31/12/2009 – The Fallout From SD-1544-0906 : The Feds Take My Computer
I started writing this post yesterday, but I have been writing and rewriting it all night. This post is nothing special, it is not a masterwork equal to that of Tolstoy, Twain or Shakespeare. This post also isn’t how I wanted to end 2009…so I need to figure out what else I can write today, because I don’t want to end the year with this post and my iPhone App of the Week (since its Thursday…and Thursday is iPhone App of the Week Day).
The past few days have been a bit of a whirlwind for me, so here is a recap, then I’ll get to the meat of this post.
– On the 27th of December I received a copy of the TSA’s Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 and published it on Flying With Fish
– On the 28th of December my publishing of Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 had been widely quoted by news outlets and social media outlets and I wrote about the Security Directive being modified and asked who will fix the system.
– On the 29th of December two United States Transportation Security Administration Special Agents came to my home with a subpoena and stayed for more than two hours questioning me on how I came to be possession of Security Directive SD-1544-09-06
– On the 30th of December the same two US TSA Special Agents from the previous night returned to my home and removed my laptop from my house at approximately 10:30am and returned it around 4:20pm.
…this leads to the meat of today’s post.
Yesterday was an interesting day, which I really wish had happened to someone else. At 10:30am two Transportation Security Administration Special Agents returned to my home and removed my laptop from my house. The TSA was looking for the email address of the person who sent me Security Directive SD-1544-09-06. I did not have the email address and knew it was not on my hard-drive, however the computer was removed to be searched by a Secret Service computer forensics expert. The search yielded nothing.
What worries me is this…and not for my own security and freedom…but for the safety of the traveling public which the TSA is charged with protecting. Why was I assigned two high-ranking TSA Special Agents?
One Special Agent, out of Boston, served with Secret Service for more than 30 years and has also served in the role of Director of Counter Terrorism & Law Enforcement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The other Special Agent, from New Jersey, served more than 20 years with the Secret Service, leaving the Secret Service in the position of Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the New York Field Office, and then going onto work as a Deputy Director of Global Security.
The agent from Boston joined the TSA as a Special Agent in October 2009; the agent from New Jersey also joined the TSA as a Special Agent in 2009.
I understand the TSA’s concern in finding their internal leak, however as much of the media has reported, the TSA appears to be using a heavy handed tactic in coming after Chris Elliot and myself regarding this issue. These two agents, with more than a combined history of 50 years of working as Secret Service investigators, may be better tasked to dealing with matters of direct national security issues.
The Department of Homeland Security could have better allocated its resources of two clearly senior investigators researching something more befitting their experience and expertise. The Department of Homeland Security could have better allocated its resources in having a Secret Service computer forensics specialist travel more than 100 miles to image my hard-drive.
When the TSA removed my laptop from my home, my computer and system was functioning perfectly. Shortly before the TSA returned to my home they called me to tell me that the Secret Service computer forensic investigator was encountering many ‘bad sectors’ in my hard drive. Upon checking my MacBook following its return, and running Disk Utility it appears that I have many bad sectors in my hard drive, countless errors in my operating system, my MacBook will not synch with Time Machine to be backed up, my audio is no longer working and a red-light inside my audio jack is on constantly.
There are real security issues facing not only the United States and airlines, but also our global society as a whole. It is my hope as a traveller and as a citizen of the United States that the real security issues can be focused on.
The Federal Government can start by appointing a permanent Administrator to the TSA. I addressed this in April, before the media started discussing this a few days ago in this post: 27/04/2009 – The TSA Needs To Receive A Permanent Boss
Following the appointment of a permanent Administrator the TSA can be reshaped, streamlined, defined. The agency can create its boundaries to eliminate ‘mission creep.’ The TSA can work to be at the ‘bleeding edge’ of security technology, it certainly has access to the resources. The focus of the TSA survival must be on internal issues, not external issues.
The agency has an important job, access to excellent resources and the manpower to be the world leader in transportation security. I for one would like to see that potential become a reality.
I do not plan to cease my coverage of airline and airport security. These are serious and important topics that impact the lives of millions of people every day in the skies.