Congress awaits TSA explanation for whistleblower’s treatment



Robert MacLean testifies to Congress. Photo by Linda Lewis

Robert MacLean testifies to Congress. Photo by Linda Lewis

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants an explanation from the Transportation Security Agency for its treatment of Robert MacLean, whose disclosure foiled TSA plans to pull air marshals off long distance commercial flights after the 9/11 attacks.

Washington, DC  Transportation Security Agency whistleblower Robert MacLean scored a victory more than a year ago at the U.S. Supreme Court. He then scored another victory at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which directed TSA to restore him to his position and benefits. But, MacLean has yet to prevail over obstacles erected by the Transportation Security Agency since his return. Such is life for a federal government whistleblower:  The fight for justice never seems to end.

Following MacLean’s court victories, TSA assigned MacLean to an undercover position as air marshal on commercial air flights. It was a more than usually dangerous assignment, as the Washington Post reported.

For months, the TSA denied MacLean’s request for a ground-based assignment. No longer the face of a movement, the agency expected him to once again be a faceless federal agent working undercover.

“He’s the most famous air marshal in the agency’s history,” Devine said. “Now he’s supposed to do undercover missions? It’s as if DHS is retaliating against Mr. MacLean for defeating them.”

“In the face of further legal action from MacLean’s attorneys” (Washington Post) TSA removed MacLean from flights on February 25. Then, his bosses gave him a new assignment:  Doing absolutely nothing.

Sniff. Sniff. Is that the odor of sour grapes wafting from TSA?

Though MacLean sits alone in his assigned office, he is not without company. The New York Times reported last April that “Dozens of Transportation Security Administration employees in recent years have been reassigned, demoted, investigated or fired for reporting lapses or misconduct by senior managers, charges that were later upheld by whistle-blower protection agencies, records show.” Two Congressional committees are now investigating the agency’s treatment of whistleblowers.

On August 12, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform demanded information on the agency’s treatment of MacLean, including its justifications for assigning him to an empty room with no duties, failing to restore him to a supervisory position, and failing to grant him an “In-Position Increase” since 2002 despite “exemplary” performance. Reportedly, the agency did not respond by the Committee’s deadline, August 26.

The official justification for TSA’s treatment of MacLean remains a mystery. Its motivation is more easily divined.






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