Did TSA post honeypot tweet to catch security directive leaker, using blogger's account?


The unusual tweet above was posted to Steven Frischling's Twitter account just hours after TSA agents served a civil subpoena on the travel blogger last week. The agents showed up and interrogated him about the anonymous source who Gmailed Frischling a leaked copy of the controversial "December 25 incident" TSA security directive.

So, did Frischling himself post that tweet, or did one of the TSA agents who threatened him and took his computer? Snip from Wired Threat Level blog post by Kim Zetter:

According to someone familiar with the incident, one of the TSA agents, while in possession of Frischling's BlackBerry, typed the message in the blogger's Twitter account. He then handed the BlackBerry back to Frischling and asked him to click on the "send" button to post the message to his Flying With Fish Twitter page, the source offered to Threat Level.
Blogger's Twitter Account Implicated in TSA Leak Hunt (Threat Level)
Related item at Privacy Digest.



  1. The first image that springs to mind is a Spanish Inquisitor presenting a subject with a written confession, and demanding they sign it.

    Is this even remotely legal? I know that the American Bill of Rights (wonderful document) stopped mattering sometime during the FDR era, but isn’t there still some recourse about being forced to speak? It’s one thing to be offered a position as a CI in exchange for a plea bargain – but if the police/LEOs themselves can force you to say something to tease out a ‘criminal accomplice’, then that holds the possibility of putting people in harms way.

    For instance, if it hadn’t been a whistleblower, but instead had been a organized crime kingpin, whom he was supposed to help catch with his tweet…

  2. This whole mess just keeps getting creepier and creepier, and I see it ending pretty badly for the TSA.

    Why would Frischling be asking for an email from the person who emailed him the original document? Couldn’t he just, you know, email the person himself?

  3. Oh wait… Read the whole piece over at Wired about the anon gmail. Whoops.

    Of course, it still doesn’t make much sense.

  4. @aurini
    The impression I have is that Frischling could/should have taken the subpoena and shut the door. They didn’t have a warrant or anything. Is it legal? He let them in and pushed send, nothing illegal taking place.
    Hopefully I am not ignorant of facts that refute my statement.

    1. The presence of a bunch of TSA agents might have been intimidating. If these were members of any US law enforcement agency, I think that would have been a definite no-no. The TSA should not get a free ride on this one. (IANAL and all that.)

  5. see also: “Scoop: TSA confirms agent misplaced notebook“, Mary Kirby’s Runway Girl, January 6, 2010.

    Kirby writes, “Since the TSA is not concerned about the contents of the notebook, I’d imagine it doesn’t mind me posting the following pic of the agent’s confirmation about a tweet sent from Frischling’s Twitter account.

    “Read it carefully, the agent tried to entice Frischling’s source to come forward. So a heads up to those covering the “honeypot tweet” story.”

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