First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
9th Circuit rebuffs fired air marshal's whistleblower claim

By The Associated Press
09.19.08

SAN FRANCISCO — A former federal air marshal fired three years after leaking security information to the news media has suffered a legal setback in his bid to regain his job.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Sept. 16 that the Department of Homeland Security properly classified the information as "sensitive" and didn't violate a federal law that protects government whistleblowers when it fired Robert MacLean.

The department dismissed MacLean in April 2006, three years after he gave a reporter an embarrassing but routine memo on reducing hotel costs by eliminating overnight airline trips for marshals for a month. MacLean said he leaked the memo after his boss ignored his safety concerns.

Once the memo became public, the air marshal program said it was a mistake and no flight assignments requiring overnight hotel stays were canceled.

In firing MacLean, the Bush administration argued that MacLean should have known the unlabeled memo he received on his unsecured cell phone was considered "sensitive security information."

MacLean countered that there was no way to tell that air marshal officials would designate the cost-cutting plan years later as sensitive national-security information.

The appeals court also rejected his argument that leaking the memo was protected by the whistleblower law, a decision that will hurt his challenge to his firing before a federal personnel board. That case was on hold pending the appeals court decision in MacLean v. Department of Homeland Security.

Gregory Alter, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, declined comment because of the pending personnel matter. Peter Noone, MacLean's lawyer, did not return a call for comment in time for this story.


Related

Law, retaliation doom whistleblowers, panelists say

By Nikki Troia Government employees who bring waste, fraud, abuse to light risk retaliation, career suicide, say whistleblowers who've been there. 03.17.06

High court curbs whistleblower lawsuits
By 5-4 vote, justices say nation's 20 million public employees don't have carte blanche right to disclose government's inner workings. 05.30.06

Government bosses bite back at agency watchdogs
'It's hard to believe that the government is serious about policing itself when it's whacking the people who are actually minding the store,' says director of waste-tracking group. 12.28.06

High court decision restricts whistleblower rewards
Ruling against retired engineer who sued over fraud at nuclear-weapons plant means it'll be tougher for whistleblowers to claim cash rewards. 03.28.07

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print


Last system update: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 16:53:43
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

First Reports
Supreme Court
Experts
Columnists
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links