When Congress created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the months following 9/11, it anticipated that a great variety of people and entities, from airlines to ordinary citizens, might report suspicious behavior to the new agency. It also might have had an inkling of the immense power the TSA would end up wielding, and with it, the consequences a false report may have on an unsuspecting traveler.
To strike a balance between that risk and the benefits of people passing on their honest suspicions to the authorities, Congress took its inspiration from defamation law. Filing a false report would be sanctionable, but only if the report was made with malice. Under that standard, a report must be false and the person making it had to know it was false (or show reckless disregard as to whether it was true or not) at the time.
Usually, court deals with the malice portion. Did the false report’s author know it was untrue, or at least made it not caring in the least whether it was true or not? But recently, the Supreme Court dealt with the fact that, indeed, a report first had to be false.
The question came in the form of a recently fired pilot, who accused the airline he had worked for of reporting him to the TSA purely out of spite. But the report, which stated that the pilot had been fired, was upset by it, and was carrying a gun (he had been part of a program using some pilots to assist air marshals), was true as far as that went.
The pilot lost, as the Supremes reiterated that it took both elements to make a claim. First, the report must be false, then it must be made with malice. A truth trumpeted for malicious purposes is no more actionable than an honest mistake. Making a long story short, then, so long as what you tell the TSA is true on the bare facts, your reasons for jabbering do not matter.