Yesterday travel blogger Christopher Elliott,
who was being intimidated by the TSA to give up his sources, and threatened with having all his computers confiscated, was suddenly informed in a letter:
"This is to confirm our earlier telephone conversation that the TSA subpoena of December 29, 2009, issued to your client, Mr. Christopher Elliott, is being withdrawn as no longer necessary.
Thank you for your assistance and have a happy and safe New Year.
John A. Drennan
Deputy Chief Counsel (Enforcement)
Office of the Chief Counsel
Transportation Security Administration
Department of Homeland Security
Similarly fellow travel blogger Steven Frischling , who had also been served with a subpoena in connection with the security directive, and whose laptop was seized, says that a DHS phone call last night let him know he was off the hook. "They apologized to me, but did they have to come to my house, with three young kids, with armed weapons?
Frischling says that the agency had offered to buy him a new computer and all he had to do is fill out the forms. The day before, armed agents had threatened him with getting fired from his job as a KLM blogger and with taking all his computers, electronic devices, and phones from his house.
Frischling consented to a search of his computer and hard drive, but it was damaged when they returned it the next day.
Somebody up there obviously realized how stupid this brazen attempt to intimidate bloggers looked, after Huffington Post and other major news sources jumped on the story wednesday, see TSA Seizes Computer from Travel Blogger
Clearly, Homeland Security Agents have better things to do than go after bloggers who have published a security directive that was widely circulated to 10,000 offices around the world.
The broader issue of my situation, Elliott told Huffington Post, is the need for a Federal shield law for journalists and how the Government does or doesn't protect journalists.
"This is an example of a government out of control...that does not help journalists protect their sources. The TSA has left itself vulnerable to complaints. Can the government intimidate journalists? Can they go on fishing expeditions?"
60% of the states have enacted shield laws, but similar protections do not exist on the federal level, as a result of a close, 5-4, 1972 Supreme Court decision, which held that the First Amendment did not protect journalists from having to reveal their sources.
News and Media organizations have strongly urged Congress to protect confidential sources in the federal courts, but these effort have not prevailed due to strong resistance from law enforcement agencies after 9/11.
Last year Obama endorsed a strong shield law, but last month Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. insisted that he must be able "to protect the national security and to prosecute any leaks."
There seems to have been a frenzy at the TSA to do something, anything, after the attempted Christmas day bombing.
Nevertheless, sources say that the TSA --- a wacky, bureaucratic burlesque, that is squandering monies on silly things and outdated strategies --- eventually they got what they wanted.
Dennis Schaal has an interesting update on this.
It gets pretty wild. He speculates that armed TSA agents ghost wrote a Tweet from Frischling's account in order to flush out his source.