TSA plays hardball with airline blogger over security directive
UPDATE: A few minutes after posting the story below about how the TSA was using pressure tactics to get KLM blogger Steven Frischling to comply with a subpoena, two TSA agents visited his home again and took his hard drive, with his consent, Frischling says.
Frischling says the agents took his hard drive at 10:30 a.m. EST Dec. 30 and promised to return it in the afternoon after bringing it to a forensics lab.
He says he signed a statement saying that he doesn’t know the identity of the person who e-mailed him the TSA security directive and agreeing to let the agents take his computer.
Frischling says the agents told him that if he didn’t comply that they “would make life very difficult for me,” including seizing all the computers, phones and iPods in his home.
Frischling was still trying to contact a lawyer to assist him.
The original post follows.
Travel blogger Steven Frischling, a self-employed photographer who also writes the Flying With Fish and KLM blogs, says two TSA agents delivered a Dept. of Homeland Security subpoena to him Dec. 29, two days after he published the Christmas Day TSA security directive and warned him they would contact KLM over the issue if he didn’t comply with the subpoena and that this would end his ability to work with the airline industry.
Frischling, speaking a day after the visit by two TSA agents to his Connecticut home, says their implied threat was that he would be considered a security risk if he didn’t turn over his e-mails and computer hard drive and failing to do so “would sever my ability to work with the airline industry.”
The TSA is playing very rough with Frischling and journalist Christopher Elliott after both published the security directive verbatim Dec. 27 and were subpoenaed for, “All documents, emails, and/or faxsimile transmissions (sic) in your control possession or control concerning your receipt of TSA Security Directive 1544-09-06 dated December 25, 2009.”
Both bloggers face fines and a year in jail if they don’t comply by Dec. 31.
As of this morning, Dec. 30, Frischling didn’t even have a lawyer representing him in the matter, and was expecting a second TSA visit today.
Frischling says he received the security directive via e-mail from a source he wasn’t able to identify. He says the sender used a Gmail account with a first name followed by some random numbers, and Frischling has deleted the e-mail.
Frischling says he had “cursory contact” with the TSA in trying to get details about the new security measures imposed Christmas Day following the botched Northwest flight 253 terrorism incident, but speculates that the e-mail came from a reader of one of the two blogs he authors.
If the TSA wants to know the source of the e-mail that contained the security directive, Frischling says, “I can honestly tell them I don’t know.”
He says the agents seek to “mirror his hard drive” or to take it for inspection.
“They are not going to take my hard drive,” Frischling vows.
UPDATE: Elliott tweeted around 11:30 a.m. EST: “They have taken @flyingwithfish computer. This has gone too far.”
Frischling says the TSA, in its bid to learn the source of the leak, is picking on two travel journalists with no “infrastructure or resources.”
“If it [the security directive] was published by The New York Times, the DHS wouldn’t have been standing in the newsroom,” Frischling says.
Frischling notes that he initially contacted the TSA about the security measures when there was little detail on the TSA website about the new screening regimen. Some of the measures, such as pat-downs at airport gates, limitations about passenger movements onboard flights in-bound to the U.S., and restrictions on carry-ons have been widely reported and outlined on some airline websites.
Frischling argues that the TSA shouldn’t have expected the security directive to remain out of the public domain when it was sent to “tens of thousands of people,” including personnel at every airport, airline and security agency.
When trying to ascertain the source of the leaked document, Frischling says, the TSA could “go after Chris and myself or look internally, and it is easier to go after us.”
When contacted, Elliott referred all questions to his lawyer.
The TSA also didn’t immediately get back to me when asked for its reaction to the issues.
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.