TSA subpoenas bloggers, demands names of sources
WASHINGTON – As the government reviews how an alleged terrorist was able to bring a bomb onto a U.S.-bound plane and try to blow it up on Christmas Day, the Transportation Security Administration is going after bloggers who wrote about a directive to increase security after the incident.
TSA special agents served subpoenas to travel bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, demanding that they reveal who leaked the security directive to them. The government says the directive was not supposed to be disclosed to the public.
Frischling said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning when he was forced to hand over his lap top computer. Frischling said the agents threatened to interfere with his contract to write a blog for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn’t cooperate and provide the name of the person who leaked the memo.
“It literally showed up in my box,” Frischling told The Associated Press. “I do not know who it came from.” He said he provided the agents a signed statement to that effect.
In a Dec. 29 posting on his blog, Elliott said he had told the TSA agents at his house that he would call his lawyer and get back to them. Elliott said late Wednesday he could not comment until the legal issues had been resolved.
The TSA declined to say how many people were subpoenaed.
The directive was dated Dec. 25 and was issued after a 23-year-old Nigerian man was charged with attempting to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam. The bomb, which allegedly was hidden in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear, malfunctioned and no one was killed. Authorities said the device included a syringe and a condom-like bag filled with powder that the FBI determined to be PETN, a common explosive.
The near-miss attack has prompted President Barack Obama to order a review of what intelligence information the government had about Abdulmutallab and why it wasn’t shared with the appropriate agencies. He also ordered a review of U.S. aviation security. The government has spent billions of dollars and undergone massive reorganizations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
The TSA directive outlined new screening measures that went into effect the same day as the airliner incident. It included many procedures that would be apparent to the traveling public, such as screening at boarding gates, patting down the upper legs and torso, physically inspecting all travelers’ belongings, looking carefully at syringes with powders and liquids, requiring that passengers remain in their seats one hour before landing, and disabling all onboard communications systems, including what is provided by the airline.
It also listed people who would be exempted from these screening procedures such as heads of state and their families.
This is the second time in a month that the TSA has found some of its sensitive airline security documents on the Internet.