TSA Visited Bloggers Who Posted Threat Memo

Published February 25, 2010

U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents went to the homes of two bloggers after the writers published an unclassified TSA memo outlining new security precautions in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt on a flight over Detroit.

The new TSA in-flight guidelines —which included not letting passengers go to the bathroom, open their laptops, or even read a book one hour before landing—became a source of widespread mockery online.

TSA: Open Your Hard Drive
TSA soon backed off the new procedures—leaving them largely to the pilot’s discretion—but agents nonetheless on December 27 visited the homes of Steven Frischling, a freelancer who writes a blog for an airline, and Christopher Elliott, who writes for The Washington Post and MSNBC.

The agency demanded the two men cooperate with their investigation—including opening up their hard drives for inspection—or risk imprisonment.

Demands Dropped
The TSA eventually backed off its demands of the bloggers, but the incidents brought accusations of abuse of government authority and quickly became an embarrassment to the agency.

“Whoever is in charge of public relations at the TSA isn’t doing a very good job,” said Ryan Young, Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “There was no crime, since the posted document was not classified.”

Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.