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ATF tries to block whistleblowing agent’s Fast and Furious book
1st Amendment battle over ‘gun-walking’ expose
Question of the Day
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is blocking the main whistleblower in the Fast and Furious case from publishing a book, claiming his retelling of the Mexico “gun-walking” scandal will hurt morale inside the embattled law enforcement agency, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.
ATF’s dispute with Special Agent John Dodson is setting up a First Amendment showdown that is poised to bring together liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and conservatives in Congress who have championed Mr. Dodson’s protection as a whistleblower.
The ACLU is slated to become involved in the case Monday, informing ATF it is representing Mr. Dodson and filing a formal protest to the decision to reject his request to publish the already written book, sources told The Times, speaking only on the condition of anonymity.
The battle also could have repercussions on Capitol Hill, where the two lead investigators who helped uncover the Fast and Furious scandal, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, Calif. Republican, had written a foreword to the book, the sources said.
ATF officials declined Sunday night to discuss Mr. Dodson’s specific matter, citing personnel privacy. But the officials said it was possible for an agent to be rejected for publishing a book for pay but get permission to publish it for free. No manuscript for any Fast and Furious book has received approval for unpaid publication, however, the officials said.
A source famiiiar with Mr. Dodson’s book request told the Times that ATF officials never inquired whether he was seeking to publish the book for pay or free, and that the rejection came only after his superiors in Washington and Arizona asked to read the manuscript.
Mr. Dodson was the first ATF special agent to go public in 2011 with allegations that his supervisors had authorized the flow of semi-automatic weapons into Mexico instead of interdicting them, touching off a scandal that toppled most of the top leadership of ATF in Washington and Phoenix. The controversy also led to angry recriminations in Mexico, which dealt with a wave of violent crime linked to the weapons, and high-profile congressional hearings that embarrassed the Obama administration.
Mr. Dodson began penning a book late last year about his role as the central whistleblower in the case and in June sought formal permission for outside employment that would allow him to engage a publisher and publish the book. He gave a copy of the manuscript to Washington superiors in late May and to his immediate superiors in Arizona in July.
Documents show that one of Mr. Dodson’s supervisors in Arizona, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Carlos Canino, rejected his request July 19 and was backed in the decision by the agent in charge of the office, Thomas G. Atteberry, four days later.
Their rejection made no claims that the book would release sensitive or classified information or compromise ongoing law enforcement proceedings.
Rather, the supervisors offered a different reason for their decision. “This would have a negative impact on morale in the Phoenix [Field Division] and would have a detrimental effect on our relationships with DEA and FBI.”
The ATF general counsel’s office subsequently sanctioned the decision, all but killing the book project.
“An employee’s supervisory chain may disapprove any outside employment request for any reason, at any supervisory level,” ATF attorney Greg Serres wrote Mr. Dodson on Aug. 29, underlining the word “any” for emphasis. “The Office of Chief Counsel cannot approve outside employment requests in lieu of the supervisory chain’s disapproval.
“Therefore, your request to engage in outside employment is denied,” he said.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
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