Terrorism

TSA Withdraws Subpoenas to Journalists

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Last week I noted that the Transportation Security Administration had demanded that two travel writers reveal the source of the TSA directive they posted after the foiled Christmas Day bombing of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. One of them, Chris Elliott, was planning to challenge the TSA's administrative subpoena in federal court. It looks like that won't be necessary, since the TSA has withdrawn both subpoenas, saying its investigation of who leaked the document is "nearing a successful conclusion" without them. Although the circumstances in which a a journalist can be compelled to reveal a source vary from state to state and from one federal circuit to another, it seems clear under the relevant precedents that the government should not resort to this option when there is another way in which it can readily obtain the information it seeks. The TSA's quick capitulation therefore suggests the subpoenas were illegal to begin with. A.P. reports that Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "said she could not remember the last time an administrative subpoena had been served on a reporter in the last decade."