In another epic fail of security theater, the Transportation Security Administration threatened two U.S. bloggers last week who had released the new TSA directives, referenced in one my posts last week, “2009 Security Theater Scorecard: Terrorism 1 USA 0.”
Agents ended up outside the door of Chris Elliot, a travel journalist, and Steven Frischling, a freelance travel writer. They had a subpoena from the Department of Homeland Security to disclose who had sent them the contents of SD-1544-09-06, the new TSA directives. This is a highly unusual step, if not an illegal one (which would explain why they were quickly dropped by the TSA). However, since freelance writers do not have the same rights to protect their sources as journalists, Elliot and Frischling were in a vulnerable position.
This new security theater is scary. TSA seems more concerned with punishing travel bloggers and critics of its new directives than protecting us from actual threats, stating that “security directives are not for public disclosure.” Wait, in-flight passengers are not allowed to know that they cannot use the loo less than an hour before landing? Right.
Welcome to new media, TSA: where people share information that tends to go viral, which is supposed to keep our public officials accountable.
Did TSA find and punish Agent X, the person who leaked the directives? We do know that five people have been reportedly put on leave pending further investigation. Or did it get distracted by more important things? Maybe.
Everyone has the right to know the new procedures they would have to undergo at checkpoints, before boarding, and in-flight. Maybe what the TSA failed to anticipate and appreciate was the massive ridicule following major changes in airline decorum that made zero security sense.
The needless display of power from an inefficient DHS trying to deflect blame does not make us any safer. The most worrying aspect of this staged drama is that bloggers and journalists would fear publishing things, leaving the general public without crucial information. This goes against our democratic values and ideas concerning freedom of information.
(Photo Credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com ‘s photostream)