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But the bigger issue is whether the decision gives government agencies a powerful way to effectively evade protections that are supposed to be offered whistleblowers by the Whistleblower Protection Act.
The Merit Systems Protection Board ruled Monday that disclosures of information labeled "sensitive security information" cannot be protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act, even if the information was not ruled to be sensitive until long after the whistleblower disclosed it.
Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, a non-profit group that represents whistleblowers, said in his view the MacLean decision means "the Whistleblower Protection Act is dead."
The idea that the information does not even have to be marked "sensitive" at the time of disclosure, Robert MacLean told Papertrail, will create a chilling effect among government employees because they won't know what can be safely disclosed to the press or the public.
In the summer of 2003, MacLean disclosed to the press the Transportation Security Administration's plan to curtail its deployment of air marshals on high-risk flights at a time of heightened terrorist warnings. Several members of Congress expressed outrage, and within days, the TSA rescinded its plan to cut back on coverage.
And in an ironic twist, the board's decision was itself labeled "sensitive security information" and posted on a publicly accessible government website, due to a "computer glitch," the board says.
The board and TSA both told PaperTrail there was really no sensitive information in the document announcing the termination. "I reviewed the decision before the Board posted the document," said TSA's Blair. The board decision was posted in the late afternoon on Monday and taken down early on Tuesday morning, said Bungard, the board's general counsel. "The agency marks documents with the label 'sensitive security information' if there is a possibility it contains SSI," said Bungard. " It does not contain SSI but it should not have been posted," because the label was still on it, he said. It was reposted Tuesday afternoon without the SSI marking.
It may all sound like Alice in Wonderland, but critics say the accidental posting and mislabeling of the termination document illustrates real problems. "The board just demonstrated how arbitrary this marking is and apparently documents that are marked SSI may have no restricted information in them and other documents that are not marked may contained restricted info," said Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy policy at the Federation of American Scientists. "The whole system is completely cockeyed."
Originally posted by Kaytagg
This is way bigger than UFOs, disclosure, invading Iraq, north Korea, the swine flu, SARS, nuclear proliferation, and even Michael Jackson