Reader Mail : Sincerely, A Concerned Reader

Generally I don’t respond to unsigned reader mail sent to me from bogus GMail accounts … but today I am making an exception.  Why am I making an exception?

Well today’s Reader Mail comes from “A Concerned Reader” … and the IP address associated with the “A Concerned Reader” email is the same IP address associated with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and matches the IP address in every e-mail I receive from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Here is the e-mail from “A Concerned Reader :

Steven

In your most recent posts you consistently thrash the TSA and do not offer any balanced coverage with their side of what you are reporting. Good journalism requires balanced coverage of a topic rather than presenting a slanted point of view.

With your last blog posts you quote many “government sources” but leave them unnamed. You need to out your sources and let them publicly defend their statements.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Reader

Well this response should be fairly brief… Dear Concerned Reader … Thank you for writing me with your concerns. In my last few posts covering the TSA and DHS I have sought out the opinions and responses from the DHS and TSA and have not received them.

Before I begin here, let me say this … I have praised the TSA quite a few times over the years.  I frequently praise the front line agents, both on my blog, on Twitter and in conversations. I have consistently stated I support the Mission Statement of the TSA and believe the agency has an important job. My issue is with how the agency is run on a number of levels for the most part. I have also praised the former Acting Administrator of the TSA and I continue to have high hopes for the current TSA Administrator, as well I have praised certain people in the TSA’s Office of Strategic Communication and I have written about this publicly on my blog.

But now onto your questions …

In my coverage of the Federal Air Marshals … and that series has at least one more post to written, however ever it was interrupted by the air cargo bomb situations … I sought the answers to a number of questions from the TSA’s Office of Law Enforcement and Federal Air Marshal Service (OLE/FAMS) Public Affairs. In my multiple e-mails to Nelson Minerly, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge with Public Affairs, I received three e-mails back from him. One did correct some incorrect information I had. I then researched his response, found clarification and proceeded to write my posts … but the real meat of my questions were never addressed.

The first e-mail assumed I was contacting the TSA OLE/FAMS PAO about something unrelated … despite my detailed request for specific info in writing. The second e-mail corrected an error I had … which I very much appreciated … the third e-mail was essentially a brush off and the following multiple e-mails sent to the TSA OLE/FAMS PAO, Mr. Minerly, were never responded to.

On the 29th of October, when it became known that bombs had been discovered on cargo aircraft I made multiple contacts to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Strategic Communications, by phone and e-mail prior to writing my two blog posts on the subject.  On the 1st of November I received a one line response from Chris Ortman in the DHS public affairs office telling me something “off the record,” that provided no insight, as the comment referred to where I started and who referred me to the DHS initially.  I followed up by e-mail with addition questions and seeking comments, both to Mr. Ortman and the DHS Office of Strategic Communications main e-mail account, and no one has since responded to me.

This past Friday I became aware of a new Security Directive that would prohibit the transport of large printer cartridges by commercial airline flights, as I gathered details, including the security directive’s number, SD 1554-10-05, and that it would be released on the following Monday I sought an answer from the TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications. The TSA initially denied the existence of the new security directive. Pressing further I was stalled and then told it was Friday and they’d get back to me on Monday.   Following written my post on the security directive I sent an e-mail to three public affairs officers within the TSA seeking some answers and a response to the comments from a Department of Defense (DoD) terrorism analyst regarding the new security directive.  I was contacted initially with a press release about the security directive … clearly I didn’t need that; I knew it existed days earlier.    This e-mail was followed up by a phone call from TSA Spokeswoman Sterling Payne … who I must say is possibly the most responsive public affairs professional within any of the branches of the Department of Homeland Security … who is working on getting a response from the TSA to the commentary from the DoD analyst.   Will I get a response? Probably not, because I expect to be told the TSA can’t comment for security reasons.

Honestly, I’d be happy to include the TSA side of stories. I would like nothing more than to be able to cover both sides of the stories I cover.  To be able to cover both sides of the stories however … I’d need the TSA and DHS to actually answer my questions and address what I am asking of them.

As for “You need to out your sources and let them publicly defend their statements,” this will never happen. I get access to the information I get because of anonymity. People come to me with information and I seek out specific people for their expert insights because it is understood I will not reveal my sources. The topics I often cover fall under “national security” and those in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Defense and elsewhere simply can’t be named. If I name sources not only will I lose the trust of my sources and my ability to gather information … but those who provide me with information would likely loose their jobs, as well as possibly face legal consequences.

I do not take my coverage of the TSA, DHS and commercial aviation security lightly. I research my content and am not always first to a story because I want my information to be as complete as possible, and that often takes a day or two…although obviously, sometimes I am first. Before I will use an unnamed source I do my best to verify who the person is and their expertise … then I weight the pros and cons of what they have stated to me,  given that I cannot name them as a source.

If those engaged in journalism gave up sources … no journalist would have sources and many important stories would have never come to light.

Oh … and a word of advice … next time you e-mail me please use your name. I am sure many find it ironic that you wrote me without identifying yourself, from a DHS/TSA IP address, asking me to reveal the identities of those in my past few blog posts.

Happy Flying!

Comments

  1. I sincerely enjoy your blog: the insights on what airlines are actually up to and especially what TSA, DHS, and other agencies are doing to protect us.

    I’ve only read via RSS and haven’t seen your comments before, so maybe this is old news: God dammit get yourself a fucking editor. You write like garbage. Missing words, hanging participles, subject-verb disagreement? Either you don’t read what you’ve typed before you publish it or you don’t respect your readers enough to write and publish in anything truly approaching standard English.

  2. I also enjoy your blog and tweets of course .I personally find nothing wrong with your English you get your point across and of course if people don’t like your blogs well they don’t have to read them. I will keep reading your blogs as this kind of thing just doesn’t get mention In New Zealand.

    Cheers

  3. Jessica,

    If you follow me on Twitter, @flyingwithfish , you’d notice I frequently make fun of my own editing skills.

    I spend a considerable amount of time researching most blog posts, but have little time to write them. Writing Flying With Fish was not, and is not, intended to be a revenue channel for me … and it is done on top of my full-time job and around the schedules of both my regular job and taking care of three kids.

    With this, I am not in a position to pay for a copy editor. While a few have volunteered to help in editing my posts, I tend to choose expediency in having my information delivered on-time and not impose on the goodwill of others in writing this blog.

    I’d also like to point out that your choice of foul language is a bit odd in discussing my grammatical skills. That language is generally not considered proper grammatical etiquette.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  4. Jessica, your foul mouthed tirade is entirely unwarranted and extremely unpleasant.

    Personally I find your hypocritical outburst offensive; as such maybe you should learn how to write appropriate English before presuming to criticise someone who makes no bones about the rushed nature of his writings on this blog.

    As Fish does this as a ‘labour of love’ I would expect a degree of understanding and accommodation regarding the text.

  5. @Jessica (who I doubt will even read it)

    A few decades ago the ONLY voice came from newspapers and TV, both of which hired copy editors to take the scribblings of reporters and make them grammatically correct. The price we paid was that it was one-way communication, publisher to reader.

    Today we have thousands of voices on blogs, twitter, and other media. We can tune in or tune out to whoever’s messages resonate with us. The price we pay is that no one can afford copy editing.

    In my opinion, democracy works better when both sides get to talk. If that means editing while I read, it is a small price that I’m willing to pay.

    Blogs like this where journalists have and state an opinion and base that opinion on research they’ve done (or tried to do) contribute to the health of our political system.

    As for your language, I wish you had taken the time to find better words to express yourself, but I would defend your right to speak/write any way you think best.

    Steve

  6. Fish,

    Excellent reply to a particularly baited email. Keep up the awesome work, and keep sharing the information that you receive on all things.

  7. Jessica,

    I would be willing to bet that Steve quite often writes his blogs while he is crammed into a coach seat on some airline. That would be more than enough for me to have typos and forget to secure a participle.

    I agree with the others, your choice of language is far worse than any measly spelling or dangling error.

    GROW UP!!!!!

  8. Today I experience my first TSA crotch patdown – bingo, right in my nuts. And in front of the entire security area. This was AFTER going through the backscatter machine. I can put up with the security theatre of taking off belts and shoes and the like, but direct genital grabbing crosses the line. We should be horrified as a nation that our government has implemented mandatory choices of invasive screening/patdowns. The TSA should spend its time investigating passengers, not groping them. And the poor pilots — if we trust them to fly the plane, why must we scan them every single day? And what about women? I observed a patdown in the next lane and i would be arrested if i did this to a woman. This “gate rape” scenario should be taken up by every women’s organization. Security theatre has gone too far — and the fears created by countless tv pundits about terrorists only hides that our own domestic agencies are taking away our most basic civil liberties, not to mention basic human decency.

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