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ATF Whistleblower Blocked From Writing Tell-All

In 2011, John Dodson blew the whistle on a gun operation gone wrong within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The mission, known as “Fast and Furious,” ended with a federal agent being killed with a weapon the ATF had been tracking and purposely allowed on the street.

Two years later, Dodson is still working at the ATF, and the bureau is preventing him from publishing a book about the “Fast and Furious” incident, saying it will hurt the organization’s morale.

In a Washington Post article, Sari Horowitz quotes The American Civil Liberties Union, who is coming to Dodson’s defense.

“It was Agent Dodson’s disclosures that helped bring the operational failures at the Phoenix field division to light,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon. “As a knowledgeable and informed ‘insider’ who was directly involved in Operation Fast and Furious, Agent Dodson will add significantly to the national conversation about gun policy.”

Up for question is whether or not Dodson should be allowed to add to that conversation while he is working as a federal agent. According to a law-enforcement official, a government-wide ban prevents employees from being paid by “any source other than the government for teaching, speaking or writing that relates to the employee’s official duties.”

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has supported Dodson since he first became a whistleblower. He, along with Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), wrote the book’s foreword. From the Washington Post story:

“This isn’t the first time somebody from the ATF or another government agency has written a book,” Grassley said. “Just because the ATF leadership doesn’t like the content of the book doesn’t mean they should be able to prevent the author from giving his side of the story.”

In another well-known case of an author writing against his agency’s wishes, former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette told the story of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. His memoir, “No Easy Day,” led to Bissonnette being shunned by his coworkers and threatened with retaliatory legal action.

The ATF, though, may be particularly prone to scandal. Dodson’s revelations could provide valuable info on the inner-workings of the agency. Recently, the Project On Government Oversight wrote about an inspector general investigation that revealed the ATF misplaced 2.1 million cigarettes (worth a whopping $127 million) during an undercover mission gone awry.

By: Avery Kleinman
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

Avery Kleinman At the time of publication Avery Kleinman was the Beth Daley Impact Fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Authors: Avery Kleinman

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