Frishling, tell him to get a warrant. Crap. Too late.
There’s lots of web chatter about the two travel bloggers who got home visits from Transportation Security Administration agents. Following last week’s attempted underwear bombing, the bloggers had posted a leaked TSA memo with instructions to airlines. The most familiar and ridiculed requirement blocks passengers’ access to bathrooms, blankets, video entertainment, and carry-on bags during the last hour of flight.
So in an attempt to plug their own administrative leak, the new law enforcement agency did what law enforcement agencies do: they sent agents to investigate. While it’s terrifying to imagine TSA agents harassing us at our homes beyond the confines of airport security, this should surprise no one.
Also not surprising is the fact that one of the two bloggers failed to flex his rights in the face of police intimidation and trickery.
Steve Frischling, said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning when he was forced to hand over his laptop computer.
Frischling said the agents threatened to interfere with his contract to write a blog for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn’t cooperate and provide the name of the person who leaked the memo.
As a consequence of falling for the agents’ legal dirty tricks, Frischling has a near-zero chance of challenging the search. It’s also notable, as Wired’s “Threat Level” blog reports, that Frischling claims he actually spoke with a lawyer who suggested he cooperate with the agents!
Frischling says he received the document anonymously from someone using a Gmail account and determined, after speaking with an attorney, that he might as well cooperate with the agents since he had little information about the source and there was no federal shield law to protect him.
So either Frischling lied about ever contacting a lawyer or he contacted an inexperienced or incompetent lawyer who gave him terrible advice. After all, the agents didn’t present him with a search warrant, but rather a “civil subpoena”. Such administrative documents are not criminal warrants signed by a judge; they’re the legal equivalent of “we request your help — but if you don’t we’ll send our lawyers after you”.
Chris Elliott, on the other hand, did not comply and got himself a lawyer. As a result he stands a fighting chance of beating the subpoena in court and ensuring TSA another self-inflicted embarrassment. And unlike Frischling, he won’t have nightmares about the TSA — or any law enforcement agency the TSA feels like sharing with — using information pulled from his harddrive against him. Heck, it doesn’t take much these days to find yourself facing felony charges.
For those of you who doubt the wisdom of not talking to police, please watch the famous “Never Talk to the Police” lecture by Regent University Law School Professor James Duane.