WASHINGTON — A former federal air marshal filed suit Monday against the Transportation Security Administration for firing him after he revealed an unclassified plan to remove marshals from long-distance flights.
The 2003 disclosure by Robert MacLean came just days after the agency had warned airlines of a hijacking threat to overseas flights. News of the plan to remove marshals from long-distance flights generated outrage in Congress and forced the TSA to reverse its decision.
This April, the agency fired MacLean for leaking information to reporters. In his lawsuit, filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the former air marshal is challenging the agency's contention that the information was sensitive and should not have been disclosed.
Whistle-blower advocates say the case could reaffirm protections for federal employees who release information, as well as set limits on the administration's designation of some material as "sensitive but unclassified," which limits access to that information.