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The Smearing of Fast and Furious Whistleblower John Dodson

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

On December 15, 2010, ATF Special Agent John Dodson’s life changed forever when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in the Arizona desert. At least two of the guns left at the scene were linked to Operation Fast and Furious. Before Terry was killed, hundreds had been killed in Mexico as a result of the program, leaving only blood stained concrete and horror behind.

For a year prior to Terry’s murder, Dodson worked as part of ATF Phoenix Gunrunning Group VII, the group assigned to carry out the bulk of Fast and Furious. He was told for months to allow thousands of AK-47 style guns to walk into Mexico. He was instructed to watch straw purchasers illegally buy weapons, but not to arrest them. Dodson asked his superiors on multiple occasions if they were prepared to deal with the consequences of their actions and the tactics used throughout the operation.

“I asked them if they were prepared to go to the funeral of a Border Patrol agent over this or Cochise County deputy – if they were prepared to watch that widow accept that folded flag because that’s exactly what was going to happen. So they can't claim that was an unforeseen consequence,” Dodson asserted on Fox News. He said the same thing during congressional testimony on June 15, 2011.

Dodson was vocal within ATF throughout 2010 about his concerns, and on March 3, 2011, he exposed Fast and Furious and its connection to Brian Terry’s murder on national television to CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

By this point, Dodson was used to retaliation within ATF, specifically for speaking out against Operation Fast and Furious and its tactics. He had been screamed at by supervisors, reassigned and even had his weapons taken away without valid cause. Raising questions about a program he knew would leave hundreds dead was unacceptable -- and outside of ATF’s chain of command protocol. After he made the lethal realities of Fast and Furious public, things got worse.

The same month Dodson put a face on the scandal, then ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson told the Baltimore ATF Field Division in a town hall style meeting Dodson was merely a “disgruntled” employee and alluded to him being a nut case.

A month prior, Senator Charles Grassley received a letter from Justice Department officials flat out denying the existence of gunwalking and essentially called Dodson a liar.


"At the outset, the allegation described in your January 27 letter--that ATF “sanctioned” or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico--is false.”

The same letter (which was eventually withdrawn due to falsehoods and lies) promised Grassley retaliation would not be taken against whistleblowers.

I also want to assure you that ATF has made no attempt to retaliate against any of its agents regarding this matter. We recognize the importance of protecting employees from retaliation relating to their disclosures of waste, fraud and abuse. ATF employees receive annual training on their rights under the Whistleblower Protection Act, and those with knowledge of waste, fraud, or abuse are encouraged to communicate direcvtluy with the Department’s Office of Inspector General. These protections do not negate the Department’s legitimate interest in protecting confidential information about pending criminal investigations.”

Despite this promise, former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned in August 2011 amid Fast and Furious fallout, admitted to leaking memos with a specific purpose of smearing Dodson.

Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke came forward Tuesday to take responsibility for his role in leaking a memo used to cast aspersions on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who had blown the whistle to Congress about a botched gun-trafficking operation. Burke, who left the Justice Department in August as congressional scrutiny over Operation Fast and Furious intensified, acknowledged his actions on the same day Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, pressed the attorney general about who "smeared" agent John Dodson. Grassley said the leak may have violated the Privacy Act and run afoul from repeated warnings from lawmakers not to go after whistleblowers at ATF. Chuck Rosenberg, a lawyer for Burke, told NPR that "Dennis regrets his role in disclosing the memo but he's a stand-up guy and is willing to take responsibility for what he did. It was absolutely not Dennis's intent to retaliate against Special Agent Dodson or anyone else for the information they provided Congress."

In an effort to silence him, Dodson was put under the control of ATF Public Affairs Chief Scott Thomasson, who made it clear in witness accounts he didn’t care if gunwalking allegations were true, he wanted to “f*&%” Dodson and other whistleblowers, regardless of the wrong doings of the bureau as a whole throughout the operation.

He allegedly stated, "All of these whistleblowers have axes to grind. ATF needs to f--k these guys," and "we need to get whatever dirt we can on these guys and take them down"

When Thomasson was asked about the allegations against him of whistleblower retaliation were true, he allegedly said he "didn't know and didn't care," according to Oversight Committee investigators.

Throughout the past 18 months, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa and Senator Grassley have sent multiple warnings to ATF and the Justice Department about their retaliation toward whistleblowers exposing corruption. Those warnings didn’t seem to phase new Acting ATF Director Todd B. Jones. In a recent ATF webcast video, Jones warned ATF Special Agents not “jump their chain of command” or there would be “consequences.”

“I want to close out this first set by talking about quite frankly a less pleasant topic but one that is critical to the functioning of any organization, particularly one with a public safety mission like ATF’s and that’s choices and consequences. When I’m talking about choices and consequences, I’m talking about the disciplinary process. Our last change cast laid out some clear expectations about organizational discipline, one ATF, everyone working together, exemplifying one of the pieces of our leadership philosophy, that being teamwork. I want to make it clear in this last change cast before we start doing specific topics what my expectation is as the acting director when it comes to the disciplinary process. Choices and consequences simply means that as an employee of ATF should you decide not to abide by the standards of conduct or the rules of the road, should you decide that you’re not going to play by the rules, there will be consequences. We’ve spent over the last six months reinvigorating our PRB. AD Torres has worked very diligently to make sure our office of professional responsibility and our Internal Affairs Unit responds quickly to hot spots around the country and in headquarters when they find something wrong. Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership there will be consequences because we cannot tolerate, we cannot tolerate an undisciplined organization. I wanted to make this very clear to everyone as we turn the page.

In June, Fortune Magazine contributor and former Clinton staffer Katherine Eban published a story titled, “The Truth About Fast and Furious.” In the piece, Eban portrayed corrupt ATF Supervisor David Voth and Fast and Furious Case Agent Hope MacCallister as innocents trying to do the right thing for their bureau and public safety, while penning searing and untrue words against Dodson and other whistleblowers. Eban went to great lengths to destroy Dodson's reputation, even calling his ex-wife to dig up dirt. When she couldn't find any, however, she failed to report the good things that were said.

Dodson, 41, arrived one day before Voth from a two-man outpost of ATF's Roanoke field office, where he'd worked since 2002. He had joined the ATF from the narcotics section of the Loudoun County sheriff's office in Virginia, where his blunt, even obnoxious manner did not earn him friends. He's "an asshole sometimes—there is no other way to put it," says his former partner, Ken Dondero, who served as best man at Dodson's wedding. "He's almost too honest. He believes that if he has a thought in his head, it's there to broadcast to everyone."
Voth, MacAllister, and a third agent, Tonya English, were quintessential by-the-book types. By contrast, Dodson and two other new arrivals, Olindo "Lee" Casa and Lawrence Alt, seemed to chafe at ATF rules and procedures. Dodson's faction grew antagonistic to Voth. They regularly fired off snide e-mails and seemed to delight in mocking Voth and his methodical nature. They were scornful of protocol, according to ATF agents.
Dodson would show up to work in flip-flops. He came unprepared for operations—without safety equipment or back-up plans—and was pulled off at least one surveillance for his own safety, say two colleagues. He earned the nickname "Renegade," and soon Voth's group effectively divided into two clashing factions: the Sunshine Bears and the Renegades.

Last week, Dodson sent a letter through his attorney to Fortune Magazine Managing Editor Andrew Serwer, accusing Eban of not only failing to look for the facts surrounding Fast and Furious, but of parroting Justice Department talking points. Dodson is seeking a retraction.

As you are likely aware, the Justice Department Inspector General has now issued his exhaustive report about Operation Fast and Furious (the “IG Report”). Given its findings, it is clear that Ms. Eban’s purported finding of “the truth” was far from it, and in fact is demonstrably false in many respects. A retraction is in order to correct the record.

The House Oversight Committee has also called for a retraction of the story.

Most recently, we’ve seen the undeniable collaboration between the Soros funded left-wing smear machine Media Matters and DOJ Public Affairs Chief Tracy Schmaler to attack journalists. Coincidentally, Schmaler is suspected of leaking information about Dodson in an effort to save her boss Eric Holder and to destroy his credibility. Eban obtained Dodson’s confidential personnel file for her Fortune story; Schmaler is suspected to be the one who gave it to her.

The Department of Justice Inspector General report released three weeks ago about Fast and Furious vindicated only one group of people: Whistleblowers. John Dodson was one of them. His supervisors, who heard his concerns about Fast and Furious loud and clear but did nothing, were referred for disciplinary action inside the Justice Department and may face criminal charges as a result of their actions. The Department of Justice is being exposed for their blood soaked, carnage ridden and massacre riddled program Fast and Furious thanks to their courage to do the right thing.




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