A WIN FOR FEDERAL WHISTLEBLOWERS AS SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH FIRED AIR MARSHAL

A WIN FOR FEDERAL WHISTLEBLOWERS AS SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH FIRED AIR MARSHAL

Published: January 24, 2015
http://www.allgov.com/news/controversies/a-win-for-federal-whistleblowers-as-supreme-court-sides-with-fired-air-marshal-150124?news=855465

A former air marshal who lost his job after telling the media about a problem within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has won his case before the U.S. Supreme Court in a blow to the Obama administration and a victory for government whistleblowers.

Robert MacLean was fired after he exposed what he considered to be a reckless decision by the TSA three years earlier. In 2003, the agency issued an alert of a possible hijacking plot on a commercial flight. Air marshals were on alert, but TSA officials canceled overnight missions for MacLean and others in an effort to save money on hotel lodging. MacLean thought the decision was shortsighted, and revealed the decision to the TSA inspector general. When that didn’t change things, he leaked the matter to MSNBC. The media exposure forced the TSA to reverse its decision.

MacLean’s superiors didn’t learn that he was behind the leak until later and fired him in 2006. The agency said he was terminated for revealing “sensitive security information.”

He first appealed his firing to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), but it sided with the TSA. He then took his case to court, which resulted in a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling that the TSA violated the Whistleblower Protection Act, a law designed to protect people such as MacLean who expose government wrongdoing.

The ruling means the MSPB has to rehear MacLean’s case. He hopes to be reinstated and receive back pay.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

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