- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles is seeking a restraining order against the Department of Homeland Security to stop it from blocking the free speech of Federal Air Marshal Service agents.

ACLU spokeswoman Elizabeth Brennan said newly written Homeland Security Department restrictions against what the agents can say about management policies overly restrict free speech and likely jeopardize public safety.

Ms. Brennan said the rules could prohibit Frank Terreri, president of the 1,400-member air marshals unit of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), from commenting publicly on a pending report by the House Judiciary Committee on Federal Air Marshal Service management, despite his “prominent role as an informed critic” of the agency.

Mr. Terreri was suspended in 2004 for six months after the air marshals unit at FLEOA voted “no confidence” in the agency’s director, Thomas D. Quinn, and called for his resignation. Mr. Terreri, who has frequently criticized the Federal Air Marshal Service management, was reinstated one day after the ACLU filed a lawsuit on his behalf accusing the agency of violating his constitutional right to free speech.

ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg Tuesday asked a federal court for the order in advance of the release of the Judiciary Committee’s report on its investigation into accusations of mismanagement by administrators at the Federal Air Marshal Service.

“The new policy does nothing to ease the chilling effect on whistleblowers’ speech,” Mr. Eliasberg said. “The policy is still unconstitutional and leaves air marshals in the untenable position of not knowing whether they have First Amendment rights to participate in public discussion that could improve the safety of the airline industry.”

Air marshal service employees have noted a pattern of disciplinary action for criticizing their agency and said Mr. Terreri was suspended in retaliation for his activities. Agency spokesman Dave Adams denied that accusation and said the lawsuit had no bearing on Mr. Terreri’s reinstatement.

Mr. Terreri has criticized the Federal Air Marshal Service management for allowing national TV networks and magazines to view and report secret methods and operations, which Mr. Terreri said put the undercover marshals at risk.

John Adler, FLEOA national first vice president, said the union thought Mr. Terreri’s suspension was “the direct result of Frank being outspoken.” He said Mr. Quinn was exploiting agency policies by “expeditiously referring anyone with a different opinion … for investigation.”

The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility reportedly is investigating about a dozen air marshals who have questioned policy.

Ms. Brennan said Mr. Terreri’s complaints have targeted what he has called “Director Quinn’s inability to properly run the law-enforcement organization charged with protecting the flying public.” She said Mr. Quinn has initiated four investigations of Mr. Terreri, two after the initial lawsuit was filed.

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