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 :
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.
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.