December 31, 2009

Jim Taricani on the TSA Subpoenaing Bloggers About Their Sources

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Associated Press is reporting that the Transportation Security Agency is trying to force a pair of bloggers who reported on changes to TSA security procedures following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted bombing of a Christmas Day flight to Detroit to reveal their sources...

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.

I asked WJAR-TV's (NBC10) Jim Taricani, who was sentenced to six-months of home confinement in 2004 for refusing to reveal the source of a videotape he received in connection with a Federal corruption investigation and who supports the passage of a Federal shield law for journalists, what he thought of the subpoenas. His reply was that...
These subpoenas are a perfect example for the need of a federal shield law that includes bloggers.

The "Free Flow of Information Act" that has passed the House of Representatives does not provide a privilege for bloggers. The bill pending in the Senate also does not include a privilege for bloggers.

In my opinion, bloggers are comparable to the pamphleteers of Colonial days, when the Founding Fathers fashioned the Freedom of Press clause in the First Amendment.

When bloggers gather, analyze and dispense information about our government, they should, in my opinion, be provided with a privilege to protect the sources of their information.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

It is worth noting that both the "shoe bomber" and the "jock strap bomber" were halted by passengers, after the TSA let them board.

Perhaps TSA should tend to its own knitting.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 31, 2009 4:02 PM

What is a "blogger"? How many posts do you need to have had to be a blogger? Or if I know I'm going to be leaking sensitive info, should I pump out a couple blog posts first about the developments of the NHL or Idaho city government and then let out the real info and claim "I'm a blogger, I'm shielded!"

I understand the argument, but it's much harder to be a "journalist" than a "blogger".

Posted by: Patrick at December 31, 2009 5:43 PM

Too much time on my hands today, I've been thinking. Too much TSA time seems to be spent on "gun cotrol". I think I realised this when they took my moustache scissors.

What we are concerned with is "terrorists", it is they that kill people and they happen to use weapons. When we reach the point that a "box cutter" is a weapon, we must concentrate on very miniscule items.

This latest "terrorist" was flagged all over the place, including a report from his own father. The first question must be "how did he get on the flight?". The nature of his device, and how he got on board with it, are quite secondary.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 31, 2009 6:20 PM

"the Transportation Security Agency is trying to force a pair of bloggers who reported on changes to TSA security procedures following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted bombing of a Christmas Day flight to Detroit to reveal their sources..."

Thanks for posting this, Andrew. This action by the TSA has been puzzling me.

Before we get to the question of shielding bloggers (and I agree with Patrick there is a difference between bloggers and journalists), there is the question of why the TSA undertook this action to begin with.

1.) Wouldn't the TSA WANT news that there are extra security measures in place to be publicized? So why go after someone who was helping to spread the word?

2.) Didn't everyone, including prospective terrorists, simply assume that extra measures were in place? So was this blog breaching a major secret?

Posted by: Monique at December 31, 2009 8:20 PM

We don't need "more security," we need "better security." It's important to remember that the reason all this Patriot Act/water bottle confiscating nonsense started with the events of 9/11, of which the government already had more than enough information to stop ahead of time as it was, if only it weren't so grossly incompetent. What we have now is just another excuse for government to expand its own influence, create more useless bureaucracies, and hire more private sector washouts to put on their theater of security, accomplishing absolutely nothing except expansion of the state and higher taxes.

Posted by: Dan at December 31, 2009 9:42 PM

Even assuming that a "shield law" is necessary, a proposition with which I do not agree, the obsfuscation over "bloggers" and "journalists" is just hot air.

The only serious difference, as I see it, is that one reports on paper, the other on the 'Net. How does one define a "Journalist" (formerly a "reporter")? Is a "J school" diploma necessary? Does one obtain protection the first day on the job with "MSM"? How about the "free lance journalist", does he/she obtain any protection?

If the "scoop" reported was obtained in the commission of a felony, is the journalist not abetting it? Perhaps what we need is greater protection for "whistleblowers"?

I saometimes suspect that "journalists" prepared to go to jail to "protect sources" are simply attempting to become the "news".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 1, 2010 10:15 AM

The TSA has now dropped the subpoenas, declaring that victory is nearly at hand ...

Posted by: Monique at January 1, 2010 6:51 PM

We need reporter. blogger, etc. shield laws badly in this country.
Patrick Lynch was one of about five AGs across the country who refused to sign on to a petition supporting federal shield laws. That explains why I'm not voting for Lynch no matter the circumstances.

Posted by: rhody at January 1, 2010 8:10 PM

I'd like to point out that not one commenter from Anchor Rising on this particular post questioned if the Dec. 25th TSA Security Directive SD 1544-09-06 was a marked "Classified", "For Official Use Only", "For Internal Use Only", or "Sensitive but unclassified" document not to be released into the general public or the World Wide Web known as the Internet for terrorist or adversary viewing.

Release of information of this type jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of all Americans traveling on commercial airlines including your direct or related family members, foreign nationals and members of the local and federal government including the USA military.

Happy New Year and hope you and family have a safe year 2010!

Posted by: Ken at January 2, 2010 12:37 AM

"Patrick Lynch was one of about five AGs across the country who refused to sign on to a petition supporting federal shield laws."


Rhody, that's because he was clinging to the desperate hope that he could retain the ability to lock up any reporter who had the nerve to report on some of the sleazy ways he carried out (failed to carry out, more precisely) his official duties.

Posted by: Monique at January 3, 2010 9:14 AM
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