Friday, May 23, 2008

The Government Hates Whistleblowers & CNN

TSA investigator Greg Neiderer called me today. I don’t know him, and I’ve never spoken with him until today. “Welcome home from Iraq,” he began cordially.

“Thanks. It’s great to be back home,” I replied. It didn’t take long until he told me the reason for calling. The Transportation Security Administration, the giant bureaucratic knee-jerk creation that sprang from the rubble of 9/11 and has multiple problems protecting U.S. aviation assets, was investigating a message I sent from my personal email account, I was told.

I thought of the blogs I wrote and occasionally forwarded about the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). It’s one of the most messed up organizations in the world, and unfortunately, they’re charged with stopping terrorists in U.S. commercial airplanes. I don’t believe they’ll be able to stop any dedicated terrorists – ever – because of the poor management decisions since 9/11.

Mr. Neiderer asked me if I knew who forwarded me an email asking for “current and former air marshals to talk to CNN.” He said I forwarded the email to “a couple of people.” I didn’t even recall that email when he said it. I get so many emails how would I know who sent it to me? Besides, I forwarded something else like that not long ago – a Washington Times reporter wanted to know some information and I forwarded the question to dozens of FAMs. He didn’t say anything about that though.

So now I’m getting investigated for forwarding emails? Holy cow! Talk about a waste of tax payer money, having “federal agents” track down my phone number and my background (he knew I left the FAM Service and just returned from Iraq). Is the government also monitoring my personal emails and phone calls now – all because I support the idea of government whistleblowing when going public would save lives?!

After I asked, Mr. Neiderer said I wasn’t in any trouble. Of course I wouldn’t be either, right? Shoot, I left the defunct Federal Air Marshal Service in 2007, a little before getting called to Iraq. And I have freedom of speech, protected by my First Amendment rights. The TSA investigator said I forwarded the email in March of this year.

I don’t know who forwarded me the email, and I’m pretty sure I deleted it. But if I forwarded the email, Mr. Neiderer should have the email of the person or group that sent it to me. What’s the big deal? Was there some kind of hidden code in that email that jeopardized national security? Was there a virus or worm in the email that would involve the TSA to get involved? Of course not. But apparently, there’s something seriously wrong about someone sending an email asking for people to speak to CNN. I don’t get it.

Here’s what baffles me: Who cares if air marshals speak to CNN or anyone in the media. I don’t think they should give away classified data that will help the enemy, but after my tenure with the air marshals, I’d be willing to talk to anyone to help protect America from another 9/11. I was ready and eager to speak to members of the media while working as a FAM, but I didn’t; I waited. Why? Because I saw what happened to Spencer Pickard. He was retaliated against after he went public to say the things the FAMS managers ignored, that the TSA and FAMS policies were so dangerous and ineffective that American’s weren’t safe. Behind the scenes, Pickard was supported by hundreds of FAMs like me. We were all cheering him on, even though we didn’t know him. We were afraid to speak up because we didn’t feel we had enough whistleblower protection.

There’s one thing for sure: the TSA and the FAM Service should be concentrating more on protecting American’s than trying to usurp anyone’s First Amendment rights! I’m ready to talk to CNN today.

I’m a patriot at heart. I’m eager to protect America and American’s from bad guys. It makes me sick to my stomach that too often we’re our own worst enemy. I know a bunch of bad guys who work for the federal government and every policy they make and every terrible decision they enact must be stopped. Sometimes blowing the whistle in the media is the most courageous and appropriate action.

PS After posting this story, Annie Jacobsen pasted it on

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