On July 29, 2003, NBC News (MSNBC) Reported TSA Plan To Remove Federal Air Marshals From Long Distan
Two days after the Department of Homeland Security issued a July 26, 2003 al-Qaeda suicidal hijacking warning for cross-Atlantic U.S. flights, MacLean made a disclosure exposing the TSA's cost-cutting plan that would have specifically broken federal law, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107–71), Title 49 of the United States Code Section 44917:
deployment of Federal air marshals on every such flight determined by the Secretary to present high security risks … nonstop, long distance flights, such as those targeted on September 11, 2001, should be a priority
On July 28, 2003, MacLean told an NBC News reporter that every Federal Air Marshal in the U.S. and in his Las Vegas office received an unsecured text message ordering them to cancel their hotel reservations from August 2, 2003 and on. The next day, MSNBC would report that several sources would confirm that every Federal Air Marshal was sent this text message. The TSA sent the unmarked message to unsecured cellular phones as opposed to the password-protected encrypted cellular Smartphone or Personal digital assistant (PDA). The following day, MSNBC would report this:
"My told me overnights for all were being canceled for an indefinite amount of time," said the air marshal, who requested anonymity.
Eleven members of the 108th United States Congress would publicly support MacLean's actions that led to the TSA canceling its plans. Over three years after the fact, the TSA backdated MacLean's 2003 whistleblower disclosure with a TSA-regulated unclassified information marking. The TSA applied its marking and then charged MacLean for violating it after investigating him for appearing in a 2004 September 11, 2001 attacks anniversary national television news special regarding the TSA's failure to protect the identities of Federal Air Marshals. A year before MacLean's July 2003 disclosure, the TSA implemented dress code, airport security checkpoint bypass, and pre-boarding policies which routinely exposed Federal Air Marshal identities.
After a year went by that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) dress code and boarding procedures were routinely exposing the identities of U.S. Federal Air Marshals, and two days after a terrorist suicide hijacking plot was discovered by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies in the summer of 2003, the TSA formulated an operational plan to remove air marshals from nonstop, long distance flights—the type of flight used for the September 11 attacks in 2001. TSA formulated the plan after facing a budget shortfall; the purpose was to cut the costs due to air marshals having to lodge overnight at hotels after a full duty day of long distance missions traveling away from their duty stations. Air marshals would have been absent from nonstop long-distance flights for the two months until the new federal Fiscal Year 2004. Immediately after congressional outrage the day after MacLean's disclosure, the TSA admitted it made "a mistake" and rescinded its plan six days before ever going operational.
Had there been a disclosure after the plan went into effect, it would have taken the TSA and airline bureaucracies weeks to reverse course while nonstop, long distance flights were vulnerable—specifically violating Section 105 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001; and USC Title 49 § 44917 (b).
Read more about this topic: Robert Mac Lean
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