TSA abuses 'secret' designation to hide misconduct by managers

The Transportation Security Administration routinely uses a security designation to hide misconduct from the public, say a group of air marshals.

National Review:

Current and former federal air marshals allege that the Transportation Security Administration intentionally hid embarrassing  information about supervisors’ misconduct and targeted employees who sought to expose the truth.

The allegations revolve around TSA management’s overuse of an agency-specific designation called Sensitive Security Information (SSI). Though it is not classified, information deemed SSI is supposed to be kept from the public because it would harm transportation security. The marshals claim that the TSA has repeatedly abused the SSI classification, even going so far as to use it on fictitious information, in an effort to keep the public in the dark.

One current federal air marshal, whose name has been withheld for fear of retaliation, asserts that the TSA has repeatedly sought to silence its employees.

“When it comes to the Air Marshal Service and TSA, when they are determined to f*** you, they are going to f***ing do everything in their power to make you out to be the bad guy, and they will twist every single word that they can to reflect their position [rather] than the truth,” says the marshal. “They want you to shut up, get on the plane, and sit down. They don’t want to fix any of the problems that exist.”

The marshal is not alone in making such allegations. In 2011, the TSA fired former federal air marshal Jose Job Lacson, who goes by the name “Jay.” Officially, Lacson was terminated for releasing SSI material online, despite his assertion that he made up the material in question. But he believes the TSA actually sought to punish him for blowing the whistle on his bosses.

In December 2009, Lacson claims, he exposed his superiors in the Miami field office for violating federal travel regulations. Lacson spoke up after noticing that higher-ups in the Miami office were using an internal policy dictating how much mileage federal employees were allowed to expense while traveling on official business, in clear violation of federal rules. Lacson says the TSA changed its unwritten policy in light of his inquiries, but management officials proceeded to retaliate against him anyway.

I recall when Congress was debating the creation of TSA, Republicans opposed the unionization of the agency, and preferred that airport security be a mix of public and private employees. I don't know if it would have worked out any better, but the TSA is a joke. It's primary mission of protecting the air travelling public is oftentimes neglected as a result of bureaucratic snafus and games. These latest allegations show that there is real danger from the agency hiding from the public - and Congress - information that would improve security.

When federal employees are more concerned about protecting their behinds than performing their jobs, we're all losers.