Follow Up On The Whole TSA Debacle

6/1/2010 – Follow Up On The Whole TSA Debacle

I have thought long and hard about my follow up post to questioning a TSA Special Agent misplacing a notebook used in the investigation of how I obtained a copy of Security Directive SD-1544-09-06.

In response the enquiries surrounding the misplaced notebook by the TSA Special Agent, TSA Public Affairs issued this statement

“TSA takes any breach in security very seriously. In light of the posting of sensitive security information on the web, TSA sought to identify where the information came from. The investigation is nearing a successful conclusion and the subpoenas are no longer in effect.

“In addition, a TSA investigator accidentally dropped a notebook, his personal property, in a public area. The notebook did not contain any sensitive security information; however, TSA will continue to review the incident.”

This statement leaves me with a few questions, some more mundane than others.

The first question that came to mind was that of the notebook being ‘personal property.’ Are TSA Special Agents required to purchase their own notebooks and then not reimbursed by the agency? If so, this means that TSA Special Agents are subsidizing the Federal Government.   However, if TSA Special Agents purchase their own notebooks, then expense it to the agency, the notebook is probably not considered to be personal property…since the tax payers have paid for it.

I know in the scheme of things this is a minor detail, but it is a detail that has been eating at me.

Additionally the TSA claims there is nothing containing sensitive security information inside the notebook.  I disagree with them on this point, the agency wants to distance themselves and I understand that.  After many hours of weighing my options I have decided not to publish the first page of the notebook because it would be counter productive and go against everything I have ever stated about wanting to find better security solutions.

The first page in the notebook is the only page that has investigative notes pertaining to someone other than me. Generally investigators do not have one unrelated page of notes in a notebook, it would make tracking notes difficult…which is why I believe page one is related to the investigation of SD-1544-0906.

My question about page one is this…without releasing the details…why was a TSA Special Agent also investigating someone who matches the name and description of a person who has served in the position of Deputy Federal Security Director at a major US airport?

TSA Public Affairs was informed of the content of this page and never got back to me… which is why I now mention it here, although trusting my better judgment because in this area I am fairly sure the TSA once again is unaware of its potential security risks.

While the TSA may continue to state there was nothing ‘sensitive’ in the notebook, I’d counter if nothing else, my personal information was in the notebook. Information that I don’t want in public, that could open me up to hackers, was in the notebook. Name, title and direct contact information for clients was in the notebook…I am sure they didn’t want that left laying around.

In this seemingly increasing standoff with the TSA someone needs to blink…and given certain events that I cannot believe are mere coincidences, I will be the one to blink first.  I am sure there are those of you out there who will complain that I should disclose everything…and I’d love to. This blog post is the fifth revision, but ultimately I am experiencing the hand of ‘big brother’ at the moment. I am not a conspiracy theorist, however I fear I have kicked-the-cage of the lion a bit harder than I should have. I am dedicated to Flying With Fish, but it is not my job.  Continuing to rattle this case has ramifications for my family and my kids didn’t ask for any of this.  I may have moral supporters, but without a defined support structure in place, going forward in the direction I’d like to would potentially have significant impact on my kids…and they come first.

If I had millions of dollars at my disposal like Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, who has trashed me quite a bit, maybe I’d continue down this road. If the people on FlyerTalk who have enjoyed second guessing me and bashing my name around,  want to create a legal defense fund with say US$75,000 to start, plus secure funds to ensure my kids have a house, clothing and food, then maybe I’d poke the stick a little deeper.

Ultimately what I want from the Transportation Security Administration is accountability and it is clear I will not get that from the agency…nor will anyone else. As of now I am moving forward, looking back won’t get me anywhere. The solutions are ahead of us, not behind us.

I’d like to leave the Transportation Security Administration with these famous words from Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States of America

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Happy Flying!

PS: -Note To The TSA– You might want to check your public affairs office for your leak. Certain media outlets are quoting ‘sources’ with a mis-fact regarding this investigation that could have only come from Public Affairs. The mis-fact comes from a question with incorrect wording that was asked of TSA Public Affairs…


  1. Be patient, fish-san. You have not surrendered, just paused. TSA will give you many more chances to fight for our liberty, true safety, and common sense.

  2. I agree with your actions completely. You are a true gentlemen who obviously loves your country. Your priorities are correct.

    I wish I could offer more support. This is a tough cause to fight, with little upside even if you win.

    I’m really starting to see why Bush didn’t initially want to make airport security a federal agency. He said back in 2001 that such an agency (which has become the TSA) wouldn’t be as accountable as a private security firm. Turns out that he was correct.

  3. Fish,
    A photographer like yourself, I have been flying internationally since the ’70’s. Yet I still find that I can learn something from people like you and greatly appreciate the service you perform. If you are able to make any money from it, good for you! The trashing you’ve received from our fellow FT members and those on Sportsshooter (I’m about to join because I’m tired of whining children with no respect for the people who have helped build the industry!) is shocking. I can’t imagine many of them have ever been in your position and it is easy to talk about what one would do from the sidelines with no chance of repercussions. I think you are making the right call here. The government can bring a lot of pressure to bear on a person and, without tons of money and time to throw at them, the smart move, if you are concerned about your family, is generally to back down and hope that, eventually, someone with reason and a feel for the big picture contacts you for your help in really examining the flaws in the system. That is when wrongs can be righted and you can walk away feeling that what you have done is not in vain. I am sure that the President, if he actually received all the details of this, would be very displeased and would take appropriate action. The sad part is that we both know the odds of this are quite slim.
    Keep your focus on your family and making a living in a tough time. Good luck with the KLM blog. I hope there are more to come. You deserve a break for the hard work you have put into all of this.

  4. The entire point of standing up and making for liberty means just that – you must make a personal sacrifice for liberty. This means you sacrifice your own money to provide a legal defense for what you think is right. end of Story. The Founding Fathers of this nation did not say they stood for independence and liberty so long as someone had their back. Gut are an essential element of standing up to tyranny. It is not being a patriot if you stand up for liberty only when it does not personally inconvenience you . . .

    You were put in a untenable position because you were ignorant of your rights. Ignorant of the powers of the TSA ‘special agent’ and ignroant of how to simply escort these people off your property, calling the CT state police to escort if they refuse to leave. Lots of people know their rights. Why not you? How can you opine about the security apparatus of the US airline system and not know what ones basic civil rights are?

  5. It is not about personal inconvenience, it is about ensuring my kids are taken care of . This is not their fight.

    If I go forward I hit a brick wall. If I back off I am able to continue covering these issues and informing people about what is going on…just as I have.

    The Founding Fathers knew when to go forward and when to retreat. Sacrifice should not be in vain.

    Happy Flying!


  6. Your analysis of this episode is correct, just look forward and move on.

    There will be more opportunities and incidents to improve the system. The solutions are ahead. I am sure this episode has reached up to higher echelons of the TSA and hopefully it will help improve the system. The TSA should welcome criticism and feedback, it is the only way to improve and fix the system. The TSA employees are very professional, focused and courteous, they even smile and crack a joke sometimes. I am sure we all support their work in providing us secure and safe flights.

  7. I enjoy your blogs and have learned new things from your writings. Your blogs are a great resource for travels, the seasoned and new. I like to consider myself a seasoned traveler, but continue to learn & benefit from your wealth of knowledge.

    As one who values family & relationships, your priority to look after your family & children first and foremost is the correct one. There are times when one must be the first to “blink” as you say – others may second guess and be harsh in doing so, but they’re not in your shoes.

    You’ve been through a lot in the past two weeks; more than many of us will go through in over a year. Between these events, I’ve seen you express the need to support, care for, and love your kids & family. You’re 100% correct in your analysis with the need to blink, and move on.

    I love Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Ben Franklin’s words apply more than ever when it comes to the TSA.

    As a founding father of the United States he knew when to fight and when to retreat. You’ve done a great service to countless travelers and you have brought important issues to light. As travelers we need to know the rules.

    In closing, I wish you success in this new year (and beyond); like most of your followers, I look forward to future blogs as you share your wealth of knowledge.


  8. Fish,

    Not to be rude or anything, but wasn’t it -you- who traded liberty for safety?


  9. Regarding the ‘mundane’ question regarding TSA agents possibly subsidizing the government: Some of us ‘guvment’ employees are pretty much resigned to buying our own stuff to do our jobs. I am an FAA technician who has had to buy printer ink, calendars, pens and pencils, blank cds, label makers, tools even. There are also some employees on hourly wage pay schedules who work past their shifts and give their time to the ‘guvment’ for free. Some, like one I know locally, even surrenders his vacation leave time at the end of the year. So to answer your question, Yes. Many government employees do somewhat subsidize the ‘guvment’.

  10. Dave,

    I did not give up my liberty. I had nothing to offer the investigators, the options had to be weighed, I have no information and have no data with relevant information. How much of a battle will you put up to defend that you have nothing? The subpoena covered items in my possession, which was nothing.

    Happy Flying!


  11. Fish I totally understand why you could not go as far as you wanted to with this whole mess, because you really do have to look out for your family. It must be so frustrating to want to go farther yet know that you can’t. You’ve done a great service to travelers and non-travelers alike, and I thank you. I think the criticism against you is totally undeserved. If you give TSA enough rope they’ll hang themselves, that’s the truth. There will be plenty more opportunities for them to make complete asses of themselves. I’m not referring to the everyday hardworking TSA folks either, I’m referring to the select group of morons within that agency. Their time is coming. In the meantime, keep up the good work Fish, I don’t travel (I haven’t flown since1998 and I don’t plan to either!) but I love reading your blog!


  12. Fish, Having been in your circumstances, threatened with and nearly lost a career because I objected to outright fraud on the part of my employer, and lost 2 years of my professional life because of that protest and the resulting sanctions, I fully understand your circumstances. If I had kept quiet for but 6 months, I would have had a much longer lever to fix the problems. Comanchepilot does speak with bravado, and he/she is wrong. You did stand up for liberty. You published the document.

    Waiting until the right moment to take the shot saves ammunition and makes the ultimate goal more achievable. Excellent work.

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