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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.

Originally posted to quaoar on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:14 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Actually I would think that the ACLU (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, lcrp, quaoar, temptxan, Losty, Publius2008

    would take their cases.  As journalists, I believe they have the right to withold that information, but I am not a lawyer and don't play one on television.

    Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

    by Sychotic1 on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:18:25 AM PST

  •  It's Just Typical Government BS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, kurt

    They want to track down the initial leaker.

  •  Why post secret security measures? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theRoaringGirl, marina, i8pikachu

    Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing. -G.Greenwald

    by Jonze on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:21:19 AM PST

  •  Reporters have editors... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And editors have News paper reputations to consider.  Bloggers are accountable to nobody and think they can publish whatever the hell they want.  

    Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing. -G.Greenwald

    by Jonze on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:22:41 AM PST

    •  and in the USA they can. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quaoar, keefer55

      In the USA anyone can publish anything they choose.  

      However if they publish classified information (or kiddie porn or threats or libels) they can be subjected to various legal processes, and all of this will work itself out in court as it did in the days before Bush.  

      All of us are ultimately accountable to courts of law for our actions.  Having an editor does not change that in either direction.  

      The system is working normally again, which is a huge improvement over a year ago.  

  •  Full Legal Defense? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's a fucking subpoena.  You respond to it.  That's the law.

    If you refuse you go through what we applauded Judy Miller going through.

    Fairly simple choice.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:22:44 AM PST

    •  I'm sure Mr. Rove and the likes of Mr. Cheney (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      feel exactly the same way you do!

      •  Judith Miller applauded? (0+ / 0-)

        That (female dog) should have continued to rot in jail for her part in the Bush Crime spree. A paid operative taking part in leaking the name of a CIA officer? Please!  

        This person endangered OUR national security for corrupt political reasons.

        As for this latest case, I'm a bit ambivalent.   I think it is a legitimate concern of the Government to find the source or a leak on matters that clearly have to do with the security of the people of the United States.

        On the other hand, a free press is necessary to our stability as a nation.  I guess that is for a court to decide.  Maybe the EFF or ACLU could lend a hand.  Or maybe an association of political Bloggers can pool resources to retain those high powered suits for this scenario.

        --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

        by chipoliwog on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:08:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The power of subpoena is often abused (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, keefer55, Mike in Denmark

      by government agencies on fishing expeditions.

      If no one ever challenged a subpoena in court -- which is every citizen's right -- the government would be able to keep whatever it wanted out of print.

      The TSA does not have the final word on the validity of a subpoena. The court system does.

    •  since they are not going after bloggers for (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      having posted it, I actually don't blame them for this subpoena.

      I would not want someone in the TSA sending out security directives that are meant to be inhouse until a decision is reached as to what are going to be made public and which are important not to have out in public.

      Shoot me bc if i was either blogger i would just tell them.  I would have asked the same question the latter one did but ended with "let me get the name", no subpoena necessary.

      "I know we will have differences. Put them aside. It is so easy to focus on where we don't agree and to lose the big picture. Fight until we win" -Kwickkick

      by vc2 on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 12:15:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, they are going after the bloggers (0+ / 0-)

        If you were a leaker would you ever leak anything to someone who caved at the first whiff of a subpoena? No, you wouldn't.

        If those bloggers reveal where the info came from they can forget about ever getting similar information.

        This is why newspapers vigorously protect confidential sources -- because no one would ever provide such information in the future if they knew they would be given up to the government by the paper.

  •  Those measures are seriously (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quaoar, kurt

    stupid. Why would terrorists not be as interested in blowing up a plane two hours from its destination as they would be one hour from destination? Is someone in the TSA afraid that people will see/have seen just how dumb they are?

    All I can think of is that most planes from Europe are coming from the North and entering U.S. airspace only towards the end of the flight. Is being forced to explode a US-bound plane outside U.S. airspace likely to be a reason not to do it? With these rules they are going to have to put Flomax in everyone's beer and coffee.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:41:14 AM PST

    •  Because they got information from the would-be... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, global citizen

      bomber that he was told to blow up the plane over land in order to get maximum coverage of the carnage.  two hours out and most international flights are still over the ocean where there can be no photos of the wreck.  

      Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing. -G.Greenwald

      by Jonze on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 10:51:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess Richard Reed didn't get that memo (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        global citizen

        He tried to detonate his shoe bomb over the Atlantic Ocean.

        •  Really? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Only 8 yrs earlier and from completely different area.  Maybe AQ's tactics and strategy changed over the eight years...

          Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing. -G.Greenwald

          by Jonze on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:50:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've been living overseas since Aug 2001... (0+ / 0-)

            flying back to the USA 2-3 times a year.  Each time I do there's a change in security procedures, and the "sit in your seat" for an hour has been in place several times over the past nine years... I'm just not getting all the outrage!

            After 18 hours in the air, that last hour when you're tying your shoes and checking the seat pocket, and experiencing the turbulence on your descent to Kennedy just isn't that big a deal.  I'm usually dozing in and out anyways...

            Naam!! Tunaweza!!

            by bogbud on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 12:56:35 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I can see the origin of the rule, then, but (0+ / 0-)

        I am pretty sure that that is something that the terrorists would be willing to give up on and, of course, this rule would be immediately obvious whether the memo was released or not.

        We have only just begun and none too soon.

        by global citizen on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:02:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe, maybe not... (0+ / 0-)

          Either way that is not an excuse to leak or publish sensitive security directives in the direct aftermath of an attempted act of terror.  

          Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing. -G.Greenwald

          by Jonze on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:54:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  TSA makes a fail of a fail of a fail (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quaoar, keefer55, kurt, sfbob, Publius2008

    blame the intelligence community, not the travelling public at large.

    what does turning off entertainment systems and taking out belongings out of our laps do the last hour?  NOTHING.


  •  They should probably contact the ACLU. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Denial is complicity.

    by Publius2008 on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:03:50 AM PST

  •  Can't afford the flight (0+ / 0-)

    Most bloggers I know could never afford the airfare to even show up.

    But, with that said, publishing knowingly secret government information should have been a warning sign.

  •  subpoenas are legit for this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Under Bush, the travel writers would have had their phones and email surveilled without any legal process.

    Subpoenas and warrants are legitimate law enforcement process, and when someone, even a reporter, may have material information on a crime (leak of classified material) it's legit to go after the info.  

    There will of course be First Amendment issues to raise if the bloggers choose to do so, but all of this will be handled in court in the way it always was before Bush.  

    As it is, it appears that the bloggers just received the leaked information and published it, and have no idea where it came from.  Their ISPs will probably also receive subpoenas to turn over server logs and suchlike.

    Anyway, the main point is, this is "back to biz as usual before Bush," and that's a major improvement.  

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