The head of a group of Federal Air Marshals says the service is badly broken.
"Right now we cannot protect the public," says Frank Terreri, an active duty air marshal who represents a group of 1,500 air marshals. "And not because we're not proficient, not that we're not capable, it's because federal air marshal management, along with the Department of Homeland Security, won't let us do our jobs."
Terreri says air marshals are not able to work undercover because check-in and boarding procedures at airports make it impossible for air marshals to maintain their anonymity:
"We're supposed to be undercover. But basically when everybody knows who you are, you're just the guys on the plane with the gun. Either they're gonna avoid you or overcome you, you're at a severe disadvantage."
Terreri has spent three years trying to get the air marshals management to address these issues with no response. Instead he says they've retaliated against him, with four separate investigations, including one for misuse of his business card.
"The items that he was being accused of were so surreal that they were obviously intending to terrorize the other air marshals into silence," says Tom Devine, an attorney with the Government Accountability Project. The project has petitioned the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to open an investigation into Terreri's allegations.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to release a critical investigation of the air marshal service next week. Committee Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner says the air marshals lack of anonymity violates federal law. He hopes the Federal Air Marshal Service Agency will "at least be a little bit more compliant with the law and whistleblowers, rather than trying to shut them up," citing the case of Frank Terreri as one of several examples.
In an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed last year, Terreri challenged policies prohibiting air marshals from speaking publicly about their jobs or the agency. The Federal Air Marshal service agreed to change those policies in settlement reached last month.
Department of Homeland Security officials declined to be interviewed or provide comment to ABC News regarding the Federal Air Marshal service which will be the subject of an upcoming ABC News special report to air Friday on ABC's World News Tonight and 20 / 20.
ABC News' Avni Patel contributed to this report.