ATF Denies Censoring Fast and Furious Whistleblower After Blocking Book Publication

Posted: Oct 11, 2013 10:31 AM

Earlier this week, the ACLU sent a letter to ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon after an outside working application submitted by ATF Special Agent and Operation Fast and Furious whistleblower John Dodson was denied. Dodson's outside work application was for a book manuscript, The Unarmed Truth: My Fight to Blow the Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious, which Dodson worked on in his own time. The request was denied by Deputy Ethics Official Greg Serres in August 2013 on the basis that supervisors can deny outside employment “for any reason" and that the publication of his manuscript would have a “negative impact on morale” and a “detrimental effect [sic] on [ATF] relationships.”

From the denial letter, written by Serres and signed off on by Phoenix Special Agent in Charge Thomas Atteberry, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Carlos Canino, and Acting Deputy Assistant Director Joseph Anarumo:

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The ACLU is arguing Dodson is being censored and has requested ATF's overly broad outside work requirements be rewritten to comply with Supreme Court precedent. ATF is arguing the denial of the outside work application has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

"ATF has not denied the publishing of a manuscript or an individual’s 1st Amendment rights. We have denied an employee’s outside employment which can be denied for any reason by a supervisor. While his supervisor stated morale and interagency issues for the denial, the fact remains no agent may profit financially from information gained through his federal employment while still an employee. This is not about 1st Amendment rights this is about a current employee trying to profit financially from knowledge he has gained while currently employed as a special agent," Public Affairs Division Special Agent Tim Graden said in a statement to Townhall. "It is improper to approve ATF individuals involved in any investigation to profit financially from their experience while employed. According to the Office of Government Ethics and under the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 5 subsection 2635.807(a): in part states “An employee, including a special Government employee, shall not receive compensation from any source other than the Government for teaching, speaking or writing that relates to the employee’s official duties."

Nowhere in the outside work denial letter does it mention federal code and regulations. The argument made for the denial was that the publication of Dodson's book would have a negative impact on morale. In addition, ATF hasn't investigated whether Dodson will be compensated for the book.

"ATF has never even asked me if I'm getting paid for the book," Dodson said to Townhall.

Yesterday Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones pointing out the approval of an outside employment request from former Deputy Assistant Director of Field Operations and Fast and Furious Supervisor Bill McMahon, who worked a six-figure security job at J.P. Morgan while on taxpayer funded administrative leave.

"McMahon was among the leadership officials at ATF which the Inspector General faulted for his management of Operation Fast and Furious. Yet, when he submitted a request in the summer of 2012 to begin an outside security job at J.P. Morgan, ATF leadership quickly approved it. Once ATF Granted McMahon's approval, he moved his job in the Philippines and never again showed up for work at ATF. During this time period, he remained on ATF's payroll for several more months, effectively collecting a substantial six-figure salary from both the taxpayers and J.P. Morgan simultaneously," Issa and Grassley said in the letter. "Because we strongly support the efforts of whistleblowers to expose waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse within the federal government, we find it disconcerting that ATF denied Special Agent Dodson's request merely because the content of his book might be uncomfortable and embarrassing to some within your organization...In short, there appears to be no basis for denying Special Agent Dodson's request under the OGE regulation. The sole motivation appears to be that certain officials still believe that information about Operation Fast and Furious is embarrassing to ATF."

Issa and Grassley have requested Jones provide all ATF outside employment requests from employees seeking to publish a manuscript dating back to January 1, 2009, all emails and documents relating to ATF's decision to deny Dodson's request to engage in outside employment, documents showing how many ATF employees are currently engaged in outside employment, and all outside employment requests between January 1, 2012 and now.

The family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed by illegal Mexican bandits, want Dodson's book to be published. Guns from Operation Fast and Furious were found at his murder scene in 2010.

"Allowing the publication of John Dodson’s manuscript would go a long way in showing that ATF has nothing to hide," President of the Brian Terry Foundation Ralph Terry said in a statement earlier this week.

ATF leadership has not indicated any plans to reconsider Dodson's outside employment request or to change current outside work policies.

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