TSA drops subpoenas issued to bloggers who published security directive (UPDATED)


According to Chris Elliot, one of the bloggers involved. Link. No word on whether the TSA has also dropped the subpoena issued to the other blogger, Steven Frischling. Both subpoenas have now been dropped, Frischling's too.

Update, Jan 1: Wired has a story here, Associated Press here. One theory: yes, TSA has dropped the subpoenas against the two bloggers, but only because it already got the information it needed from copying data off Frischling's hard drive (more paranoid folk have also suggested that when the hard drive was in the agents' possession, they may additionally have installed keylogger software or similar surveillance apps). The Gmail account information of the leak source, who is reported to be a person employed by the TSA, plus a possible subpoena issued to Google (which has a good track record of protecting user privacy in these cases, but who knows)? That might have been all the feds needed. So this may well be good news for the bloggers, but not for their source.

One Boing Boing reader in the comments says,

Speaking as an attorney, I would advise you not to let this go. Make an ethics complaint against the government attorney that signed the subpoena in DC or the jurisdiction they are licensed to practice law in. You don't subpoena someone, then just "let it drop."


  1. It’s great that the subpoena has been rescinded, but it makes me wonder how many other illegal subpoenas and national security letters have been issued without the benefit of public scrutiny these particular ones received.

  2. As a forensic computer examiner, I’m now wondering what they did with the forensic images that they made of these guy’s computers.

  3. My guess is they withdrew the subpoenas because they already got what they needed from the seizure and forensic exams of the computers.

    Just a guess.

  4. Speaking as an attorney, I would advise you not to let this go. Make an ethics complaint against the government attorney that signed the subpoena in DC or the jurisdiction they are licensed to practice law in. You don’t subpoena someone, then just “let it drop.”

    They will be forced to: (1) admit there was no basis for the subpoena, in the first place, (2) make a dubious “national security” claim as to why they can’t discuss, which will dog them for their entire career, or (3) admit that they made a forensic scan of a citizen’s computer and used the evidence to pursue a whistleblower, after having used a subpoena to strongarm a citizen (again, something that will arise again ten years later during his Senate confirmation hearing for another position).

    Long story short, government drones who use their subpoena power to bully citizens blowing the whistle on government incompetence deserve to be held to account. Do not back down, an ethics complaint is very low cost, and very high reward.

  5. Oh yeah… drop the case against the guys who did nothing illegal. Then make sure that you sound like you did them a favor. (eye rolls) What a load of horse crap. Please listen to anonymous #5! Make a big deal of it, I supported all the commenters who complained as well!

    Besides as everyone pointed out they already got everything they needed. I hope they have their heads removed from their behind in the new year.

  6. yeah, i’m thinking anon @5 sounds like he/she knows what they’re talking about. do it. it’ll get posted, talked about, and circulated. we promise.

  7. So the stupid subpoenas are gone. Great. I’ll bet that the TSA/DHS folks who started this stupidity will have difficulty sitting down for a while.

    However, I do not expect that Elliott and Frischling will have a pleasant time when they’re next at an airport. They’ll be on either the no-fly or extra-screening lists.

  8. Way to go TSA/DHS. If I felt any safer I’d puke.

    But what a relief for those bloggers! If that were my laptop, I’d be getting it examined for fingerprints (inside and out), thoroughly checked for hardware and software snooping devices, publish the results and get a new, clean laptop regardless of the outcome.

  9. If the laptop were examined and found to have some “extra hardware” installed, you should immediately list it on eBay!

    The agency that did the install would either have to demand the listing be removed (thus admitting their part in the shenanigans) or else try to buy it. You might wind up with the US govt bidding against one or more foreign govts. I imagine the prices could go quite high!

  10. Please help me understand how simply turning over your laptop to feds who are threatening you with a subpoena helps sources feel they can send important information to you in the future? Say what you will about the reviled newspaper industry, but no daily newspaper today would simply roll over the way this guy did.

  11. Zoolander:

    Matilda: “Did you find the files?”
    Hansel: “I don’t even know what they loo– What do they look like?”
    Matilda: “They’re in the computer.”
    Hansel: “They’re in the computer?”
    Matilda: “Yeah, they’re definitely in there. I don’t know how he labled them.”
    Hansel: “I got it.”
    Matilda: “You gotta figure it out. We’re running out of time. You gotta find them and meet me at the show.”
    Hansel: “Roger. In the computer. It’s so simple.”


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