get. (But don’t reach into the pocket for a cell phone.)

    1. But in practice, if they want to enter your property despite the fact that you said “No”, anything that could be construed as physical resistance is a really bad move.

      Oh come on. This wasn’t a no-knock drug raid with a warrant. You always have to right to say you won’t talk without an attorney and unless there is an emergency exception nobody can enter your house without a warrant or permission. Are you really saying these TSA agents might kick down the door and start shooting if he refused to let them in? It is certainly a good idea to be polite and professional and not be a dick about it, but I think you’re advising a bit too much deference to these guys. The notion that someone without a warrant knocking on your door is going to get in if they want is a bit much. Think of what would really happen if they forced their way in and shots were fired. That is one story the media would certainly cover – TSA agent without a warrant shoots his way into home of unarmed man… Sorry but as bad as things have gotten, I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet.

  21. Eh, “let them do what they want” is poor phrasing. “Not interfere in any way” is better, except to the extent that “I do not give my consent, and I request to speak with a lawyer” might be considered interference.

  22. The entertaining show that’s playing at a movie house near u called AIRPORT SECURITY is a bunch of BULLSHIT.

    Forget about the islamo-terrorist. Any freak can get on a plane and cause a fire. They don’t even need to bring anything in other than a lighter or matches.

    The airlines serve vodka and have nylon sheets. They don’t even need to bring explosives on the plane. The airlines serve them for a mere $5 per bottole.

    Why is it that the terrorist do something wrong and EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN that flies has to pay the PRICE?

    Us casual travelers, business people, and airline personnel are NOT GOING TO BLOW UP A PLANE.

    This is obviously an intellegence failure.

    WE AMERICANS NEED TO DEMAND that the TSA and the NTSB put REAL SECURITY MEASURES…which include a database that includes NORMAL people and people like this nigerian fellow flying from Yemen via amsterdam to NY…who’s father stated to the CIA that he is a terrorist.

  23. “Citing the Fourth Amendment, I decline to allow you warrantless entry to my home. Citing the Fifth Amendment, I decline to answer your questions. Citing the Sixth Amendment, I decline to continue any discussion with you without having time to consult with my lawyer, and without my lawyer present for any questioning.”

    “We’ll get you fired from your job!”

    “Citing the Fourth Amendment, I decline to allow you warrantless entry to my home. Citing the Fifth Amendment, I decline to answer your questions. Citing the Sixth Amendment, I decline to continue any discussion with you without having time to consult with my lawyer, and without my lawyer present for any questioning.”

    “We’ll make trouble for your family!”

    “Citing the Fourth Amendment, I decline to allow you warrantless entry to my home. Citing the Fifth Amendment, I decline to answer your questions. Citing the Sixth Amendment, I decline to continue any discussion with you without having time to consult with my lawyer, and without my lawyer present for any questioning.”

    “We’ll come back here with a warrant and tear this place apart!”

    “Citing the Fourth Amendment, I decline to allow you warrantless entry to my home. Citing the Fifth Amendment, I decline to answer your questions. Citing the Sixth Amendment, I decline to continue any discussion with you without having time to consult with my lawyer, and without my lawyer present for any questioning.”

    (etc)

    Not hard. Helps to have a video camera.

    1. Streaming video with extra archives would be great. Catch the bastards in the act.

  24. 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 subpoena is illegal – a subpoena cannot ask for delivery of anything, on 4th Amendment grounds – they have to ask a judge to issue a search warrant and indicate the scope of the search. Instead, the TSA expects the blogger to do their job for them.

    The bloggers can perfectly tell the TSA to go to hell, and then hide all equipment out of site to avoid seizure under the Patriot Act. Of course, the TSA can always get Pharaoh Obama I to designate the bloggers as “enemy combatants” and bury them in a deep cell in Guantanamo which, we all know (wink, wink) it is not really going to be closed . . . Not if Janet “Right Wing Groups are The Real Enemy!” Napolitano.

    1. subpoena decus tecum requires you to bring evidence.

      1. Against oneself?

        1. not sure about that.

  25. http://www.wired.com/threatlev…..subpoenas/

    Chalk another (partial) victory up to the blogosphere.

  26. Elliott plans to challenge the TSA subpoena in federal court next week on First Amendment grounds.

    The Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments would also seem to apply here.

  27. Both subpeonas [Elliott’s and Frischling’s] have been dropped by the TSA, which has also offered to replace Frischling’s laptop (damaged, apparently, when its hard drive was duplicated).

    The document was sent him anonymously via email, and the TSA has told Frischling that they were unable to get the information they wanted off of it.

    1. “The TSA said the investigation is “nearing a successful conclusion and the subpoenas are no longer in effect.”
      http://apnews.myway.com/articl…..KTGO0.html

      Once they got his laptop, they probably got what they needed.

  28. The big problem here is being ignored. The problem is “faxsimile.” “Facsimile” is a perfectly good word. Nothing wrong with “fax” either, although it’s a bit informal for a subpeona, isn’t it? But “faxsimile”? The TSA can strip search old ladies all it wants, but it is NOT allowed to make up words.

    1. hee hee hee

  29. which has also offered to replace Frischling’s laptop

    Great so we get to buy the pussy a new laptop too.

    Fucking Excellent

  30. The TSA can strip search old ladies all it wants

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