WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that an air marshal fired for leaking information about plans that he felt endangered the public could seek protection under a federal law protecting whistleblowers.
The court ruled 7 to 2 that Robert MacLean did not technically violate the law when he leaked to a reporter that the Transportation Security Administration planned to cut back on overnight trips for undercover marshals.
The news caused an uproar in Congress, and the plans were quickly scuttled.
MacLean was fired years later when it was discovered he was the source of the information.
While Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority that the Merit Systems Protection Board was wrong to say MacLean was not protected by whistleblower protection statutes, he also said it would be easy for the government to remedy that in future cases.
Roberts said the government had legitimate concerns that finding for MacLean ‘‘would make the confidentiality of sensitive security information depend on the idiosyncratic judgment of each of the TSA’s 60,000 employees.’’