SD-1544-09-06 : This Comes To An End

31/12/2009 – SD-1544-09-06 : This Comes To An End

Shortly before 7:00pm this evening I received a phone call that would end this year and allow me to have a Happy New Year. My call this evening came from John Drennan, the Transportation Security Administration‘s Deputy Chief Counsel for Enforcement informing me that the TSA would no longer be pursing me for information regarding the identity of the person who sent me Security Directive SD-1544-09-06.

The subpoena that Chris Elliot was fighting was also dropped in its entirety by the TSA.

Hopefully this is the end of this situation, the agency will replace the MacBook they damaged, and we can all move forward.

I hope 2010 is the year the TSA can find a permanent Administrator the agency can find its defined focus to become a shining star within the Department of Homeland Security.

Happy Flying!



  1. While the TSA may appear to have backed off, I expect you will be subjected to covert surveillance for some time to come. And don’t be surprised if the IRS audits you this year.

  2. Just saw you on Fox News. Can’t believe these people can take over your computer without your permission or invitation. What an annoyance, nuisance and personal violation. I wonder if bloggers can expect more of the same treatment every time someone posts information officials may find unacceptable? Glad you let the world know what’s going on. selahV

  3. Were the TSA agents wearing their Obama-issued jackboots, or where they the mock-tactical 5.11’s?

  4. Dear Fish,
    Sorry you were subjected to this type of “”Cover Your A**” intimidation. I was pleased to see you on TV this morning. What the TSA did to you is illegal, and, even if they can get away with it under this administration, it deserves the light of day. We should all be working to prevent this type of abuse of authority by those in power, whoever they may be.
    I have a suggestion for improving our security. I am a member of an easily identifiable and profiled, I repeat, PROFILED, group, that is, Americans with joint replacements. My knee replacements guarantee me a full body pat-down, with arms outstretched and legs spread, in front of all the other passengers, every time I go through security. In addition, my belt, shoes, jacket, money, etc., sit at the end of the conveyor belt, out of my sight and control while the pat-down is being carried out. You know the drill, I am sure. Flying out of San Juan of December 20th, my carry-on baggage was torn apart, and run through the scanner not once or twice, but three times. Now multiply this Punch and Judy show by 3 million and you have an idea of the colossal waste of time and manpower being perpetrated on the American public by TSA. There are between 450,000 and 550,000 names on the State Department (?) watch list. This is an easily identifiable group, too, and they all have something in common, that is, they are all supposed to be watched. Ease up on the older people with joint replacements (almost all over age 50), and give another group, the watch list members, a full body scan and ask them a few questions in a private room. If they are clean, no harm done. They have suffered some inconvenience, like I do on EVERY flight I take, but they still get on the airplane. Thus no law suits due to TSA errors. And the TSA could even reduce the size of its staff, or use its people in more productive areas than patting down people over the age of 50. As far as I know, the twin towers hijackers, the shoe bomber, and the underwear bomber were closer to 30 than 50. President Obama has promised a “review” of our outdated procedures. This could be a start.

  5. They damaged your MacBook? Unbelievable. I can’t imagine any reason to damage a computer in order to search for data on it. It sort of defeats the purpose.

  6. This is a great result, and the right one. I’m sorry it happened at all. If it matters, you won. The TSA backed off and suffered yet another self-inflicted embarrassment.

    I hope you’re able to get your computer replaced. Don’t use the old one again. They might have loaded spyware on it.

    Maybe the silver lining in this whole episode is that a lot of new readers – including me – found your blog. I’m a very frequent flyer and looking forward to reading more. Happy new year!

  7. I once had several computers seized by the FBI cyber crimes division out of Seattle, WA. Somehow during the process of imaging my hard drive they managed to remove the processor and it’s heatsink and bent nearly half of the CPU pins on the motherboard to the point they could not be fixed.

    When my computers and other networking devices were returned to me personally in sealed evidence containers, the processor had been jammed back into place with the heatsink halfway installed in an attempt to fix what had been done.

    Needless to say, the computer was replaced. Makes you wonder what type of “experts” they have working for them.

  8. I wouldn’t use that computer for anything but a paperweight. It is probably riddled with surveillance software and possibly even hardware. Forensic imaging NEVER changes a hard drive’s contents. Doing so destroys its evidentiary value. If it has been altered, it wasn’t to make an image.

  9. Coming soon in Flying with Fish: How to Endure Regular Cavity Searches!

    I will be curious to see whether the TSA cap off the misguided actions of this week by putting you on the watch list.

    A rent-a-cop hassled a friend of mine (another pro photog) for shooting a photo (on assignment) of a hotel from the other side of a set of (empty) railroad tracks. He defended his right to do so with the standard .PDF we all carry.

    Now he gets treated like a terrorist at every TSA checkpoint. Why? Surprise, surprise, he is now on the Terrorist Watch List.

    Upshot: A *private* security guard’s powers are now such that they can be leveraged right up the paranoid chain and taint someone, just because they stood up for their basic first amendment rights.

    I understand they have to try to make air travel more secure. I really do. But a lot of it is starting to smell like the secret police in the old communist countries.



    p.s. The photo in Threat Level looked like a scene from a Coen Bros. movie.

  10. Fish,
    Happy New Years! I can say that I am grateful that this incident is over as well, but more offended that it ever started. As I read your blog I see that you remove any entry that may offend you or disagrees with you. If you want to hind behind the First Amendment what gives? Do I understand that you want free speak when it is in your benefit, but don’t when it’s not?

    This is nothing personally against you, but by you posting the TSA Manual you put every one of the traveling public at risk, does that make you feel like you accomplished something? If so then way to go, but I hope you and your family are on the plane that has a security issue and not mine. Are you ready for the responsibility of doing harm to hundreds of people, does that make you feel like you accomplished something?

    As far as the TSA backing down all I have to say is too bad, you put everyone as risk and you want is the pity of a broken laptops? I am glad they returned it to you broken and disappointed they are buying you a new one.

    I hope you and everyone who supports your efforts of free speak take a long hard look at yourself. Maybe you should post your bank account number, ATM PIN and Social Security number as well.

    Congratulations for getting out of it.


  11. Steve,

    In publishing the security directive I put no one at risk. The information was out and available, airlines such as Air Canada had it online for their passengers, just with the legal wording removed. The security directive was published to provide clarity, such as who it impacted on what flights it was was required. There was a lot of misinformation and seeing the directive cleared that up.

    If you feel that the security directive contained any content that was not in public domain already, or available to anyone traveling, then you should do a little more research.

    Happy Flying!


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