Peter Van Buren tells us of the case of Robert MacLean who is an air marshal, one of those plain clothes people who fly on planes just in case some troublemaker is on the plane.
MacLean saw something wrong with the TSA’s procedures that might lead to heightened risk, so he tried to express his concerns through the proper channels and got nowhere. He then anonymously informed reporters and as a result Congress took action and corrected the matter. But later the TSA discovered who had issued the leak and fired MacLean, who then sued that he was protected under the whistleblower provisions.
But what he discovered was that months after firing him, the TSA had retroactively classified the text of the message that he had leaked and claimed that they were thus justified in firing him because he had leaked classified information. MacLean won his case in the lower courts but now the Obama administration has appealed to the US Supreme Court to overturn it.
As Van Buren says:
By taking the extraordinary step of going to the Supreme Court, the executive branch wants, by fiat, to be able to turn an unclassified but embarrassing disclosure today into a prohibited act tomorrow, and then use that to get rid of an employee. They are, in essence, putting whistleblowers in the untenable position of having to predict the future. The intent is clearly to silence them before they speak on the theory that the easiest leak to stop is the one that never happens. A frightened, cowed workforce is likely to be one result; another–falling into the category of unintended consequences–might be to force more potential whistleblowers to take the Manning/Snowden path.
All those who still claim that Edward Snowden should have stayed and worked his complaints through the system have yet another example of how little good that does when it comes to The Most Transparent Administration EverTM. They don’t want anyone to reveal their wrongdoing and incompetence and will go to almost any extreme to cover them up.
But even if the Supreme Court does not accept the case or does so and also rules in favor of MacLean, you can be sure that his ordeal is not over. The government will do everything it can to destroy him psychologically and financially the way they did with other whistleblowers, because that kind of vicious vindictiveness against those who expose its wrong doing is what the Obama administration seems particular good at.