In a recent letter, the agency informed air marshal whistleblower Frank Terreri that it had referred his complaint for investigation based on the "substantial likelihood" his allegation that the Federal Air Marshal Service Management had "failed to fully protect the anonymity of air marshals" is well-founded.
"This is the bureaucratic 'Good Housekeeping' seal of approval for whistleblower allegations," said Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group that represents Terreri and other whistleblowers. "It sets-up a structure for serious follow-up of these allegations and can be a springboard for real change."
The Office of Special Counsel is an independent agency authorized to review federal employee allegations of illegality, misconduct and abuse. Devine says that in recent years it has rarely backed high-profile allegations like Terreri's, despite the fact that it receives nearly a thousand complaints a year.
In May, ABC News reports aired on 20/20 and posted on the ABCNews.com Blotter were the first to reveal the flawed policies that Terreri and other air marshals say compromise their ability to work undercover.
Terreri had spent three years trying to get air marshal management to address his concerns about those policies with no success. Instead, he says his bosses retaliated against him and launched four separate investigations.
Terreri says he believes ABC News' investigation and the subsequent release of a House Judiciary Committee report forced air marshal management to acknowledge the discontent within its ranks and conduct a massive review of its policies.
"I don't know if all this would have happened otherwise," said Terreri. He now hopes his bosses will move quickly to make changes that he says are much-needed to ensure the integrity of aviation security and protect the American public.