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Censorship The Courts United States

TSA Withdraws Subpoenas Against Bloggers 125

Posted by timothy
from the oh-was-that-my-outdoor-voice? dept.
wwphx writes "In the wake of public outcry against the Transportation Security Administration for serving civil subpoenas on two bloggers, the government agency has canceled the legal action and apologized for the strong-arm tactics agents used."
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TSA Withdraws Subpoenas Against Bloggers

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  • by alecto (42429) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:57PM (#30615742) Homepage

    . . . but someone should have to fall on his or her sword over this. If those field agents acted on their own, it would be they; if not, then whoever they worked for that authorized the tactics should be holding a sign saying "WILL WAND YOUR CROTCH FOR FOOD."

  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:04PM (#30615800)

    Hard to imagine installing a spying device with a glowing red LED, but then the TSA isn't known for its stunning efficiency. More likely the just screwed up his computer and some standard warning light was activated.

    They should owe him a new computer and say 100 hours of consulting time to ensure that his data and software are properly transfered to the new computer. Say $30K total.

  • The only question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:14PM (#30615854) Homepage

    in my mind is: Did they stop legal action against him because they FOUND the source of the leak?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:16PM (#30615870)

    It looks like a black MacBook (look at the power supply on top of it).

    "The agents then tried to image his hard drive, but were unable to do so."

    Hehehe. Maybe they didn't know how to image it because it wasn't Windows? :-)

  • by colfer (619105) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:37PM (#30616014)

    Instead of throwing people's laptops around, these guys need to get to work. There is plenty of work to go around, from airports to every other kind of transportation facility you can think of.

    Federal agencies are full of people who want to carry and gun and work security, since it's easier to stomp around with a badge than to do the drudge work of investigation. Every agency wants to have a police force of its own.

    TSA is a special case, since it actually is a sort of police force. So put these smart guy agents on the front line, at airport screening lines, where their elite abilities can be better appreciated. And shorten waiting times.

  • diversion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bugi (8479) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:46PM (#30616068)

    Did they get the information they were looking for?

    Does "giving up" keep them from answering for their behavior in front of a judge?

  • Re:TSA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:49PM (#30616094) Homepage Journal
    The whole DHS are a bunch of thugs. An ICE agent recently blew through a stop sign [ivpressonline.com] and killed 3 women. They're trying to blame it on his driving with tinted windows at night. Why would a run-of-the-mill GOV need tinted windows?!
  •     It sounds like they knew they wouldn't find anything, so a few "accidental" drops to the laptop was their preferred interrogation method. While I do find this works sometimes on PC's, it rarely works on a laptop.

        It sounds like they were looking to punish him for posting it, rather than actually looking for information.

        At one company I worked for, we received a few computers from Europe. They had been shipped separately, just because that's how they arrived for shipment. One showed up at our office in pieces. The pieces appeared ok, but not a single part worked. I'm pretty sure they thought we were smuggling something inside the computer. Come on, was it necessary to remove and manhandle the motherboard, just to see that it didn't contain any drugs? We didn't get an apology, nor reimbursement for it. the US Customs stance was, "That's the way we got it, when we inspected it.". Ya, right.

        Consistency is not in their methodology though. We shipped a lot of equipment around to various locations. Most got there fine. The occasional piece was mishandled by the shipping companies. Some were held for weeks by customs. It makes it hard to work, when you ship say 20 pieces, and only 15 show up on time.

  • Re:And of course... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:11PM (#30616208)

    As always "never talk to the police" wins again. Even when you have done *nothing* wrong (and not just in the domain they are telling you they care about, across all domains) there are only two things you should say to the police:

    1. No you may not search that/open that/have that/come inside.
    2. I'm not saying anything without my lawyer present.

    I see the wisdom in this, but there's a question I've always wanted to ask the experts who advocate this approach. What if you have a serious interest in the police completing their investigation as quickly and effectively as possible? For example, suppose your child has been abducted while in the custody of your ex-spouse. You are innocent and want the culprit found, but you also know that statistics and profiling will tell the police that you yourself are the most likely suspect. Do you spill all the information you have to the police, hoping that it hastens their investigation toward the malicious third party you know to be responsible? Or do you "lawyer up," slowing the investigation by inviting the police to focus their investigatory efforts on you? Not to mention how it will look if the police haven't identified you as a suspect yet, and you're insisting on a lawyer of your own volition: do you know you have something to hide; do you want the investigation to go slower?

    And it doesn't help to say that this situation demands that you altruistically put yourself in danger of legal trouble. You getting arrested and tried is even worse for the victim than it is for you: the police aren't looking at all now, since they already think they've got the guy! So do you "lawyer up" to try to prevent that possibility, and if so, when does the risk outweigh the amount it will slow down the investigation?

    I believe strongly in civil rights against police investigation, but I also recognize that the police are generally, you know, the good guys who go after the bad guys, and you often will want them to do that job. Not talking to the police without a lawyer is good advice in general, and almost certainly the best idea if you're already a major suspect, but I think it's too facile to say that you should never do it under any circumstances.

  • Re:Look over here! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:36PM (#30616328)

    IANAL but you can't send someone a document to force them to shut up.

    See Gag order [wikipedia.org]. For example, see Librarians Describe Life Under An FBI Gag Order [wired.com]

  • by REALMAN (218538) <realman2@inbox.com> on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:50PM (#30616436) Homepage

    The blurb you make insinuates that they "caved in" when in fact one of the bloggers gave up their laptop so in all likelihood they got the info they wanted off that laptop and that's why they dropped the subpoena.

  • Re:And of course... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wwphx (225607) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:19PM (#30616598) Homepage
    When I worked as a civilian for the police department, part of computer services was officers involved in computer crimes. While I was there, to the best of my knowledge, they always took great care in disassembling systems and mirroring drives so that the computers were functional when returned (original disks were NEVER booted). They were all computer geeks and didn't want to disrupt things for the user when they got their stuff back. Not to mention they would have to defend their practices in court regarding chain of evidence, so they had to be careful.

    Of course, the ones that I worked with weren't feds, and this was some years ago. Now with the apparent presumption of guilt overriding presumption of innocence, who knows. So many of the cases were kiddie porn I'd just as soon see the computers torched, but that's just my opinion.
  • Re:And of course... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SvnLyrBrto (62138) on Friday January 01, 2010 @07:01PM (#30616900)

    If the cops have showed up at your doorstep and you didn't call them; they've already decided you're guilty and are there to try to pin something on you; even if it's not your hypothetical kidnapping. And the legal system is simply too complicated now for a layman to safely navigate. So yes... a lawyer is an imperative. (And yeah, as you say, in your scenario you're already and automatically a suspect.)

    Even if you have information you do want the cops to have, it's safest and smartest to insist on being provided a lawyer and having him vet and sanitize it for you before releasing it. It doesn't make you any more or less guilty.. you're already guilty in the cops' eyes. It doesn't make them hate or like you any more... to them, you're either cop or you're not.

    And once you go over their heads to the realm of lawyers and judges, it still doesn't make you look any more or less guilty. It's never a bad mark and always a good idea and in your best interest to seek legal council when dealing with the legal system.

  • Returned? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AHuxley (892839) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:18PM (#30618100) Homepage Journal
    The hardware is back but whats loaded onto it?
    Its an old trick to search something and give it back with a logger or spyware.
    Then raid again/sneak and peek, or have an upload of the log at a later date.
    ebay the hardware asap or take to a security expert and then ebay.
  • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:40AM (#30619810) Journal

    We're sorry we did this in a way that got national publicity. Next time, we'll do it in a way that is less likely to do so, such as sending these enemy combatants [as the information they disseminated was clearly only to aid terrorists] to Iraq/Afghanistan/etc and apply some information retrieval techniques on them.

    Their family may notice they've gone, but they won't know where they've gone to...

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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