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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Releases Report on Air Marshal Problems with the OSC

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November 25, 2008

Today the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is releasing a report, Breaking the Sound Barrier: Experiences of Air Marshals Confirm Need for Reform at the OSC, recommending to the incoming Administration a major overhaul of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). 

This investigative report seeks not only to set the record straight on former Special Counsel Bloch’s actual accomplishments, but also to provide lessons learned for the next Special Counsel. As a case study, POGO focused on the OSC’s handling of federal air marshal cases for two reasons: President Bush has pointed to the critical role in homeland security played by air marshals, and Bloch himself has touted his work with air marshals as evidence of the success of his tenure. POGO decided to investigate.

In addition to POGO’s recommended reforms of the OSC, POGO is also calling upon the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) to foster an organizational culture where employees are not only encouraged by management to express safety concerns, but in which they are protected when they do so.

“As many of us travel for Thanksgiving, we should remember the federal air marshals upon whom we are relying to keep us safe. We have not kept up our end of the bargain. When they blew the whistle on misconduct, there was no one keeping them safe from retaliation. Air marshals deserve a system that both listens to their concerns and protects them, the way they are protecting us,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, POGO.

Despite contacting almost a dozen current and former air marshals who blew the whistle, POGO could not identify one instance where the OSC upheld its responsibility to provide a secure whistleblower disclosure channel for the resolution of workplace improprieties, to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, and to hold accountable those responsible for whistleblower retaliation.

“The POGO report describes in great detail what actually happens to federal air marshals when they do come forward to root out misconduct and criminal behavior –– they are retaliated against, and in most cases terminated,” said P. Jeffrey Black, a federal air marshal from the Las Vegas office. 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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