“Since the government has been unresponsive to my requests to clarify its new security measures,” travel writer Chris Elliott wrote, “I thought it would be best to publish the security directive in its entirety.” And with that, the hunt was on. Elliott and blogger Steven Frischling both received copies of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) official security directive in response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing, and both published the directives in their entirety. And both were visited by TSA officials, who served them with subpoenas and demanded they reveal their source.
The directives tell us little that hadn’t already been revealed anonymously through the news. All the restrictions we’ve heard about, from pat-downs to forcing passengers to remain seated for the last hour of a flight, are there. The directives are also now old news, having been modified even before they expire at the end of today.
So why was the TSA going after two writers who published unclassified (albeit sensitive) material that it seems they had every right to share?
Frischling’s theory is that the TSA’s issue “is not that the Security Directive expires tomorrow, or even that I posted [the document] but that someone within the TSA sent this sensitive document outside of the agency.”
Of course, the leak, and the response, does little to change the TSA’s image as an incompetent, reactionary mess. And targeting two bloggers who simply published a document given to them (it’s not like they hacked the TSA and posted confidential material) seems like a severe and miscalculated response. Maybe the bloggers shouldn’t have posted the document, but as Elliott wrote, the government has been slow to clarify its procedures, and the public has a right to know what to expect when traveling. The journalist’s job is to inform the public, and these two did their job.
One hopes the TSA, having made its point (such as it is), will now leave these two alone.
**UPDATE** The TSA has dropped the subpoenas.