In a case that has been prolonged for an unbelievable ten years, fired Air Marshal Robert MacLean will finally be receiving a hearing on his status as a whistleblower.
In 2003 Robert MacLean informed the media that TSA “was suspending Federal Air Marshal coverage on vulnerable flights, just days after warnings emerged of a potential hijacking“. He was subsequently fired. Last spring an appellate court panel ordered his case returned to the lower courts for a ruling on his whistleblower status, but TSA attempted to appeal that to the full Court of Appeals. That attempt was rejected.
Courtesy CNN, here is brief history of Robert MacLean’s case:
The case began in July of 2003, when MacLean, then based in Las Vegas, tipped off an MSNBC reporter that the TSA was suspending overnight missions just days after air marshals were briefed about a new “potential plot” to hijack U.S. airliners.
The agency planned the cutback — which would have kept air marshals off most long-distance flights — because it was running out of money at the end of the fiscal year.
The news caused an immediate uproar on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Charles Schumer, and then-Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, among others, writing letters expressing concerns. The TSA retreated, killing the scheduling cuts before they went into effect.
A year later, MacLean appeared on “NBC Nightly News” — in disguise and identified only as “Federal Air Marshal ‘Mike'” — to criticize the agency’s dress policy, which, he said, made it easier for terrorists to identify the undercover air marshals.
But someone from the TSA recognized MacLean’s voice and the agency ordered an investigation into MacLean for an “unauthorized media appearance.” During that investigation, MacLean admitted he leaked the information to the media about the 2003 suspension of long-distance flights.
The agency fired MacLean in April of 2006, saying his leak was an unauthorized disclosure of “Sensitive Security Information,” or SSI.
- Government Accountability Project: Victory for Former Federal Air Marshal/GAP Client MacLean: Daily Whistleblower News (Sept 3 2013)
- CNN: Fired air marshal will get new hearing (Aug 30 2013)