Originally published March 3 2015
TSA lies, hides the truth and punishes whistleblowers, claim federal air marshals
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) Everyone's least favorite agency, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) -- the one responsible for making passing through an airport as miserable and demeaning an experience as possible -- has apparently made a policy of over-extending its internal administrative powers as well.
According to a recent National Review article, top-level TSA management figures "intentionally hid embarrassing information about supervisors' misconduct and targeted employees who sought to expose the truth."
This was accomplished by repeatedly and systematically invoking an agency-specific secrecy designation called Sensitive Security Information (SSI). Information can be kept from the public in the name of transportation security, but whistleblowers from within the agency and others are accusing TSA brass of using the designation to protect themselves from scrutiny.
One of those from within the agency's ranks who has made charges against TSA management is former air marshal Jose Job Lacson, who was fired from the agency for releasing SSI material online. Lacson claims that the "material" he published was no more than a couple of mere guesses about the agency's attrition rate, in a response to a reader's questions on a website where he was active.
Lacson claims that the real reason for the TSA's invocation of the SSI designation was to punish him for having exposed his superiors in Miami for pursuing policies that violated federal travel regulations.
Another unnamed TSA air marshal confirmed privately that Lacson was indeed the victim of efforts to punish him for his whistleblowing activities. Lacson's attempts to fight the agency in court to regain his reputation and standing have been only minimally successful. That's because -- according to the unnamed source -- the agency has the ability to "beat the little guy, whether it's a flying air marshal or it's a staff member... by depleting you emotionally and/or financially because they're Big Government. They got all the time in the world. They got all the resources in the world."
A report released in May 2014 by the House Oversight Committee determined that the agency had been designating material as SSI without using the proper protocols.
From the National Review article:
Former SSI office director Andrew Colsky told the committee that there was "extreme pressure" from the TSA's front office to mark information as SSI, keeping it hidden. Colsky said the agency wanted the designation used on information it found embarrassing or potentially damaging to its public image.
The TSA has even attempted to retroactively label material as SSI, even after it was made public. Yet another whistleblowing air marshal, Robert Maclean, has just emerged victorious from a federal court battle in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had charged him with releasing TSA-designated SSI information.
The material in question released by Maclean involved the agency's having reduced security during a hijacking alert. The information had been public initially, but the TSA tried to designate it as SSI material after the fact, ostensibly to punish Maclean for releasing it.
Maclean is happy about the ruling but warns that the progress made could be easily undermined by executive orders made by the president or by congressional legislation.
The TSA has also attempted to use the SSI designation to silence those outside of the agency, even though it has been pointed out by former House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), that the designation only applies to agency employees, not to outsiders such as journalists or politicians.
Nevertheless, the TSA tried to use the SSI designation to silence Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate who published an SSI document and was subsequently subpoenaed by the DHS for doing so. Apparently, the lawsuit was dropped after Elliott's attorney intervened.
It may be just another example of a federal agency overstepping its authority when dealing with internal affairs, but it's particularly annoying when it happens to be one that already has such a bad reputation in terms of dealing with the public.
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