TSA aims subpoena at bloggers, seizes laptop

by Walter Olson on December 31, 2009

TSA can take decisive action after all, when bloggers as opposed to terrorists are the targets: “Two East Coast travel bloggers who posted a sensitive airport security memo on their Internet sites have been subpoenaed by federal officials trying to find out who sent them the document. One of the writers, Steve Frischling, also had his laptop seized by agents looking for evidence of his source for the Transportation Security Administration directive.” [Alison Grant, Cleveland Plain Dealer; Elliott.org; BoingBoing (Frischling got laptop back)(& welcome Coyote readers)]

More: Via Instapundit, a contrarian view from Christopher Fotos at Aviation Week, and coverage from Wired “Threat Level”. Update: TSA backs off [AP/Law.com, BoingBoing]


1 Bill H 12.31.09 at 4:24 am

Of course they can take immediate action on bloggers- how many of them do you know wear Semtex underwear?

2 Richard Nieporent 12.31.09 at 9:24 am

He should have hid in a place where they could never find him – an airport.

3 Dennis 12.31.09 at 10:31 am

They can’t catch terrorists, so they go after those who expose their incompetence.


4 A.W. 12.31.09 at 11:24 am

well, i would say this. yes, they can be subpoenaed, but not they can’t be prosecuted for publishing it. my view of the first amendment is that a reporter is free to report whatever the hell they want. their conscience is their limitation, and libel laws.

But that doesn’t mean no one committed a crime giving the doc to them. and that can and should be punished. and in the process of investigating, yes, they should be subpeonaed.

5 CT_Yankee 12.31.09 at 12:07 pm

The reporter may have 1st Amendment protection against prosecution, but the news is only as good as the sources. People who have access to the right information are almost always intimidated by the consequences of speaking to reporters. Make it big news that we will do ANYTHING to get whoever released the documents, and in the future there will be nothing for reporters to report on.

6 VMS 12.31.09 at 3:50 pm

This is reminisent of the Pentagon Papers fiasco, but in a much smaller scale.



7 MonroeL 12.31.09 at 6:43 pm


…the TSA does not have subpoena power under the U.S. Constitution, nor does Congress or the President.

The power of ‘subpoena’ is strictly a judicial power.

Article III clearly states that Federal ‘judicial power’ resides only in the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts.

A subpoena (order to appear before a government official) is an obvious, direct infringement upon a person’s liberty. The 5th Amendment guarantees that no person shall be deprived of personal liberty without due process of law… meaning a formal judicial process with normal rights and legal safeguards.

A TSA bureaucrat spitting out a subpoena on his word-processor ain’t legal or Constitutional.

8 Tristan Benz 12.31.09 at 8:33 pm

Dennis, Richard and Bill cracked me up!

Prediction: the most frequently used word (er, acronym) in America for 2010 will be FUBAR (at the very least, until November…).

9 Jimmy Burnett 01.02.10 at 9:45 pm

This is just what us bloggers would have needed, the government telling us what we can and can not publish on our blogs. I find it ironic how quickly TSA dropped the idea of Subpoenas.

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