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“WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration has reinstated an air marshal who was fired after disclosing proposed agency cutbacks, but was later deemed a justified whistle-blower by the Supreme Court.
Robert MacLean, an air marshal who flew undercover and armed to thwart terrorists, told MSNBC in 2003 that TSA was planning to reduce marshals on overnight flights. Congressional criticism led TSA to reverse itself, but the agency fired MacLean three years later for disclosing “sensitive security information.”
In a challenge to his dismissal, MacLean’s legal case focused on whether a federal law protecting whistle-blowers from disclosing government information trumped regulations that agencies use to keep information secret.
The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled in January that MacLean wasn’t “specifically prohibited by law” from leaking information about the cutbacks.
Technically, the high court sent MacLean back to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. But the TSA rescinded his dismissal in a letter May 8, effective May 3, according to the Government Accountability Project, which represented MacLean.
“I’m humbled and grateful that so many wonderful people and organizations came together to resolve this issue,” MacLean said. “The American justice system is not perfect, but in this case it did the right thing and upheld federal whistle-blower protections.”
Tom Devine, the Government Accountability Project’s legal director, said he was elated that MacLean was reinstated and that the case was a victory for all workers covered by the whistle-blower act.”