January 1st, 2010
03:15 PM ET
13 years ago

TSA withdraws subpoena to travel bloggers

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/01/art.elliottorgsite.elliottorg.jpg caption="Blogger Christopher Elliott wrote on his site that he would fight a TSA subpoena in court."]Washington (CNN) - Just days after serving subpoenas to two travel bloggers, the Transportation Security Administration late Thursday withdrew the subpoenas, saying its investigation into how they received a sensitive security directive "is nearing a successful conclusion."

With little explanation, the TSA withdrew subpoenas to bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott seeking information on how they obtained a December 25 security directive. The directive, which had been sent to every airline and airport in the United States, ordered precautions following the failed terrorist attack on Northwest flight 253.

The TSA acknowledged in a previous statement to CNN it was investigating the leak and publication of the document, saying "Security Directives are not for public disclosure."

Frischling, founder of The Travel Strategist blog, said TSA agents came to his Connecticut home Tuesday evening to question him about his source, leaving for a brief time to go to Wal-Mart to buy a hard drive in a failed effort to copy his hard drive that night.

The agents returned Wednesday morning and left with his laptop computer, Frischling said. Frischling said the agents threatened to call a client - an airline - and to have them sever his contract, saying that he was a security threat.

Frischling said he does not know who sent him the security directive, and that the laptop did not include any identifying information about his source.

Frischling said he was contacted Thursday evening by TSA Deputy Chief Counsel John Drennan, who told him the agency was "no longer investigating how I came into the document." Drennan "apologized on the heavy-handed tactics the TSA agents took," Frischling said.

Blogger Christopher Elliott posted on his blog - http://www.elliott.org - a letter from the TSA withdrawing the subpoena saying it was "no longer necessary."

Elliott wrote that he had "signaled his intention" to fight the subpoena in court.

"Needless to say, I'm delighted by this turn of events," Elliott wrote.

Elliott thanked his lawyer and several journalism and privacy groups organizations for coming to his assistance, and Department of Homeland Security special agent Robert Flaherty for being "a true professional."

In a statement Friday, the the agency wrote: "TSA takes any breach in security very seriously. In light of the posting of sensitive security information on the web, TSA sought to identify where the information came from. The investigation is nearing a successful conclusion and the subpoenas are no longer in effect."

The TSA security directive at issue outlined procedures to increase security, including requiring airlines to conduct physical searches of passengers during certain international flights, and prohibiting passengers from keeping pillows and blankets on their laps. Portions of the directive have been amended since it was issued, officials have told CNN.

Filed under: TSA
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. NSR

    Warrantless, heavy-handed Nazi tactics. Welcome to Omerica.

    January 1, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. krakow

    I would like to see a subpoena served on Barack Hussien Obama's friends and confidants William Ayers, Cass Sunsteen, Fidel Castro, and Nancy Pelosi,

    January 1, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. The people of the United States have spoken

    There are a few things in life that are certain: Death, Taxes, and Charlie Sheen/Robert Downey Jr. being in and out of Jail and the spotlight.

    January 1, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. krakow

    Why doesn't Rick Sanchez interview the members of the Obama administration who have spent time in prison ? He has several close advisors that are embezzlers, self avowed (and proud) bombers, Marxist/Democrats, and pedophiles. Thats a fact Rick. Why do you ignore them RIck? Rahm got your tongue ? Or do you just have a Chrissy Matthew type erection over just the very thought of Barack Hussien Obama ?

    January 1, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. jfc1

    ...nice...so they threaten to do this, but then...did it or not?

    way to play, guys.

    January 1, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  6. D. Tree

    Seems like the government decided its an issue of the free press and anonymous sources, but you can't fault the TSA for pressuring Elliot to reveal his source: leaking that kind of information does nothing to help the public, and only puts us at more risk.

    January 1, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. southern cousin

    This inept, failure of an administration is great about going afte Fox new, its ciritcs, and anyone who disagrees with it. But lets the first of some 25 to 30 Al Queda trained plane bombers "lawyer up" and treats him as a civil criminal rather than a war criminal. I really don't think I have heard of any thing stupider, except for the so called health care reform plan the proposed.

    January 1, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. Dumb-o-CRAPS are runing America

    Someone in the Obamanation's administration, such that it is, leaked a memo, and the Obmanataion then attacks the journalist. Can anyone say hyprocracy?

    January 1, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. valwayne

    Amateur hour at the White House, Homeland Security, and TSA! "The System Worked" Not much need to wonder how a disclosed known potential terrorist could waltz onto a flight with an explosive device when you see this keystone cops segment from the White House to the TSA for the past week!!!! It would be interesting to know who can be held responsible for this mess since the Buck no longer seems to stop on the President's desk!

    January 1, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Ready for 2012

    Good. I'm glad these two bloggers stood their ground against the TSA.

    January 1, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. Sheila

    Did the bloggers not understand the nature of the information? I should think any fifth grader would, perhaps they aren't as smart as a fifth grader... they would make great candidates for employment at TSA.

    January 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. Jim

    "heavy handed tactics" "came to his Connecticut home Tuesday evening to question him " "the agents threatened to call a client " "saying that he was a security threat"
    "The agents returned Wednesday morning and left with his laptop computer, Frischling said"

    Does this happen in America AND under an Obama presidency? If this ever happened during Bush's........

    January 1, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  13. Carole

    Tell the Republicans to stop blocking us having a head of the TSA!

    CNN IT IS MR. PRESIDENT OR PRESIDENT OBAMA not Mr. Obama. Deal with it, there is a Black man as President of the USofA.

    January 1, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. Nea

    Ask me the attempted terroist helped us, now we know we have a system thats broken and need to be fixed, and even though some want to blame President Obama for this their is nothing gurantee and he cannot promise that it wont be successful the next time we only PRAY that it wont, so some just need to get a grip of reality, if its this President fault then we have every right to blame G.Bush for 9/11 but even that was not Bush fault its nothing is guranteed.

    January 1, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. Bill from CA

    I hope Frischling either has a good lawyer, or finds one. What the TSA did was beyond outrageous.

    January 1, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  16. CNN in the censoring buisness..shameful! He LIVES so ALL man can know peace and love!

    Thank God....for a minute there I thought there would be a massive increase in Tea Party membership! A second thought, they already confiscated and went through it....so the withdrawl was just a little too late...

    January 1, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. CNN in the censoring buisness..shameful! He LIVES so ALL man can know peace and love!

    confiscated one of the bloggers 'computer' that is.

    January 1, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  18. Libertarian

    Probably the same "leaks" that blew Ms. Plame's cover. Remember when Bush decided to blow the cover of this CIA agent (which is treason) because Ambassador Wilson (Plame's husband) called Bush/Cheney's bluff on the WMD's in Iraq. Ambassador Wilson said it was all mis-information. About two weeks later his wife's life is put in jeopardy because of it. Goes to show the TRUE colors of the Bush/Cheney dictatorship. Obey or there will be retribution!

    I'm sure we're going to start seeing all kinds of policy violations as the Repubs will stop at NOTHING to destroy this country as long as they keep power over the people.

    January 1, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  19. Aaron

    Typical government antics. They screw up by letting a terrorist on a flight after being warned about it. Now, it's time to divert attention from their incompetencies by harrassing bloggers. Wonder how many of the blockheads who ignored the terrorist warning will be fired....best guess is ZERO. They'll probably get raises, bonuses, and promotions.

    January 1, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. Keith in Austin

    Apparently, the TSA needs to investigate themselves first!

    January 1, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  21. Francis J. DiScala Jr.

    The chilling effect on the first amendment needs to be addressed. While the subpoenas have been "revoked" the ripples continue to move across the pond.

    January 1, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  22. James C. Taliaferro, M.S., QMHP

    I did not realize blogging could be so dangerous. Is there a rulebook to this? I do not want to offend or be misconstrued.

    January 1, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  23. joe

    Seems like another beuracratic mess up that was trying to be covered up – someone should lose their job (and maybe more) – releasing sensitive information is no laughing matter.

    January 2, 2010 08:59 am at 8:59 am |