Robert MacLean is a former federal air marshal. During the Summer of 2003, he exposed a plan by the Transportation Security Administriation (TSA) to stop all overnight travel by the air marshals to save money on the budget. This shutdown of air marshal travel came at the same time that the Department of Homeland Security was reporting an active al-Qaeda suicide hijack plan. MacLean's courageous disclosure prompted Congressional and public outrage. In response, TSA reversed its decision, continued air marshal travel, and fired MacLean for making the disclosure. MacLean also raised concerns about how TSA's dress code for air marshals made them easy for terrorists to identify.
Yesterday, a House committee heard testimony from the Director of the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), Robert Bray. Bray told Congressman Bill Pascrell (New Jersey) that it was a problem that his predecessors ignored whistleblower complaints of safety and security problems. The old management forced the whistleblowers to go to the media. Rep. Pascrell insisted that the TSA should give MacLean and others their jobs back: "pure and simple."
Joe Davidson reports in today's Washington Post that Pascrell showed concern about MacLean's case. MacLean is "still twisting in the wind," Pascrell told Davidson. "I think it's very unfair."
Here are some excerpts from the witnesses' testimonies:
Jon Adler, National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, cited MacLean's case in his verbal and written testimony:
"In the past, the FAMS organization has struggled with numerous personnel issues that have impacted morale and caused the agency public embarrassment."
"I know that members have questions on a number of topics today, including polices aimed at improving Air Marshal anonymity, steps that have been put in place to foster better communication between line-level Air Marshals and management, and the need to implement consistent guidance on disciplinary actions that the entire FAMS, including field offices, are to follow."
"All TSA workers need to have whistleblower protections in the name of security – so that they are able to report security concerns without fear of losing their jobs or retaliation."