Obama Continues Crusade Against Whistleblowers

Peter Van Buren reports on a court case involving the federal government’s rabid desire to punish Robert MacLean, a former TSA Air Marshall who blew the whistle on contradictory policies in that program (simultaneously cutting the air marshal program while sending out an alert about possible hijackings). The Obama DOJ is taking that case to the Supreme Court.

The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.

Despite all the talk by Washington insiders about how whistleblowers like Edward Snowden should work through the system rather than bring their concerns directly into the public sphere, MacLean is living proof of the hell of trying to do so. Through the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to use MacLean’s case to further limit what kinds of information can qualify for statutory whistleblowing protections. If the DOJ gets its way, only information that the government thinks is appropriate — a contradiction in terms when it comes to whistleblowing — could be revealed. Such a restriction would gut the legal protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act and have a chilling effect on future acts of conscience.

Having lost its case against MacLean in the lower courts, the DOJ is seeking to win in front of the Supreme Court. If heard by the Supremes — and there’s no guarantee of that — this would represent that body’s first federal whistleblower case of the post-9/11 era. And if it were to rule for the government, even more information about an out-of-control executive branch will disappear under the dark umbrella of “national security.”…

On the other hand, should the court rule against the government, or simply turn down the case, whistleblowers like MacLean will secure a little more protection than they’ve had so far in the Obama years. Either way, an important message will be sent at a moment when revelations of government wrongdoing have moved from the status of obscure issue to front-page news.

And now a word from irony, courtesy of the Obama administration’s Change.gov, which still contains this text:

Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

Yeah, not so much.

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  • So much for HOPE.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    And for CHANGE.

  • I guess we have to settle for CHOPE and HANGE.

  • I guess we have to settle for CHOPE and HANGE.

    Beats CHOP and HANG

  • or Cheech and Chong

  • beezlebubby

    The one painful lesson I learned as a graduate student is that, when one chooses to blow the whistle, one had best be prepared to pay for it with one’s career, at the least. My exrtaordinary graduate mentor blew the whistle on a love affair between one of my classmates and a faculty member. For a helping-professions program with rather steep ethical walls constructed to prevent or discourage such conduct, the leadership practically broke a landspeed record to dish out backlash and retribution so severe that my HIGHLY ethical mentor resigned, not only from the department but from the profession, and, for years, from public life altogether. I raised such a stink at the time, both as student and as chapter president of the Greek-letter honor society, that I became student non-grata. In a sense, I paid a price for supporting the right and ethical side, since I’ve never gotten a reference out of that department once I graduated. Maybe ethics has no real home in politics or commerce, but apparently also not in the department of hypocrites and bullies at a particular SUNY school.

  • leonardschneider

    Meh. I’m feeling lazy today, so you’re getting this to listen to.

  • If the government wasn’t doing anything wrong, why does it need to keep secrets?

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    Protection for whistleblowers doesn’t apply when the whistle is being blown on Obama. Rat out some low level government employee for stealing pens? Then Obama’s got yer back, Jack!

  • =8)-DX

    whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

    Yeah. He tries to take all whistleblowers to court all right.

  • @9;

    The original case dates back to 2006 with the actual event for which Maclean was allegedly fired taking place in 2003, during the Bushco era. The case was already in the appeals system before Obama’s 1st oath of office.

    I am more than a bit disappointed by the PotUS’ actions in a number of areas of both foreign and domestic policy. Otoh, there’s more than enough to criticize him for without laying this sort of thing on him as if he had actually BEEN there when it happened.

    The U.S. federal bureaucracy (and that of most functional governments) has a momentum of its own in such matters and short of an actual order from the PotUS, I doubt that Eric Holder is going to throw a wrench into an ongoing federal case.

    I do not know what the facts of the case are. It might be that Maclean is a genuine Heero. it might also be that he was a class A prick who fucked with the wrong supervisor and said supervisor found a way to vindictively pay him back. It actually sounds to me like Maclean had an incompetent attorney or there was some procedural flaw in the original adjudication.

    Having blown the whistle several times in my “career” I’ve been vindicated about 50% of the time and fucked over about 50% I agree with beezlebubby @6,. it sorta goes with the territory, imo. Doesn’t make it right, just makes it a fact.

    I am quite angry about a lot of things that are going on in the U.S., this isn’t one of the those things.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    So what if the case entered the appeals system before Obama became president? He has all the power needed to end the case and let MacLean go on with his life if that’s what Obama wanted. But that”s not what Obama wants, because to him whistle-blowing only means exposing a corrupt lower level government employee or contractor, it never includes exposing something done by the executive branch. In Obama’s eyes people like MacLean *are* the corrupt ones.

  • ” He has all the power needed to end the case and let MacLean go on with his life if that’s what Obama wanted. But that”s not what Obama wants,”

    Citation required. Find the news report that backs that assertion up, THEN tell me that Obama wants this to happen–or even knew about it before it hit the newscycle. I doubt that the fate of a low level TSA employee is something that the AG or DoJ would be bringing up at a staff meeting.

    I understand that you THINK Obama is behind this. I suggest doing some research and finding out what the course of the legal wrangling has been. There are a number of complicating factors in this case, not least is that the day that it becomes public knowledge that Mr. Obama has ordered a cessation of hostilities in the matter, the GOP noise machine will be cranked up to “infinity” to broadcast his surrender monkey treachery.

    Here’s a piece to look at:


    I’m wondering where MacLean is working these days and how he pays his legal bills, thus far I haven’t found out and I have other things to do today but if I get some answers I’ll share them.

    I don’t know where you’re living these days, Sigurd, but in the area I live in, there are hundreds of miscarriages of justice a year due to corrupt cops, lying witnesses, idiot judges and moronz in the lege–the PotUS has no involvement in any of them, afaia.

    Hate on Obama as much as you like (I doubt it will be noticed by him) but you can just hate on him for shit he’s actually done and not run out of reasons to do so.

  • smhll

    In a world with continuous government surveillance of phone calls and emails how are reporters ever going to be able to protect any anonymous source reporting anything?

  • freehand

    smhll: In a world with continuous government surveillance of phone calls and emails how are reporters ever going to be able to protect any anonymous source reporting anything?


    An informed government, a largely hidden (imaginary) ecoterrorist or Muslim criminal underground providing the eternal enemy, and cowed citizens. From the government’s point of view, what’s not to like?


    The reporters can go back to what they do best – celebrity gossip and consumer goods reviews.


    Nothing to see here, citizens, move along.