Former TSA “Air Marshall” Robert MacLean will be one of the witnesses testifying at a hearing tomorrow before the House Oversight Committee, “Examining the Administration’s Treatment of Whistleblowers“.
As we’ve previously reported, Mr. Maclean is the respondent in a case to be argued this term before the US Supreme Court, DHS v. MacLean. Mr. Maclean was fired for disclosing “secret” but unclassified “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI) that was only designated as SSI by the TSA three years after Mr. Maclean shared it with the DHS Office of the Inspector General, members of Congress, and journalists.
[CORRECTION: We apologize for incorrectly referring to Mr. MacLean as the “petitioner” in the original version of this article, and thank Mr. MacLean for the comment correcting our error. The Court of Appeals ruled in Mr. MacLean’s favor, and it was the government that petitioned the Supreme Court to review that decision .]
DHS regulations prohibit the designation of information as SSI to conceal official misconduct, but that appears to have been a common practice, and to be ongoing (although under challenge) in other cases.
The House Oversight Committee has sometimes been accused of partisan witch-hunting. That doesn’t appear to be the case with this issue, however. A recent bipartisan report by the committee staff — itself the result of whistleblowing by the former head of the TSA’s Office of SSI – focuses on the political use of SSI designation decisions, in Mr. Maclean’s case in particular, to block the release of information that might embarrass the TSA, regardless of whether it fits the definition SSI in the law and regulations.