Washington Post: Supreme Court Says Former Air Marshal Did Not Violate Law in Whistleblower Case

After more than eight years of defending his rights, GAP client and air marshal whistleblower Robert MacLean won a Supreme Court decision yesterday affirming that his disclosures in 2003 were covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). He publicly warned that the government planned to pull federal air marshals from commercial aircrafts targeted for an ambitious overseas terrorist attack. The key legal issue was whether the law’s statutory free speech rights can be canceled by agency secrecy regulations.

Responding to the 7-2 decision in favor of MacLean, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine stated, “freedom of speech won with an exclamation point.” For more about the case and MacLean’s response, read GAP’s official statement.

Key Quote (Federal News Radio): “Many great people from non-government organizations, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Congress, and the courts came together to make this happen,” he said, in a press release issued by the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower support group that represented MacLean in his case. “I believe this ruling will give other federal employees more confidence in exposing wrongdoing without breaking the law. No matter what happens, it will always be difficult for a person to risk his career when speaking out.

Tom Devine, GAP’s legal director and one of MacLean’s lawyers, said that the court’s decision ended MacLean’s eight-year journey in seeking justice. “The only issue left is whether MacLean was reasonable to believe that the government’s decision to remove air marshals from targeted flights endangered the public, since the Department of Homeland Security had planned to go AWOL in the face of a more ambitious rerun of 9/11,” Devine said. “The ruling is a historic victory for the right of individuals to make a difference through freedom of speech.”

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Washington Ag Gag Bill Likely “Can’t Move Any Further”

GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) discusses the return of anti-whistleblower Ag Gag bills in 2015. Various states, including Washington, have introduced and begun discussions on varying pieces of legislation that aim to silence truth-telling in the agriculture industry. Fortunately, a committee chairman in Washington stated that opposition against the state’s bill is very strong and the measure won’t likely go anywhere. FIC highlights various efforts to challenge Ag Gag, including a video series to raise awareness about the bills, as well as a petition urging Congress to protect agriculture whistleblowers.