Pixel Tracker

Friday, January 18 , 2019, 7:17 pm | Fair 56º

 
 
 
 

Michelle Malkin: Post-9/11, We Must Protect the Freedom to Warn

"If you see something, say something." That's what our homeland security apparatchiks incessantly preach. But 13 years after the 9/11 attacks, the freedom to warn is in danger and vigilant whistleblowers are under fire.

Listen to Robert MacLean. He's a former Air Force nuclear weapons specialist and Border Patrol agent recruited by the government to serve as one of the first federal air marshals after 9/11.

In 2003, MacLean underwent emergency training to prepare for a new round of al-Qaeda hijacking threats. Jihadists exploiting visa and screening loopholes had planned to target East Coast airliners, according to intelligence analysts. For unknown reasons, however, the Transportation Security Administration abruptly called off air marshals from duty on nonstop, long-distance flights — just two days before the anticipated hijacking.

How did they notify the air marshals? Cue the Keystone Cops.

"TSA chose to send the unlabeled text message to our unsecured Nokia 3310 cellular phones instead of our $22 million encrypted smartphone system. There were no markings or secrecy restrictions on the message," MacLean recounted to Congress last week. "We all thought it was a joke given the special training we had just received and the post-9/11 law that nonstop long-distance flights were a priority."

A supervisor told MacLean the agency was broke and there was nothing he could do. Appalled at both the dangerous pullback and the reckless way in which the feds notified the air marshals, MacLean then contacted his department's inspector general hotline and was warned he would be "cutting (his) career short if (he) pursued the issue further." Instead, he went to the press and made his homeland security concerns public. In 2006, MacLean was fired.

More than a decade later, the dedicated security expert has battled the feds who retaliated against him. He was forced into bankruptcy and shut out of law enforcement jobs. His legal case heads to the Supreme Court this fall. God bless him. Despite the consequences, MacLean would do it all again in a heartbeat.

"I blew the whistle because I had to," he testified last week. "I could not live with the tragedy risked if I had been the cynical silent observer."

MacLean is not alone. Do you remember 10 years ago when then-Federal Air Marshal Service Director Thomas Quinn refused to allow his employees to dress undercover? Quinn, a former Secret Service agent, insisted that air marshals abide by military-style grooming standards and a rigid business dress policy regardless of weather, time of year or seating arrangement. Yes, really. Marshals were ordered to dress like characters straight out of Men in Black — leaving them vulnerable to terrorist identification.

Critics of the code dubbed Quinn the Captain Queeg of homeland security. He even assigned fashion police to enforce the rules his own spokesman denied existed. Homeland security bureaucrats in Washington back then downplayed the marshals' complaints about the dress policy and other directives and leaks that undermined the marshals' anonymity.

Officials at headquarters smeared the messengers inside and outside the agency and denied any wrongdoing. One top special agent in charge of the marshals' Atlanta office, Don Strange, was fired after criticizing the dress code and boarding procedures that made the marshals' identities obvious. Another agent, Frank Terreri, faced retaliation for whistleblowing and was forced to sue to protect his job.

Today, the Federal Air Marshal program remains riddled with mismanagement, corruption and neglect. In April, FAM Director Robert Bray resigned amid an embarrassing gun scheme probe. And earlier this year, six of 24 air marshal offices closed, and hiring was frozen in Las Vegas, Seattle and Denver. Yet, according to one of my sources, "the last class of air marshals graduated from the academy in 2012. The service has not hired any mission-flying FAMs since. In that same time frame, they have promoted or hired over 300 people, and continue to do so, for supervisory and administrative duties. Almost every supervisory position includes a paid move and a yearly salary of $100,000."

Every 9/11, pundits talk about how "everything changed" after the attacks. But the homeland security bureaucracy is as petty, vindictive, wasteful and stupid as ever.

Michelle Malkin is author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @michellemalkin, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.