Airport security showdown: TSA vs. bloggers
Anger is building over the Transportation Security Administration attacks on two bloggers for publishing a leaked memo
Though the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quickly devised more strenuous airport security procedures after the failed terrorist attack on Flight 253, the memo outlining its changes was leaked to two travel bloggers who published it — prompting the agency to take "disgraceful" action. Soon after Steven Frischling and Chris Elliott published the memo on their respective websites, BoardingArea.com and Elliott.com, TSA officials went to the bloggers' houses on December 29, issued them subpoenas, and attempted to confiscate their computers to track the leak back to its source (Frischling handed over his harddrive; Elliott refused). Late last week, however, the TSA withdrew both subpoenas, saying that legal action was "no longer necessary." Did the TSA simply overreact? (Watch an interview with blogger Steve Frischling)
The TSA's actions are a 'disgrace': Bullying bloggers with threats of imprisonment for informing the public about something we "should have been told [about] immediately" is "asinine and offensive," says Henry Blodget at The Business Insider. Before the TSA engaged in this "bizarre behavior," its claims that it had no clear forewarning of the attack seemed credible. Now, however, it seems that "the cause of this near-tragedy" was more likely "incompetence.""The TSA's intimidation of bloggers over leaked security rules is a disgrace"
It's curious that the TSA didn't anticipate a backlash: "Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of...the internet could have predicted" that storming blogger's homes commando-style might not be a great idea, says The Economist's travel blog, Gulliver. But "the saddest part" about this debacle "is how unnecessary it all was;" this "unclassified" document was distributed to "airports and airlines all over the world." By the time "Mr Elliott and Mr Frischling published" the directive, "almost all of what it contained was public," anyway. "TSA bullies travel bloggers"
The bigger problem here is that laws don't protect bloggers: This case highlights our need of a federal shield law that "protects bloggers" from these types of "police-state tactics," says Jason Rosenbaum at Fire Dog Lake. "Would the TSA threaten a New York Times reporter with the no-fly list? If not, then bloggers shouldn’t be threatened, either, and the TSA’s heavy-handed tactics should be investigated.""TSA drops subpoenas against bloggers"
The bloggers squandered an opportunity to change those laws: Steven Frischling did the blogging community a great disservice, says Michael Arrington on Tech Crunch, "when he willingly handed over his computer to the government." Had he refused and gone to jail, perhaps the trial would have led "to stronger laws protecting all bloggers." Instead, he "caved." "The tyranny of government and our duty of confidentiality as bloggers"