The Transportation Security Administration through the Department of Homeland Security has issued subpoenas to two travel bloggers who posted the contents of TSA’s Security Directive SD-1544-09-06, which was issued in the wake of the Christmas Day terrorist attempt to blow up an aircraft.
This was the attempt, you will recall, by the wannabe terrorist who was only able to set himself on fire. The TSA responded with a new security directive imposing new procedures for screening passengers and restricting their movements in-flight.
That directive was apparently received by at least two bloggers who write about travel issues and wrote about the directive. The TSA apparently wants to know who sent the directive and has issued subpoenas to find out.
Steven Frischling, who writes the Flying With Fish blog, wrote about his subpoena.
The DHS & TSA are taking this matter seriously, and that tells me that they are paying attention to security in detail. Their issue is not that the Security Directive expires tomorrow, or even that I posted SD-1544-09-06 but that someone within the TSA sent this sensitive document outside of the agency. I understand why the TSA wants to find the person leaking this information and I wish I had a long intertwined story about how I got the document, but I don’t.
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.
A subpoena was also served upon the writer of the Elliott travel blog.
We had just put the kids in the bathtub when Special Agent Robert Flaherty knocked on my front door with a subpoena. He was very polite, and used “sir” a lot, and he said he just wanted a name: Who sent me the security directive?
I invited Flaherty to sit down in the living room and introduced him to my cats, who seemed to take a liking to him. The kids came by to say hello, too.
“A subpoena?” I asked the special agent. “Is that really necessary?”
“Sir,” he repeated. “You’ve been served.”
Well, at least the guy was polite.
So, what will happen? Who knows.
But a couple of bloggers aren't likely to have the financial resources necessary to launch a full legal defense. It helps to have lawyers in sharp suits from powerful firms to fight the government and they don't come cheap.
This is one of those things that will become increasingly common as newspapers fade away. Newspapers have always had armies of lawyers on retainer for just such instances. Bloggers are much easier targets. If you are faced with having to sell your house to pay your lawyers or going to jail it's going to be hard to stand on principle and refuse to divulge a source.