[Congressional Record Volume 155, Number 103 (Friday, July 10, 2009)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1721-E1722]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                            HON. KEN CALVERT

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                         Friday, July 10, 2009

  Mr. CALVERT. Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the article 
titled ``Did Fired OC Air Marshal Endanger Flying Public, or Protect 
It?'' The article was posted online on May 8, 2009 and I believe my 
colleagues in Congress will benefit from the article and the topic of 
whistleblower protection.

    Did Fired Oc Air Marshal Endanger Flying Public, or Protect It?

                            (By Teri Sforza)

       On July 26, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security 
     issued an alert to all U.S. airlines, airport security 
     managers and federal air marshals:
       A possible hijacking plot was in the works, involving five-
     man teams that might try to seize planes and fly them into 
     government, military or economic targets.
       Robert MacLean of Ladera Ranch had been working as a 
     federal air marshal since shortly after 9/11. So it struck 
     him as particularly bizarre when--just three days later--a 
     text message popped up on his government-issued mobile phone:
       Overnight missions involving federal air marshals will be 
     cancelled from late July through early August.
       What? No overnights? That meant no air marshals on long-
     distance flights. To save money on hotel rooms, MacLean would 
     come to understand.
       This, thought MacLean, was crazy. The 9/11 hijackers 
     targeted long-distance flights because they hauled the most 
     fuel and could do the most damage. Pulling air marshals from 
     such flights, precisely when there was warning of a possible 
     attack, was gross mismanagement--and a ``specific threat to 
     public safety that could lead to catastrophic loss of life,'' 
     he'd say later in court papers.
       So MacLean took his concerns to his supervisor and other 
       He didn't get far.

                              TOP SECRET?

       That text message, MacLean would later argue, wasn't marked 
     as sensitive information. It arrived on his mobile phone, not 
     on his secure PDA.
       And so, on July 29, 2003, MacLean disclosed the message 
     to--gasp!--a member of the press. NBC.
       Fallout was fast and furious. Lawmakers decried the idea as 
     foolish; Sen. Barbara Boxer offered to send the 
     Transportation Security Administration a list of hotels near 
     San Francisco International Airport where rooms cost less 
     than $100 a night. Officials said they had made no final 
     decisions yet; and overnight missions continued, as per 
     usual, on the full schedule of cross-country and 
     international flights.

                       ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL?

       Not quite.
       Nearly three years later--in April 2006--MacLean was fired 
     from his job as a federal air marshal. Grounds for dismissal: 
     disclosing sensitive information to the media.
       The message didn't need to be marked ``sensitive,'' the 
     government argued; all details regarding the deployment, 
     number and operations of federal air marshals were protected 
       ``Your unauthorized media appearance and unauthorized 
     release of SSI (sensitive security) information to the media 
     raise serious doubts about your judgment and 
     trustworthiness,'' says MacLean's dismissal notice, signed by 
     Frank Donzanti, special agent in charge with the 
     Transportation Security Administration.
       ``Moreover, the disclosure of this SSI had the potential to 
     reveal vulnerabilities in the aviation security system, and 
     as such, was extremely dangerous to the public we serve. As 
     such, I find little chance for your rehabilitation as a FAM 
     (federal air marshal). Based on the egregiousness of your 
     actions I have lost confidence in your ability to perform and 
     find that removal from Federal employment for your 
     unauthorized disclosure of SSI is necessary to promote the 
     effectiveness of the FAM Service,'' the letter says.

                            LEGAL LABYRINTH

       So was MacLean endangering the public safety by revealing 
     the message? Or was he protecting it?
       Is he a villain, or a hero?
       MacLean argues that he should be protected as a federal 
     whistleblower, and filed a whistleblower suit against the 

[[Page E1722]]

     Many machinations have followed, in that tortured, slow, 
     legal sort of way. ``I want to get back to federal law 
     enforcement,'' said MacLean, 39, who says he has applied at a 
     dozen local police departments, but remains jobless. ``I want 
     to go back to serving as if I had never blown the whistle 
       MacLean was a Border Patrol agent in San Clemente for six 
     years, and a federal air marshal for four years. He has a 
     wife and two daughters, 5 and 7. They've moved in with his 
     parents. These days he spends time tracking the fits and 
     starts of whistleblower-protection legislation that seems to 
     come up every year, and die every year.

                          THIS TIME, MORE HOPE

       Last week, a letter signed by seven congressmen and women 
     went to President Obama, urging him to swift action on the 
     issue of whistleblower protection for federal employees,
       ``Whistleblowers are our nation's best resource against 
     fraud and abuse of the public trust,'' the letter says. 
     ``Legal victories for employees who have been retaliated 
     against for blowing the whistle are almost nonexistent. We 
     encourage you to support congressional efforts to reform the 
     inadequate system of whistleblower protections, such as H.R. 
     1507. . . . In addition to these forward-looking reforms, we 
     encourage you to take action to restore the careers of 
     employees who were wrongly terminated or marginalized by 
     previous administrations after blowing the whistle.''
       And other lawmakers are getting on board as well. There 
     have been meetings at the White House. MacLean's documents 
     live on the Project on Government Oversight's web site. He 
     has his own page on Wikipedia. Officials did not rush to get 
     back to us to discuss his case; but he has made appearances 
     on many news programs and is not shy about pressing the 
     righteousness of his position.
       He hopes for a resolution soon.