In what appears to be an example of the excruciating mistake of sending an email reply to the wrong person, POGO just got an unexpected glance inside the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS).
It all began when Richard Hoskins--a former FAMS Security Assistant whose experience we highlighted in our recent report, Breaking the Sound Barrier: Experiences of Air Marshals Confirm Need for Reform at the OSC--sent FAMS Director Robert Bray an email requesting that Bray work with air marshals who have filed formal and informal complaints against FAMS and who are interested in getting rehired.
Shortly thereafter, Hoskins received an email from FAMS Deputy Director Robert Byers, apparently intended for Bray, in which Byers states his preference to insulate Bray from any contact with federal air marshals. This is troubling, especially since Byers had developed a reputation through his work with former FAMS Director Quinn as a dedicated whistleblower retaliation coordinator.
Realizing his mistake, Byers sort of apologized to Hoskins, but did not address the more disturbing question of why he is providing a filter for Bray, who has publicly spoken out about his efforts to dialogue with air marshals as a way to strengthen FAMS.
“When I accidentally received an email reply from Bob Byers in response to my email to Director Bray the first thought that came to me was 'It is a shame that Senior Management feels the need to insulate the Director from a systemic problem,'" Hoskins told POGO in an email.
Hoskins also identified other problems at FAMS based on Byers's email response: “If the Director is not responsible for providing Strategical and Operational direction for EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] or other personnel matters who is?” He said it is clear that an agency head like Bray has responsibilities for ensuring compliance with EEO. In addition, Hoskins said he is concerned that Bray is taking a different route than former Director Dana Brown, who was recognized for his aggressive efforts to engage and follow through with air marshal concerns.
With similar concerns in mind, P. Jeffrey Black, a federal air marshal from the Las Vegas field office, wrote to POGO in an email: “We were hopeful that Director Bray was sincere in his recent statement to the workforce that he wanted to openly embrace whistleblowers like Mr. Hoskins who root out misconduct and corruption in the agency, but it now appears that is not the case, and its business as usual in the Federal Air Marshal Service.”
Last week, POGO wrote to Bray regarding FAMS's treatment of whistleblowers. We outlined a number of actions that Bray could take to “demonstrate that [he] will protect dissenting voices, thus encouraging air marshals to come forward with crucial information.” We have not yet heard back from Bray, but we are discouraged by what appears to be an effort at FAMS to create a firewall around the Director in order to prevent air marshals from making contact.
-- Ingrid Drake