The Obama administration recently made a similar argument about textual interpretation and the public good in the case of Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean. At issue there was whether the 2002 Homeland Security Act should be read to offer legal protections to a fired TSA whistleblower named Robert J. MacLean. According to the Obama administration, the act should not be so read. Ruling in the whistleblower’s favor, the Obama administration warned, would “gravely endanger public safety” and thereby undermine the larger purposes of the Homeland Security Act.
But the Supreme Court did not buy it. The government’s public safety concerns “are legitimate,” conceded Chief Justice John Roberts in his 7-2 majority opinion. “But they are concerns that must be addressed by Congress or the President, rather than by this Court.” As Roberts explained, “Although Congress and the President each has the power to address the Government’s concerns, nether has done so. It is not our role to do so for them.”