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Payback: Holder’s DOJ Refuses to Close Whistleblower’s Retaliation Case

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

Today marks the four year anniversary of when ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns’ house was burned to the ground. The blaze was set to his home while his wife and children were sleeping inside at 3 a.m. As a refresher, Dobyns is a 25-year ATF veteran and worked undercover in the Hells Angels gang for two years in what was known as “Operation Black Biscuit.” When he got out after putting dozens of the Angels in prison, members of the gang in coordination with hard criminals in prisons around the country, issued death threats against him and his family. These criminals and their associates are suspected to be responsible for the arson of Dobyns’ home. Four years later, ATF still hasn’t held a single person accountable within the agency for failing to address threats against his family and hasn’t solved the arson of his home.

As a refresher:


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.

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.

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.

When Dobyns reported the incident of his house being burned down 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.

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."

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.  


In the past two years, Dobyns has played an important public role of exposing the ongoing corruption within ATF that led to Operation Fast and Furious. The same ATF officials in charge of the lethal program and held responsible in a 200-page congressional report issued last week, were the same ATF officials who refused to protect Dobyns and the same officials who tried to frame him for the arson of his home. None of them have been fired. The corrupt behavior of these supervisors was described by former Acting Attaché to Mexico Carlos Canino as, “A perfect storm of idiocy,” during Congressional testimony on July 26, 2011.

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.

New evidence further proves motives by these same ATF supervisors to frame Dobyns for a crime he didn’t commit. They launched a clandestine investigation of him without DOJ’s knowledge. They failed to inform Dobyns he was a suspect in the arson of his home yet recorded and investigated him anyway while covering their tracks.

From an email exchange between Gillett and Higman on August 21, 2008 discussing Dobyns’ case:

“….What I can control (and fully intend to control) is the specific information that is briefed to the chain of command.”

“….Not releasing significant details (to anyone) that we may discover would compromise our work won’t come from me. I’ll go out of my way to conceal them.”

“I have enough L.E. and intelligence community experience to know how to protect myself and my subordinates (I can hide the ball with the best of them.)”


When Higman testified to Dobyns’ attorney James B. Reed of Baird, Williams and Greer, LLP on August 22, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz. about ATF’s surveillance and investigation of him, supervisors were further indicted.

“I didn't believe that ATF was the appropriate authority to investigate matter; however, I was directed to move forward on this investigation by Mr. Gillett, who advised me he was directed from the highest levels of the bureau to proceed.  So my hands were tied.  I was going to move forward,” Higman said. “The fact it was a sensitive investigation was already noted and approved by the highest -- and related to me by the highest levels of authority in the bureau.  To the extent that I was going to record him, I notified Gillett in advance of the recordings that I intended to do so.  It was related to me, by Mr. Gillett, as I said earlier, it was -- everybody knew -- my supervisor and his supervisor and the AD and deputy director in Washington D.C. were directing us to move forward in the investigation.  They were fully aware of what it entailed.  I made him aware that it was our intention to record either covertly or overtly every contact.  He related to me that he was directed by his boss and his boss's boss to move this forward.”

ATF had no plans to record anyone else as part of the investigation into the arson of Dobyns’ home.  

Q. Did you record anyone else -- as part of this investigation, did anyone record anyone else besides Jay Dobyns at all?
A. We did not record, to my knowledge, anyone else.
Q.  So, once again, from your perspective, ATF's involvement in the investigation of the arson was a mess?
A.  It was worse than a mess.  It was not thought out well.  They only saw what was here.  They didn't look down the road at what was going to occur later on.  They didn't understand the ramifications of what they were doing at the time.
Q.    Did George Gillett indicate any reservations about audio-recording Agent Dobyns?
A.    I don't recall him voicing any concerns.  I believe -- my recollection is he was in full concurrence.


“Present day ATF has acknowledged every crook and cranny of what the ‘insane circus’ did here.  ATF's own internal investigation of the events has proven it for them,” Dobyns tells Townhall. “Yet, to this very day DOJ is steadfast to defend these ATF incompetents conduct.”

Despite the lack of accountability, Dobyns has made some progress with new ATF leadership, specifically with ATF Deputy Director Tom Brandon, who replaced William Hoover in October 2011. Hoover resigned last week from his reassigned position with ATF after getting nailed in the most recent Congressional Oversight Joint Staff Report in order to save his pension. For years now, Dobyns has tried to close his case with ATF and since taking office, Brandon has pushed Holder’s Department of Justice for permission to close his case and hold ATF officials accountable for the actions and lack of actions, taken against him. DOJ however, is refusing to move forward to a resolution.

“The exact and identical cast of ATF clowns identified in the Congressional Joint Staff Report as ATF executives and managers (I will not dignify them with by using the term ‘leaders’) responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Mexican civilians, Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata - Melson, Hoover, McMahon, Newell, Gillett and Higman- are the very people who four years ago turned a blind eye to someone’s attempt to murder me and my family by burning our house down on top of us,“ Dobyns says.

Dobyns believes it isn’t a matter of his case being complex or incomplete, but that DOJ is stalling because he has spoken out against Attorney General Eric Holder for his ongoing cover-up of Operation Fast and Furious; DOJ is engaging in further retaliation against him for doing so. Additionally, Dobyns has spoken out directly against President Barack Obama’s handling of the situation on national television.

During an appearance on Fox News’ Great VanSusteren on April 7, 2012, Dobyns said, “As the Attorney General, as the leader of the Department of Justice, that’s a lose-lose for him.  He either had to know about it and didn’t do anything about it, or, he didn’t know about it and it shows that he is incompetently running the Department of Justice.”

Dobyns also appeared on Fox News’ Judge Napolitano and said, “Newell and Gillett are exactly the people responsible for ignoring the threats against me and the President and the Attorney General are aware of the conclusions that those guys operate ATF’s business in a reckless and dangerous way and they did nothing about it.”

Peter Forcelli, a Fast and Furious whistleblower, settled his retaliation case with ATF this week. The difference between him and Dobyns? Forcelli never spoke out against Holder or Obama publicly and directly on national television.

“I will not retract or take back away from what I said.  I said it, I own it and I’m accountable for it, I believe it, its true.  I will never apologize to get a settlement.  Do you know how hard it is for a lowly federal agent to call out the AG and the President over and over?  They have made this personal about me and have ignored justice in the process because I have embarrassed them.  Simple as that,” Dobyns says.

Holder has been crystal clear about where he stands on whistleblowers speaking out against him.  

“If they  [whistleblowers] have a problem, they can call me,” Holder said before Congress in a condescending tone. Holder still hasn’t taken any calls.  

Obama has said on multiple occasions that he stands with “full faith and confidence” behind Holder and even after a civil and criminal contempt of Congress charge, Holder still has a job.

The DOJ’s stalling on the issue of closing the case is not surprising considering Obama and Holder stacked the Department of Justice full of attorneys who operate not based on the law or fact, but on what is politically convenient for their bosses. The Dobyns case, the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case and Operation Fast and Furious are only a few examples. The DOJ's handling of these cases is further proof that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, hundreds of innocent Mexican citizens and Jay Dobyns and his family are simply considered collateral damage by Holder’s DOJ.
“The same ATF people that Congress held accountable in the joint staff report are the same people who tried to frame me as an arsonist.  They will also be the same people that the OIG names as the guilty parties [for Fast and Furious],” Dobyns says. “If you replace ‘Fast and Furious’ with ‘Jay Dobyns arson’ the congressional report does not change.  It reads the same.  I expect the same of the OIG report.”

Dobyns has filed his complaint with the new DOJ Office of the Inspector General Whistleblower ombudsman that was announced last week. The Department of Justice did not return calls for comment.


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