The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allegedly covered up supervisor misconduct and targeted the whistleblowers who attempted to expose the behavior, according to current and former federal air marshals.
The air marshals claim TSA management repeatedly misused an agency-specific classification known as Sensitive Security Information (SSI), which keeps non-classified information secret from the public because the agency believes that information could jeopardize transportation security, reported the National Review.
TSA officials even used the classification on fictitious information, the marshals allege.
One current air marshal said the TSA repeatedly attempted to silence any of its employees who sought to expose the misconduct.
"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," the marshal told the National Review under the condition of anonymity. "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 TSA fired one of its former air marshals, Jose Job Lacson, when he exposed superiors for reportedly violating federal travel regulations by using an internal policy to determine how much mileage they were allowed to expense while traveling for business.
Lacson posted information on an internet forum referencing the attrition rate and the number of air marshals that the TSA planned to hire, and the TSA considered that information SSI. Lacson says he made up the information, but was still fired in 2011.
"They (management) didn't want anybody knowing the stupid s*** that they were doing, the illegal s*** that they were doing, so they would silence them (whistle blowers) by getting rid of them, and that's what Jay (Lacson) ended up becoming," the anonymous marshal told the National Review. "The way they beat the little guy, whether it's a flying air marshal or it's a staff member, is by depleting you emotionally and/or financially because they're Big Government. They got all the time in the world. They got all the resources in the world."
In May 2014, the TSA was found to have been designating material SSI without first consulting with its own SSI office or without getting approval of TSA administration, noted the National Review.
Supervisors exerted "extreme pressure" on agents to classify embarrassing information, Andrew Colsky, former SSI office director, told a House Oversight Committee in 2014.