Members of Congress, Office of Special Counsel, and More File Amicus Briefs in Support of Whistleblower

Federal Air Marshall Robert MacLean blew the whistle when the Department of Homeland Security canceled long distance air marshal coverage during a heightened terrorist alert. Three years later, the MacLean was fired and the text message informing him of the planned cancellation was retroactively designated as Sensitive Security Information.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Department of Homeland Security v. Robert MacLean on November 4th. MacLean is a client of the Government Accountability Project, an OTG partner. In advance of these arguments, MacLean has received support via friend of the court briefs from a diverse crowd. A bipartisan coalition of six members of Congress wrote, “Congress…relies on individuals working within agencies to supply the information it needs to guard the public purse and give effect to the checks and balances that are essential to the separation of power.”

Executive Director Patrice McDermott joined a brief on behalf of thirteen former government employees, concerned about agencies’ unchecked use of Sensitive Security Information (SSI) designations and the impact on whistleblowers inside government. The brief makes clear the high stakes for government employees and government openness: “If the position DHS has advanced in this matter prevails, a determination by one bureaucrat that information is ‘sensitive’ will allow the agency to preclude its disclosure indefinitely, and to terminate a whistleblower even where a disclosure saves lives or uncovers criminal behavior.” Exempting SSI from the protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act would severely undercut the ability of government employees to safely expose government waste, fraud, and abuse.

The Government Accountability Project has a round-up of the briefs here, and comprehensive coverage of the case here.

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