Journalist Chris Elliott says this evening that -- a few hours after the Dept. of Homeland Security extended a deadline for him to comply with a subpoena -- he received word from his attorney that DHS withdrew the subpoena.
The stunning reversal occurred as media outlets throughout the country picked up the story that the DHS and TSA were playing hardball and going after Elliott and blogger Steven Frischling with subpoenas and tough tactics after they published the post-Northwest flight 253 security directive on new passenger screening rules.
Perhaps dropping the subpoena on New Year's Eve made more sense than letting the issue and the bad publicity for the TSA linger through upcoming news cycles.
Elliott, who wouldn't comment while the subpoena was pending, says tonight, Dec. 31, that he was hearing all day from multiple sources that the "TSA was going to cave."
"There definitely was some damage control going on here," Elliott says.
Elliott says he feels "very pleased with the outcome" as he was prepared to dig in to protect confidential sources.
He was surprised with the speed of the DHS reversal, adding that he knew the department was considering withdrawing the subpoena, but expected the move to come perhaps next Monday or Tuesday.
Short of a withdrawal, Elliott says he and his attorney had been considering filing a motion to quash the subpoena or to allow the clock to run out and let the Jan. 20 deadline lapse. Earlier today, the DHS had extended the initial deadline for compliance with the subpoena from Dec. 31 to Jan. 20 at the request of Elliott's attorney, but withdrew the subpoena outright this evening.
Among the issues that remain is whether the TSA investigators were able to find the source of the leaked document from their examination of Frischling's computer or perhaps through other means, making the subpoena of Elliott unnecessary.
The TSA couldn't be reached for comment.