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ATF Ignored Death Threats, Tried to Frame Whistleblower Agent to Cover Corruption

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Jay Dobyns is a father, husband and 25-year highly respected and highly decorated Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent. He was the first law enforcement agent to ever successfully infiltrate multiple layers of the notoriously dangerous and violent Hells Angels motorcycle gang through "Operation Black Biscuit." He has described the Hells Angels as having their "PhDs in violence," and worked undercover in the gang for two years. Dobyns has dedicated his life to undercover service for ATF and took a bullet through the lung at one point for the agency. Luckily, he survived.

Dobyns has put a number of the nations’ most violent criminals behind bars, which naturally comes with threats from those criminals and their buddies in return. After he finished his work bringing down the Hells Angels, things were no different.

Approximately a year after Operation Black Biscuit concluded beginning in 2004 through 2008, Dobyns and ATF became aware of credible and substantial violent threats against him and his family. Those threats included plans to murder him either with a bullet or by injecting him with the AIDS virus, kidnapping and torturing his then 15-year-old daughter and kidnapping his wife in order to videotape a gang rape of her. Dobyns and ATF also learned contracts were solicited between the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood and the MS-13 gang to carry out these threats.

During Operation Black Biscuit, Dobyns operated as a special field agent under ATF Phoenix Field Office management. At the time of the threats, that management team included Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Phoenix Field Division William Newell, Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Gillett and ATF Deputy Assistant Director William McMahon, who served as Newell’s direct supervisor at the time. All were intimately involved in Operation Fast and Furious. Newell and McMahon have both testified before the House Oversight Committee regarding their roles in the lethal gun trafficking operation that deliberately put over 2,000 high powered weapons into the hands of ruthless Mexican drug cartels and allowed those weapons to be lost south of the border.

These threats were laid out in prison letters and confirmed through FBI and ATF interviews of confidential informants inside the Florence Corrections Facility and the Arlington County Detention Center in Virginia. Also found circulating in the Florence Facility by a prisoner known as the captain of the Aryan Brotherhood named "WHITEY," was an extensive hit list with Jay Dobyns as a top target. Leaders of each gang in the prison had a copy of the list and had been given "permission to kill" persons listed according to ATF documents and interviews. Dobyns’ name, in addition to a detailed description of his appearance, also came up in prison yard talk.

"A confidential source stated that it observed WHITEY go into a box within his cell that contained a large number of letters. The confidential source stated that WHITEY pulled out a plain white envelope from within the box, removing a legal sized piece of paper that was full of names. The confidential source explained that the list was broken down into columns, with names, the affiliation of the person who was named and who had approved the “green light” (given permission to kill the person or who ordered the "hit"). The confidential source stated that while looking at the list he recalled several names on the list that were law enforcement officers (approximately 16 names), specifically stating the name "JAY DOBYNS ATF," a report from an interview conducted by ATF Special Agents Jeffery Grabman and Frank D’Alesio with FBI Special Agent Laura Kidwell present shows.  "WHITEY knew Dobyns had a daughter, stating that if he were to find the daughter he would torture her."

Grabman, D'Alesio and Kidwell verified these threats were credible and management agents in the Washington D.C. ATF office were practically begging the ATF Phoenix Field Office to take the threats seriously and investigate.

Dobyns reported these threats to Special Agent in Charge William Newell, asking for protection for his family. The threats were based in Arizona and Dobyns lived in Arizona at the time. Newell was in charge of investigating and handling all threats made against agents working out of the ATF Phoenix Field Office. The threats were ignored. When Dobyns essentially "blew the whistle" on Newell, pointing out his failures to address violent death threats against a federal agent, he was retaliated against. Newell dismissed the threats and then covered up his blatant dismissal of those threats within the Phoenix Field Office.

Additionally, in response to the ATF/FBI interview, despite all the evidence the death threats were credible, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division John Torres, who like Newell has also been promoted into ATF headquarters, informed Dobyns through an email, "The Chief of Operations Security does not deem the emergency action is required as of this date and time."

Later, a DOJ Inspector General report concluded that management within the ATF Phoenix office, despite having the necessary resources, did not adequately address threats made against Dobyns and found "absence of any corrective measures proposed to address the failure to conduct timely and thorough investigations into the death threats made against Dobyns."

In addition, a U.S. Office of Special Counsel report concluded, "I note with concern the absence of any corrective measures proposed to address the failure to conduct timely and thorough investigations into the death threats made against Special Agent Dobyns. ATF does not appear to have held anyone accountable in this regard. Fully addressing the problems and failures identified in this care requires more than amending ATF policies and procedures. It requires that threats against ATF agents be taken seriously and pursued aggressively and that ATF officials at all level cooperate to ensure the timely and comprehensive investigation of threats leveled against its own agents."

On top of ignoring death threats, recently Dobyns' house was set on fire at 3 a.m. with his wife, son and daughter sleeping inside in a confirmed act of arson. It is suspected members of the Hells Angels, or close associates of the gang carried out the arson in retaliation of Dobyns’ undercover work.







When Dobyns reported the incident to both ATF and Newell. He asked for an investigation into the case. Newell not only refused to investigate, calling the incident "just scorching," but allowed his subordinates, including Gillett, to attempt to frame Dobyns, accusing him of purposely burning down his own home with his family inside, has named him as a suspect and is investigating him. Newell conspired to destroy and fabricate evidence to "prove" his case. Emails, witness testimony, phone conversations and other documentation show the ATF Phoenix Field Divisions’ intentions, led by Newell,  were  to frame Dobyns, yet Newell denied under oath any involvement in this activity. His subordinates Gillett and ATF Tucson Group Supervisor over Operation Wide Receiver Charles Higman, also denied any attempts to frame Dobyns under oath, despite evidence showing otherwise.

The retaliatory actions of Newell, and other ATF management agents, were reported to ATF senior management at the highest levels and were ignored.

ATF is notorious for retaliatory action against field agents, but the Dobyns case brings that retaliation behavior to a new level. Credible death threats, backed by evidence from inside the prison system, the investigation of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Office of the Inspector General in the Bush Justice Department, were ignored by ATF management in the Phoenix Field Division Office and at ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. Evidence of the threats was also sent to Congress and the President of the United States.

“Numerous mid-level ATF managers the senior leadership of three ATF field divisions and the Executive Staff of ATF in Washington D.C., along with ATF's Internal Affairs and the Chief Counsel office were all directly involved in, and responsible for the death threats against me. Unfortunately, mine is not an isolated incident. ATF management's pattern of reckless behavior in this area is institutional. It has been historically tolerated and promoted.” Dobyns wrote in a letter to an attorney in the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in late October 2008.

So why does this matter? Newell was the brainchild of Operation Fast and Furious in the ATF Phoenix Field office. Newell is also the agent who was in regular contact with a member of the White House national security team, Kevin O’Reilly, about the lethal program. Newell also said he would conduct Operation Fast and Furious again, despite two Americans and hundreds of innocent Mexicans dead as a result of the program.

Newell used Dobyns as a test run, to see just how much he could get away with in his management position within ATF before getting reprimanded. Considering nobody was held accountable for the mistakes made in handling death threats against Dobyns, Newell knew he had the green light to do whatever he wanted, at the highest levels of corruption. The Dobyns case empowered him. Newell was protected and defended for ignoring violent death threats against a federal agent, he had free reign to do what he wanted. This gave Newell everything he needed to get away with Operation Fast and Furious, which started in Fall 2009.  

After allowing 2,000 guns to flow freely into the hands of dangerous Mexican cartels, Newell said under oath that he never let guns walk into Mexico, despite massive amounts of evidence, whistleblower testimony and detailed maps proving otherwise. Keep in mind, ATF Operation Fast and Furious whistleblowers like John Dodson, Pete Forcelli and Vince Cefalu have all experienced retaliation for their efforts to expose corruption within ATF.

Since purposely ignoring death threats made against Dobyns, deliberately trafficking thousands of weapons into Mexico and repeatedly lying under oath, William Newell has been promoted to a position within ATF in Washington D.C. William McMahon is no different. He too was promoted and now oversees the ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations or in other words, ATF’s Internal Affairs Division. George Gillett, who orchestrated the frame job against Dobyns was moved out of the ATF Phoenix office following his heavy involvement in Operation Fast and Furious and is now assigned as ATF’s liason to the U.S. Marshall’s Service in Washington D.C.
"ATF wasn’t going to do anything to Bill Newell. They were going to defend and protect him because he was their golden boy," Dobyns tells Townhall. "Why are you protecting this guy? What has he ever done to even deserve your loyalty let alone your protection?"

If ATF had taken steps to hold Newell, Gillett, McMahon and others responsible for their irresponsible actions surrounding the Dobyns case, Fast and Furious wouldn’t have happened, but because ATF openly rewards bad behavior and corruption, Fast and Furious was utterly predictable. ATF executive leadership left these people in place to rule in this agency. They left management in the ATF Phoenix Field Office in place despite documentation showing they were incompetent.

"The agency and the field agents in the agency know those stories and it’s demoralizing across the board because the agents, the people with their boots on the ground are going to say, 'You know what, Jay Dobyns went out there and laid it down for this agency and he’s getting attacked by the agency where a guy like Bill Newell who never left his desk, basically conducted his career with a suit and tie on is being protected.’ Even after all the things that everybody knows he did, he’s still being hidden and defended and protected," Dobyns says.

Throughout the years it has become clear that ATF is more interested in protecting and promoting the corrupt practices of the men who have made careers profiting off of corruption, obstruction of justice and lies, like Newell, rather than rewarding field agents taking out dangerous criminals like ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns, ATF Operation Fast and Furious Whistleblowers John Dodson, Pete Forcelli, Vince Cefalu and others for their bravery and sacrifice to fight violent crime and for exposing corruption within the agency. The bottom line is, ATF as an agency doesn’t care about recommendations or evidence of misconduct, in fact, the agency rewards screw ups on a regular basis.   The Dobyns case could be counted as the most reckless case of retaliation in ATF history, yet nobody has been held accountable for it.

"The identical techniques, tactics, practices and personnel that were used on me were repeated in Fast and Furious. You’ve got a flawed response plan that is not well thought out, both to the gun trafficking in Fast and Furious to the threats against me. You’ve got the same people who are at the tip of the spear in developing the plan to send thousands of weapons to Mexico and ignoring death threats and not realizing when it is failing. Then you’ve got the point when they get called out and caught in their bad acts both in Fast and Furious and my threat response. Then you go into the immediate denial of ‘no we didn’t do that.’ Then, when it starts to be proved, you go into the attack on the person that exposed it, that blew the whistle. They attacked me just like they attacked John Dodson and Pete Forcelli and those guys. Then you go into the cover-up where they are denying the evidence and hiding the evidence of what they did wrong and then you go into the lies under oath that they’re denying and raising their right hand, swearing to tell the truth and willingly and intentionally not telling the truth," Dobyns says.


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