Shortly after the Christmas bomber tried to blow up a Delta flight into Detroit, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rolled out an emergency directive requiring airlines to implement draconian new security procedures.
Most travelers, unfortunately, had to find out about these new procedures from airline web sites or from firsthand accounts of those who had the misfortune to fly. Despite operating a consumer web site with a chatty blog, the TSA didn't bother to tell the public about the new rules. Instead, the agency just distributed the new rules electronically to thousands of airline, government, and security employees and left the public in the dark.
Thankfully, someone leaked the rules, so Americans finally learned what we should have been told immediately. Thanks to bloggers like Chris Elliot and Steven Frischling, who published the memo, we got to read the whole directive.
Needless to say, the TSA should have made all of the new rules public from the get-go. The secrecy surrounding them was an insult to anyone affected -- namely all Americans.
This insult was nothing compared to the TSA's next move, however, which was to send agents to the houses of Frischling and Elliott (and presumably others) to slap them with subpoenas and demand that they immediately reveal the sources of the leaked directive.
Pause right there to appreciate how asinine and offensive this is.
A few days earlier, a bomber had almost succeeded in blowing a plane out of the sky. The airline in question, Delta, had followed the TSA's procedures. The US government--and, presumably, the TSA--had been given some warning about this particular bomber, which it had declined to pursue. The TSA responded to what may have been a monumental screw-up by tightening security procedures (fine) and then not telling the public about them (outrageous). Then, far worse, when it discovered that someone else had told the public, the TSA sent the proverbial jack-booted thugs to threaten individuals into revealing who sent them a document that had been distributed to thousands of airline and government employees.
In what universe is this a good use of government resources?
Would it be too much to ask the TSA to use its agents to make Americans safer instead of threatening bloggers who publish widely distributed memos that should have been public anyway?
Talk about screwed-up priorities.
And what will the TSA do when it finishes analyzing the hard drive of one of the bloggers it threatened? Will it send jack-booted thugs to the house of the airline or government employee who dared forward the memo so the public could see what the new rules were? Will the TSA drag the employee out of his or house in the middle of the night and ship him or her up river for Treason?
Until we read about this bizarre behavior, we were willing to believe the government's assertion that the tips it got about the Christmas bomber only look meaningful in hindsight. Now that we have seen firsthand some of the decisions being made within the TSA, however, we're more inclined to believe that the cause of this near-tragedy was incompetence.
The threatening of bloggers, meanwhile, is a disgrace.
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