One day after setting off a stampede of criticism, covered earlier today on the Hayride, over its heavy-handed efforts to bull-rush a pair of travel bloggers into finking a whistleblower which had leaked its Dec. 25 security directive, the Transportation Security Administration has now backed off its demands for immediate compliance.
Blogger Chris Elliott, who had been served with a subpoena from TSA last night demanding he immediately turn over the identity of his source for the security directive, contacted a lawyer after his conversation with TSA agents. Anthony Elia, Elliott’s attorney, told the Associated Press that the subpoena had been suspended until Jan. 20. Later today on Elliott’s blog it was reported that the subpoena has been dropped altogether…
This is to confirm our earlier telephone conversation that the TSA subpoena of December 29, 2009, issued to your client, Mr. Christopher Elliott, is being withdraw as no longer necessary.
Thank you for your assistance and have a happy and safe New Year.
John A. Drennan
Deputy Chief Counsel (Enforcement)
Office of the Chief Counsel
Transportation Security Administration
Department of Homeland Security
Elliott’s experience was a more positive one than was Steven Frischling’s. Frischling had his computer seized by TSA agents yesterday, and when it was returned to him by the agency today he says it was damaged. From Frischling’s blog today:
Yesterday was an interesting day, which I really wish had happened to someone else. At 10:30am two Transportation Security Administration Special Agents returned to my home and removed my laptop from my house. The TSA was looking for the email address of the person who sent me Security Directive SD-1544-09-06. 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. The search yielded nothing.
What worries me is this…and not for my own security and freedom…but for the safety of the traveling public which the TSA is charged with protecting. Why was I assigned two high-ranking TSA Special Agents?
One Special Agent, out of Boston, served with Secret Service for more than 30 years and has also served in the role of Director of Counter Terrorism & Law Enforcement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The other Special Agent, from New Jersey, served more than 20 years with the Secret Service, leaving the Secret Service in the position of Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the New York Field Office, and then going onto work as a Deputy Director of Global Security.
The agent from Boston joined the TSA as a Special Agent in October 2009; the agent from New Jersey also joined the TSA as a Special Agent in 2009.
I understand the TSA’s concern in finding their internal leak, however as much of the media has reported, the TSA appears to be using a heavy handed tactic in coming after Chris Elliot and myself regarding this issue. These two agents, with more than a combined history of 50 years of working as Secret Service investigators, may be better tasked to dealing with matters of direct national security issues.
The Department of Homeland Security could have better allocated its resources of two clearly senior investigators researching something more befitting their experience and expertise. The Department of Homeland Security could have better allocated its resources in having a Secret Service computer forensics specialist travel more than 100 miles to image my hard-drive.
When the TSA removed my laptop from my home, my computer and system was functioning perfectly. Shortly before the TSA returned to my home they called me to tell me that the Secret Service computer forensic investigator was encountering many ‘bad sectors’ in my hard drive. Upon checking my MacBook following its return, and running Disk Utility it appears that I have many bad sectors in my hard drive, countless errors in my operating system, my MacBook will not synch with Time Machine to be backed up, my audio is no longer working and a red-light inside my audio jack is on constantly.
The TSA has reportedly offered to buy Frischling a new computer. He attributes today’s fiasco to the agency’s lack of a full-time appointed head, a vacancy which exists because Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has placed a hold on Obama’s designate for the job Erroll Southers. The left is engaged in a conniption over DeMint’s hold, but the South Carolina conservative has made the point that Southers is a supporter of unionizing TSA employees. A move is already on by the National Treasury Employees Union to sign up the TSA’s workers; the NTEU is an affiliate of the George Soros-funded left-wing group Americans Coming Together.
“I’m only looking for some time to debate the issue and have a vote so this isn’t done in secret,” says DeMint.