L. Neil Smith's
Number 179, June 24, 2002

"Assume a Meditative Stance"

Playing PADI Cake With Liberty
by Jeff Elkins

Special to TLE

Are you one of the millions of recreational scuba divers who learned the hobby from a PADI instructor? If so, congratulations. The FBI now has you in its sights.

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the world's largest recreational diving membership organization. Its membership includes dive shops, resort facilities, academic institutions, instructor trainers, dive educators, divers and snorkelers. Professional PADI Members (dive centers, resorts, educational facilities, instructors, assistant instructors and divemasters) teach the vast majority of the world's recreational divers, issuing nearly 946,000 certifications each year, with 2 out of every 3 new divers in the US certified by PADI annually.

PADI just sold out its entire US membership. Without even asking the FBI to produce a court order or subpoena, PADI handed its entire membership database over to the FBI to "assist" them in the quixotic search for mythical al Queda skin-diving terrorists.

Please consider that PADI doesn't conduct Navy SEAL training courses. PADI teaches recreational scuba diving under controlled conditions, in calm water, to beginners.The likelihood of any PADI trainee being able to navigate the often treacherous waters around warships, piers and harbors attaching limpet mines to all and sundry is so unlikely as to approach science fiction.

In an email to a complaining member, the feckless and cowardly PADI vice-president in charge of government relations attempted to justify his organization's actions (I've blanked out the member's name and email address.)

From: "Jeff Nadler" <jeffn@padi.com>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 17:54:54 -0700
To: "XXXXX" <xxxx@xxxx.com>
Subject: RE: I am very disappointed in PADI


Thank you for contacting me regarding the FBI investigation. We share your personal liberties concerns and the privacy issue was an important consideration in addressing the FBI's request. At the same time, we were aware of at least one dive store owner who had told an FBI agent visiting his store that he was too busy to spend time compiling his records; the agent returned within several hours with a subpoena for the records. As you probably know, if our certification records were subpoenaed, we would be unable to demand any restrictions on the use of that information.

Faced with that scenario, we decided the best approach was to cooperate, as long as the FBI agreed to certain conditions. Prior to our complying with their request, we received the FBI's agreement that: 1) this information is the proprietary property of PADI and its members; 2) it was provided to the FBI Counterterrorism Division for the express and single purpose of investigation into possible terrorist activities using scuba; 3) the information would not be used for any other purpose, and: once the Counterterrorism Division had completed its investigation, the information would be returned to PADI.

I hope that this explanation demonstrates that we tried to do our very best to protect the privacy of PADI divers, in light of the very real likelihood of being subpoenaed for this information if we did not cooperate.

Jeff Nadler
PADI Vice President, Industry & Government Relations

So, the courageous Mr. Nadler "tried to do his best" to protect the privacy of PADI divers, did he? Then why didn't Mr. Nadler politely request that the FBI obtain a subpoena for his membership database and then challenge the subpoena in a court of law? If this is "protecting" his membership, then Vidkun Quisling did an excellent job of "protecting" Norway from the Nazis.

The so-called "guarantees" that Mr. Quisling, excuse me, Mr. Nadler received from the FBI are laughable.

The FBI agrees that the database is proprietary? Did Nadler think that the FBI would sell it to the YMCA?

The FBI crossed their heart and hoped to die that its PADI research would only concern terrorism? Did he get that in writing?

The FBI will "return" the database when they are done with it? Did they take the only copy PADI had? Will Mr. Nadler personally wipe the FBI's computers of his precious PADI database?

This is a truly sad day for a once proud organization. I learned to dive years ago from a PADI instructor and it was a fun and exhilarating experience. The quality of instruction was superb and exceedingly safe. But now, I'd urge PADI members to resign and switch allegiance to an organization such as the YMCA which might not be so contemptuous of what it means to be an American and might have a better regard for its membership.

Be aware that this is only one incident in what will surely be a continual attack on your privacy and in the end, your freedom. PADI may have been the first to cave, but they surely won't be the last.

As this juggernaut of hysteria rolls on, we may be able to do little to stop it, but surely we can deny support to those who aid and abet the real terrorists.

Diver or not, let PADI know you're unhappy.


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