Blogger harassed by government for speaking about public documents
Oct. 18, 2013
Jon Corbett, the engineer and activist challenging the constitutionality of the TSA’s body scanners and pat downs, has received a call from the Department of Justice stating he violated a court order sealing the documents that Infowars made public yesterday, even though the court had inexplicably published the documents on a public site.
On October 7, Corbett filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit both a redacted and an un-redacted version of his appellate’s brief, in which he laid out his case for the ineffectiveness of the scanners and grope downs by citing information obtained through the TSA’s own Administrative Record – a document only available to Corbett and his attorney through the legal process of discovery.
Although the un-redacted version of his brief was properly labeled a “sealed” document, meaning it was not meant to be public, someone inexplicably published the doc at PACER.gov.
Infowars found and publicized the “sealed” version of the brief, which contained direct quotes from the TSA’s Administrative Record, and which also spoke to the TSA’s knowledge that there is no actual “threat-addressing” basis for the nude body scanners or invasive pat downs conducted at airports across America.
We published both versions of the briefs yesterday in an article titled, “Internal TSA Documents: Body Scanners, Pat Downs Not For Terrorists.”
Now an update on Corbett’s blog says he’s received a call from the U.S. Justice Department saying he violated the court’s orders sealing the document. He discussed the issue with DoJ attorney Sharon Swingle who confirmed the government’s position that he violated the court order, even though Infowars, a third party, in addition to whoever made the documents available on PACER.gov, had already made the documents public.
Corbett’s blog, TSA Out of Our Pants, has the update:
I tried explaining to Ms. Swingle that the document had been published by a third party and that I was simply discussing that now-public document. I tried explaining to Ms. Swingle how absurd it would be to say that any third party can talk about anything in that document they wanted, but that I was somehow barred. I tried explaining to Ms. Swingle the Streisand Effect, and that she will now be drawing more attention to the documents that the government wants hidden from the public. Ms. Swingle continued to insist that the government’s position was that I must take the comments down, and so I have.
I will file a motion with the court to clarify whether I may comment on a public document, and if permission is granted, I will re-publish my statement. Until then, you’ll have to read through the documents at the article published by Infowars or any of the others who have picked the story up.
Yesterday, Corbett joined Infowars to discuss our publication of the “sealed” court documents and the information contained therein, including the TSA’s own admissions that they are aware explosives on airplanes “are extremely rare,” and the fact that the minimal level of threat from terrorists does not justify the amount of security currently prescribed at airports.
Updates to Jon’s case can be found on PACER.gov, case #12-15893.
Below are both the redacted and sealed versions of the Appellant’s brief in the case of Jonathan Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration.