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EDITORIAL: The Obama enemies list

A whistleblower pays for exposing an abuse of power

The Obama administration has an enemies list, and John Dodson was on it. The special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) infuriated his superiors by alerting Congress and everyone else about the government's gunrunning scheme called Fast and Furious. He had to pay for his act of good citizenship.

The Justice Department's inspector general concluded Monday that a high-ranking political appointee destroyed Mr. Dodson's credibility and ruined a career. The Justice Department scheme, to allow criminals and gangbangers to purchase guns in the United States and slip them across the border to the Mexican drug cartels to track the movement of illegal guns, was weird and nutty from the beginning. The death of a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, who was killed with one of the 2,000 guns "walked" to the gangbangers, moved Mr. Dodson to blow the whistle.

Dennis K. Burke, who was then the U.S. attorney in Arizona, was not so moved. He was appointed by President Obama to the satisfaction of his close friends Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano. He set out to salvage what he could of the administration's reputation. He suggested that Mr. Dodson had once, in the planning of the scheme, backed Fast and Furious and only later criticized it to a television interviewer and before Congress. The U.S. attorney arranged to have someone secretly hand-deliver to a Fox News reporter an earlier "Dodson memo" about gunrunning. He faxed a similar confidential memo to The New York Times.

Mr. Burke admits to his selective leaking, but evades giving a satisfactory reason why he did it. "Burke denied to congressional investigators that he had any retaliatory motive for his actions," the inspector general reported. "We found substantial evidence to the contrary." Given the timing of the disclosures, it's impossible to believe that his motive could have been anything other than punishing a man who dared cross the Obama administration.

Justice Department policies forbid such document leaking, and the inspector general's report declared the U.S. attorney was "not credible" when he claimed his actions were aboveboard. The inspector general found the "misconduct to be particularly egregious because of [Mr.] Burke's apparent effort to undermine the credibility of [Mr.] Dodson's significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious."

When he first ran for president in 2008, Mr. Obama praised whistleblowing as "acts of courage and patriotism" that "should be encouraged, rather than stifled, as they have been during the Bush administration." He pledged to "strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud and abuse of authority in government."

Mr. Obama has forgotten that promise. His appointees have been caught misusing the powers of the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and the Justice Department to silence employees who risk their careers to come forward, and the abusers have not been brought to account.

The guilty U.S. attorney was allowed to step down in August 2011 to fawning praise from the attorney general, who said he had an "unwavering commitment" to justice. Alas, the "unwavering commitment" was only to Barack Obama. Mr. Burke now faces the possibility of ethical sanctions from the Arizona bar.

Mr. Holder has been held in criminal contempt of Congress for his role in the Fast and Furious scandal, but he continues with business as usual. Those who abuse the power and authority of the government deserve more than a light tap on the wrist and a generous lifetime pension. If Mr. Obama won't live up to his promise to protect whistleblowers, Congress must strengthen the law to impose real penalties.

The Washington Times

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