High court sides with whistle-blowing ex-air marshal

Thursday, January 22, 2015
 | 
Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow.com)

The U.S. Supreme Court has protected the whistleblower rights of government employees after an air marshal squealed about budget cuts. 

Robert MacLean was an air marshal on commercial flights whose job was to protect passengers and crew from terrorism. When the government reduced overnight flights to save money, MacLean took his objection to supervisors who took no action. So he leaked the information to the media out of concern for passenger safety.

The air marshal was fired two years later after the Transportation Security Administration traced the information back to him and he sued.

MacLean's lawyer is Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, who says the ruling impacts all government employees.

"It means the government bureaucracy can't cancel the statutory free speech rights of the Whistleblower Protection Act through agency secrecy rules or gag orders," Devine tells OneNewsNow.

Only Congress can weaken the Whistleblower Protection Act, he says.

The court justices voted 7-2 in favor of MacLean, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion, USA Today reported in a lengthy story about the court decision. 

Roberts wrote in his opinion: 

The government argues that providing whistleblower protection to individuals like MacLean would 'gravely endanger public safety' by making the confidentiality of sensitive security information depend on the idiosyncratic judgment of each of the TSA's 60,000 employees. Those concerns are legitimate, but they must be addressed by Congress or the president, rather than by this court.

The dissenting justices were Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy.

The government had argued MacLean was legally prevented from speaking out on the potential safety of airline passengers because it would violate security rules. 

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