Carla Martin is Still in Trouble

You probably don't remember Carla Martin. Heck, you probably don't even remember Zacarias Moussaoui now that he has been relegated to history's garbage can (aka the "Supermax" federal prison in Florence Colorado). For those of you whose attention has drifted elsewhere, Martin is the hapless federal aviation attorney who this spring almost derailed the prosecution of Moussaoui, the Al Qaeda conspirator, when she improperly tipped off prosecution witnesses to in-court testimony by providing them with transcripts they weren't supposed to see. Thanks to a good piece today by the Post's Jerry Markon we now know that Martin is still in deep trouble for her transgression-- and that she's apparently not holding up well.

Citing Martin's mother, Markon reports that: "The woman at the center of the storm is emotionally distraught, crying when she talks about the criminal investigation and feeling like a prisoner in her own apartment, Martin's mother said last week. 'She's not doing very well. It's terrible, devastating for her,' said Jean Martin Lay, who believes that her daughter did nothing wrong. 'She doesn't do much of anything but stay at home, as far as I know.'" I don't blame her. According to the Post, all sorts of federal investigators and prosecutors-- not to mention Pennsylvania's lawyer discipline board-- still are circling around Martin trying to determine whether and to what extent she ought to be punished.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema called Martin's conduct "egregious." It certainly was unforgivable. And while it is easy to feel sympathy for someone whose professional life probably was ruined in a few moments of stupidity, the nation's doghouses (not to mention its prisons) are filled with people who have made similar serious errors of judgment. Whatever Martin's motivations may have been, you just can't have federal attorneys cheating the way she did to help prosecutors in their capital case agianst Moussaoui.

We've seen plenty of high-profile folks lately (hello there, Martha Stewart) used as "examples" for federal prosecutors who want the rest of us to know they are serious about this crime or that crime. My guess is that the feds will move soon on Martin and, if they don't, that Judge Brinkema or the folks in Pennsylvania will. And when that happens she will again become a symbol, a teaching tool, if you will, of how not to behave when you work for the government and under a gag order.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 10, 2006; 4:30 PM ET
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The real question is whether Carla Martin was acting alone or whether her actions reflect a commitment by TSA leadership to protect the airlines, at all costs, in the 9/11 civil suit on-going in Judge Hellerstein's court in New York. Martin had a supervisor - Francine Kerner, the TSA's Chief Counsel. Did she know of, approve and condone Carla Martin's actions or was she just a poor supervisor who couldn't control a loose cannon? Will the TSA try to sacrifice Carla Martin at the expense of having its real agenda exposed? Will the TSA continue to be allowed to use the Sensitive Security Information designator as a shield to cloak FAA, airline, screening company and port authority negligence and incopmpetence? The TSA, in response to Judge Brinkema's ruling that information provided to Moussaoui's defense team should properly be provided to the attorneys representing the victims' families, has responded by appealing that decision, successfully tieing it up in court for years to come. How long will the TSA continue to be allowed to abridge the legitimate discovery rights of the victims' families and the Ameriucan people? The answer is forever, unless the language of Section 525, of HR 5441, is incorporated into the appropriations bill for Homeland Security. Only then will the proper controls and oversight of the TSA be provided and will they no longer be able to abuse the authority provided by Congress to use SSI in the inetersts of national security, as versus a tool to undermine legitimate discovery and transparancy for the American people, regarding the events of 9/11.

Posted by: Brian Sullivan (FAA Spec Agent Retired) | July 11, 2006 11:28 AM

Mr. Sullivan's above comment hits the nail, and the as still unanswered question, right on the head. However, the net covering the scope of examination here needs to be cast much wider than just TSA Chief Counsel Francine Kerner.

Indeed, there were several layers of authority between Ms. Martin (who will likely be the sacrificial lamb here) and Chief Counsel Francine Kerner. Ergo, where were Ms. Martin's more direct supervisors during the makings of this fiasco? Was Ms. Martin acting under their directions or was she simply a low level attorney who had gone off the reservation?

Regardless, one thing is for sure. And that is the stranglehold with which TSA's Office of Chief Counsel "supervisor's" control their underlings. In 15 years of Federal government practice, this poster had never seen a level of micro-management such as was the order of the day in Ms. Kerner's office. Thus, it is difficult to believe that Ms. Martin was operating "wholly under the radar."

And, if it was in fact the case that Ms. Martin escaped the oversight of her supervisor's such that her current troubles were allowed to occur in the first place, what were said supervisor's "busy" doing
instead of overseeing Ms. Martin's actions in the SOLE prosecution arising out of the 9/11 horrors? Were they more involved with beating up on hapless, but hard-working and successful, underlings for misplaced commas and semi-colons, rather than keeping tighter reigns on Ms. Martin? Or was Ms. Martin operating with their blessings and knowledge?

Whatever the case, a top to bottom investigation, and resulting cleaning out of TSA's Office of Chief Counsel, is appropriate under the circumstances. At a minimum, Ms. Kerner and her entire league of managers need to be sent packing.

Posted by: H.A. (former TSA attorney) | July 11, 2006 05:35 PM

Two things about this article and event are extremely surprising.

First Surprise: The comment that Ms. Martin will be prosecuted to serve as an "example... of how not to behave when you work for the government..." This comment leads the reader to infer that the author thinks Ms. Martin is being persecuted rather than prosecuted. If so, it is EXACTLY this type of "thinking" and comment that leads to the gross misfeasance and criminal activities pandemic across most top management in the federal government. Ms. Martin is guilty of witness tampering/influencing. This is ILLEGAL. She is a lawyer; she knows this. If there is any "example-making" intended by the federal prosecutors here, it is simply that "thou shalt not get caught" instead of "thou shalt not break the law."

Second Surprise: that ANYBODY who has worked for faa or tsa would be at all surprised by Ms. Martin's behavior. Her behavior is the norm, the accepted behavior, the expected behavior, and is rewarded in upper faa/tsa management ... as long as you avoid public scrutiny of the behavior. The tsa does what it wants, not what the law demands. Note the associated issue in the Moussaoui case dealing with the release of Sensitive Security Information (SSI). TWO federal judges long ago ordered tsa to release the same information to the 9/11 families that it released to the Moussaoui defense. Yet tsa continues to ignore these orders. Why? Because they can - in an effort to hide the criminal behavior. That SSI information came from my era in faa and it is no longer sensitive from a security perspective, only a CYA perspective.

It is FACT; it is DOCUMENTED that those in faa/tsa who took the oath of office to protect and defend this Country have REPEATEDLY violated and betrayed that oath -- putting the public at needless risk. I have had many opportunities, by working with the National Media and their local affiliates for several years, to prove that tsa (like the faa before) is an expensive hoax which weakens rather than improves aviation security. The GAO recently proved this once again with its bomb testing (multiple tests) at 21 airports in which it tried to get caught; it couldn't. Despite the billions spent, tsa failed 100%. WHY all the failures? Why the action of Ms. Martin? Plain and Simply -- NO ACCOUNTABILITY, NO REMEDIES.

The managers in the DoT (SecDot Norman Minetta/IG ken Mead) and faa (Administrator Jane Garvey, former faa Security Administrator Cathal Flynn) ALL knew the vulnerabilities and the threats to civil aviation in pre 9/11 days. They ignored the information and their oaths in favor of airline profitability and political contributions; Americans died needlessly as a result. This is DOCUMENTED in the White Paper, "9/11, Yes There is a Smoking Gun." Yet all these people and their subordinate managers have flourished, been rewarded, and been promoted. When one is rewarded and lauded for a particular behavior (honorable or dishonorable) there is no incentive to change. Ms. Martin was a part of that faa hierarchy which was rewarded for aberrant, oath-violating behavior. So why should she change in the tsa? Same people of the same ilk. Ms. Martin did what she has always done, what was expected of her. Thus her consternation at being "persecuted" for performing duties as she always has, which were expected of her, and for which she has been rewarded. The remedy (which ISN'T going to happen): ACCOUNTABILITY with resultant culture change.

Steve Elson, Former faa Red Team Member/Security Special Agent

Posted by: STEVE ELSON former faa Special Agent | July 12, 2006 10:08 AM

Taking slight exception with the above comments of Special Agent Elson...the pervasive environment of TSA's Office of Chief Counsel under the "command" of Chief Counsel Francine Kerner was one of cronyism, favoritism and, at a minimum, "questionable" standard operating procedures.

Whether or not Ms. Martin "knew" what she was doing was wrong, the larger question remains as to whether she was being actively directed from on high to do what she did. Because this poster's experience working in TSA's Office of Chief Counsel was that you couldn't scratch your rear-end without one of Ms. Kerner's hench(wo)men either giving his or her approval or, more likely, telling you that you were scratching the wrong cheek.

In TSA's Office of Chief Counsel, normal hiring procedures were thrown out the window, people with no relevant experience were hired from the outside over insiders possessing years of relevant experience, sons and daughters of friends were readily hired over more qualified individuals, discrimination of all types runs rampant, and those who don't tow the party line are railroaded out the door.

TSA's Office of Chief Counsel is truly a Kafkaesque "bizarro" world. If the media would do a little poking around, it would find that the problems run far deeper than just the Carla Martin fiasco -- and it is this poster's contention that Ms. Martin will be the sacrificial lamb while the rest of Chief Counsel Kerner's yes-(wo)men come out of this event smelling like roses.

Posted by: H.A. (former TSA attorney) | July 12, 2006 10:26 AM

Dear Mr. Cohen:

It is truely sad that you have nothing more newsworthy to write about than the woes of this poor woman. No doubt, she made a terrible mistake, and no doubt she will pay dearly for it, but her heart was (presumably) in the right place. She wasn't (and isn't) an evil person who sought to profit personally, she just made a mistake. Lots of people make mistakes, and mistakes far more serious than the one she made. But she is an easy target, and you jumped. In the world of government official's mistakes, she's less than small potatoes, but you couldn't resist the easy prey. If anyone is an evil person here, it's you, as you are seeking to profit at her expense.

James S. Dillman

Posted by: James S. Dillman | August 27, 2006 08:24 PM

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