Earlier this week as part of his 23 executive actions on gun control, President Obama nominated ATF Acting Director Todd B. Jones for a permanent position as ATF Director. Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa is expressing concerns over Jones' nomination due to his involvement and failure of leadership in the fallout of the Fast and Furious scandal.
"Acting Director Jones was at the helm of ATF as many troubling problems from the fallout of Operation Fast and Furious festered,” said Issa. “His specific decisions on a number of Fast and Furious related issues raise concerns about his judgment and ability to lead the agency. While I continue to believe that ATF needs to have a Senate confirmed Director, President Obama has a responsibility to find a nominee who can win confirmation and is not saddled by a string of bad decisions related to the agency’s greatest recent failure," Issa said in a statement. “Jones was first brought into the job of ATF Acting Director in the middle of the Fast and Furious scandal after Justice Department officials had falsely denied reckless conduct and allegations by his predecessor that there was an effort underway to shield the Department’s senior political appointees from the scandal. Because of the numerous ATF mistakes during his tenure as Acting Director pertaining to Fast and Furious, his nomination is a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons, and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support.”
Jones is notorious within ATF for retaliating against Fast and Furious whistleblowers. In July 2012, Jones warned ATF agents not to "jump their chain of command" and said if they did there would be "consequences." Issa sent Jones a letter the same month, warning about retaliation.
"ATF has earned a reputation for vindictiveness when it comes to retaliating against its employees. Unfortunately, despite prior assurances from senior ATF officials, it appears that Acting Director B. Todd Jones has yet to change this reputation, as he recently upbraided Special Agent John Dodson in a private meeting at ATF headquarters. These apparent attempts to silence critics of the Bureau are potentially illegal and certainly counterproductive.(2) As I have previously stressed, direct communications with Congress are both vitally important and protected by law," Issa wrote.
Jones was also in charge when embattled ATF supervisor Bill McMahon was receiving paid leave from the Bureau while accepting a six figure salary at J.P. Morgan, the bank that controls ATF credit cards.
Members of the anonymous whistleblower website CleanUpATF.org, where the Fast and Furious scandal was first discussed, aren't exactly happy with the Jones appointment and say he has no intention of rebuilding ATF's credibility or renewing the bureau's commitment to agents. He's known as a bureaucrat, not as a top law enforcement officer.
Jones has been accused in the past of rushing to hush up further questions about Fast and Furious and has done nothing to clarify the details of the operation to Congress.
"Mr. Jones, is that the "Bernie Madoff" resolution? Hey whats happened has happened, get over it!!!! Do you really think for a minute sir, that we will ever accept the carnage you and yours have created without being compensated? Wake up, because this CAN and will get worse. OUR BUREAU," one whistleblower known as "Iceman" wrote on the site back in April 2012.
President Obama's previous nominee for ATF Director, Andrew Traver, was never confirmed due to serious questions about his anti-Second Amendment agenda.
ATF hasn't yet rebuilt its credibility with agents inside the bureau after Operation Fast and Furious, not to mention with the American people who are highly skeptical of the agency taking on more gun control power to fulfill Obama's executive orders as many questions about the operation remain unanswered.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder is asking the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to "indefinitely delay" a Fast and Furious document request made by Judicial Watch. The fight over President Obama's assertion of executive privilege on Fast and Furious documents to protect Holder is ongoing in court in addition to the contempt of Congress lawsuit against Holder from the House Oversight Committee.
Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a brief on January 15, 2013, in response to an Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) motion to indefinitely delay consideration of Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking access to Operation Fast and Furious records withheld from Congress by President Obama under executive privilege on June 20, 2012 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)).
Rather than respond substantively to Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit, the DOJ argued in court that the lawsuit should be subject to a stay of proceedings because it is “ancillary” to a separate lawsuit filed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee against the DOJ. The Court “should let the process of negotiation and accommodation [between the House Committee and the DOJ] run its course, and then decide with the input of the parties whether and how this action may appropriately proceed at that time,” the DOJ argued, effectively abrogating the FOIA. The Obama DOJ even suggested that the Judicial Watch litigation might encourage the Congress to fight harder to get the same documents in separate litigation.
Judicial Watch counters that FOIA demands a response and that its lawsuit is straight forward than the House lawsuit and ripe for consideration on its merits. A decision on the House Committee lawsuit, meanwhile, could be delayed for months, if not years:
This notion that [Judicial Watch’s] lawsuit is in some way inferior [to the House lawsuit] is simply incorrect. [Judicial Watch] has as much of a right under the law as the House Committee to seek access to records of Defendant. In fact, since Defendant does not challenge [Judicial Watch’s] claim on jurisdictional grounds, it could be reasonably argued that [Judicial Watch’s] right is greater – it is certainly clearer and simpler – than that of the House Committee…Whereas [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA lawsuit is ripe for adjudication on the merits, the House Committee suit could be months, if not years, away from reaching the same stage.
Final thought: Historically, law enforcement agencies only succeed and carry out their true mission when they remain apolitical. President Obama is about to make ATF agents and their supervisors his anti-Second Amendment hatchet men, which is not their job.