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Old Jun 27, 09, 11:57 am   #1
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FAM Fired for Revealing Info Deemed “Sensitive” After He Revealed It

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Air Marshal Fired for Revealing Info Deemed “Sensitive” After He Revealed It

AllGov.com Saturday, June 27, 2009

In a ruling that has major ramifications for government whistleblowers, an obscure federal employment review board decided this week that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was justified in firing a veteran air marshal for revealing highly sensitive information that was not classified as such until after it was disclosed.

In 2003 air marshal Robert MacLean told the media of TSA’s plan to remove air marshals from long-distance flights in order to save money—even though the order came as a time of heightened alerts of potential terrorism attacks. MacLean’s disclosure resulted in Congress taking TSA leaders to task, and in the 10-year law enforcement officer being fired for revealing the agency’s plans to cut back on protection for commercial flights. TSA argued that MacLean should have known he was disclosing “sensitive security information” despite the fact that it was not labeled accordingly.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 12:03 pm   #2
  
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Methinks he was actually fired for the crime of embarrassing his bosses.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 12:22 pm   #3
  
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Originally Posted by Fredd View Post
Methinks he was actually fired for the crime of embarrassing his bosses.
Agreed. Embarrassing a bureaucrat is done at risk to your job.


To the petty, trite, vindictive, jerk who fired him for embarrassing you a hearty and several dozen are in store. The jerk never had to properly classify anything and forgot that information that isn't classified is subject to release. The board that upheld his firing was as incompetent as TSA's upper management.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 12:30 pm   #4
  
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I guess I read this incident differently. From the limited knowledge I have it would appear that he did went directly to the media with the information rather than first make attempts to change the direction the TSA moving. Failure to attempt change before whistle blowing would seem to make the board decision and his firing reasonable.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 12:51 pm   #5
  
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Originally Posted by FlyingUnderTheRadar View Post
I guess I read this incident differently. From the limited knowledge I have it would appear that he did went directly to the media with the information rather than first make attempts to change the direction the TSA moving. Failure to attempt change before whistle blowing would seem to make the board decision and his firing reasonable.
I waded as far as the first couple of pages in the ruling, and read "The appellant alleged that he believed that the cancellation of these missions was detrimental to public safety. He raised this concern with his supervisor. He then attempted to raise it with the Office of the Inspector General. On July 29th, 2003, he disclosed the text message to the media."
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Old Jun 27, 09, 1:56 pm   #6
  
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Thanks ... given that I wonder what else went into the ruling? I will have to read it at some point. Thanks again for posting a link to it.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 2:17 pm   #7
  
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What bothers me is this statement in the article from the TSA,
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TSA argued that MacLean should have known he was disclosing “sensitive security information” despite the fact that it was not labeled accordingly.
If this isn't an oxymoron I don't know what is.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 3:30 pm   #8
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1) Publishing which flights a FAM will or will not be on is common-sense SSI. The fact that it was not labeled as such seems like a mistake, but the FAM should have known.

2) I think he was fired as much for embarassing the agency as he was for disclosing SSI.

3) He should have gone to congress instead of the media-- not that he wouldn't have gotten fired for that as well.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 3:35 pm   #9
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Originally Posted by FlyingUnderTheRadar View Post
I guess I read this incident differently. From the limited knowledge I have it would appear that he did went directly to the media with the information rather than first make attempts to change the direction the TSA moving. Failure to attempt change before whistle blowing would seem to make the board decision and his firing reasonable.
Not exactly:

Quote:
In July of 2003, the appellant received a text message on his government-issued mobile phone stating that all RON (Remain Overnight) missions up to August 9th would be cancelled. The appellant alleged that he believed that the cancellation of these missions was detrimental to public safety. He raised this concern with his supervisor. He then attempted to raise it with the Office of the Inspector General. On July 29, 2003, he disclosed the text message to the media.
--UNITED STATES OF AMERICA MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD
--Docket No. SF-0752-06-0611-I-2

I think he needed to find another avenue (like congress, for example) rather than the media. It looked like he only tried his supervisor and the IG before going to the media-- that seems like minimal effort at best.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 3:55 pm   #10
  
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Originally Posted by Ari View Post

2) I think he was fired as much for embarassing the agency as he was for disclosing SSI.
If I were a TSA employee posting to this board, I'd be reading the decision very carefully.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 4:15 pm   #11
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Even if it wasn't specifically classified it's obviously information that should have been kept secret.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 4:25 pm   #12
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Originally Posted by Loren Pechtel View Post
Even if it wasn't specifically classified it's obviously information that should have been kept secret.
Exactly.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 4:34 pm   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ari View Post
1) Publishing which flights a FAM will or will not be on is common-sense SSI. The fact that it was not labeled as such seems like a mistake, but the FAM should have known.

2) I think he was fired as much for embarassing the agency as he was for disclosing SSI.

3) He should have gone to congress instead of the media-- not that he wouldn't have gotten fired for that as well.
What this should tell anyone who has knowledge of government misconduct is that they cannot rely on the Whistleblower Protection Act, and if they want to speak truth to power, they need to cultivate a media source like Mark Felt did - the Watergate source.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 5:25 pm   #14
  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ari View Post
I think he needed to find another avenue (like congress, for example) rather than the media. It looked like he only tried his supervisor and the IG before going to the media-- that seems like minimal effort at best.
He took it to two levels above him before he went public. How many attempts are more than "minimal"?

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Originally Posted by Loren Pechtel View Post
Even if it wasn't specifically classified it's obviously information that should have been kept secret.
Why hasn't the TSA fired whoever sent "SSI" over improper channels? That person (or group) certainly should have known better.

Given the gov't's, especially DHS' penchant for labeling too many things as "SSI" or secret, a reasonable person could reasonably assume that they are free to reveal anything that's not labeled as "SSI", etc.

Additionally, reliance on the secrecy of facts that are known to thousands of people, are repeated over and over (e.g. no overnight stays, not "flight 125 tomorrow), and that can be observed in public is foolish. If you do rely on such secrecy, then for heaven's sake, treat those facts as secret; don't treat them like the TSA did.
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Old Jun 27, 09, 5:30 pm   #15
  
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Originally Posted by ralfp View Post
He took it to two levels above him before he went public. How many attempts are more than "minimal"?



Why hasn't the TSA fired whoever sent "SSI" over improper channels? That person (or group) certainly should have known better.

Given the gov't's, especially DHS' penchant for labeling too many things as "SSI" or secret, a reasonable person could reasonably assume that they are free to reveal anything that's not labeled as "SSI", etc.

Additionally, reliance on the secrecy of facts that are known to thousands of people, are repeated over and over (e.g. no overnight stays, not "flight 125 tomorrow), and that can be observed in public is foolish. If you do rely on such secrecy, then for heaven's sake, treat those facts as secret; don't treat them like the TSA did.
Agreed.

Even working for a non government organization they have documents labeled FOR COMPANY USE ONLY. It shouldn't be an issue of common sense. A sensitive document should be labeled as such to avoid confusion like this.
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