ACLU: ATF blocking whistleblower book on Fast & Furious
posted at 2:41 pm on October 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
We already know that our friend and colleague Katie Pavlich literally (literally literally, not Joe Biden literally) wrote the book on the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other stories to tell. One man in particular has the access, insight, and inclination to inform readers of the scope and motives of the scandalous operation and cover-up that armed thousands of drug dealers with weapons used in hundreds of murders. The ATF and the Department of Justice have blocked Special Agent John Dodson, the whistleblower in the scandal, from telling the story … on the basis that it will make the bureaus feel bad.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is blocking the main whistleblower in the Fast and Furious case from publishing a book, claiming his retelling of the Mexico “gun-walking” scandal will hurt morale inside the embattled law enforcement agency, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.
ATF’s dispute with Special Agent John Dodson is setting up a First Amendment showdown that is poised to bring together liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and conservatives in Congress who have championed Mr. Dodson’s protection as a whistleblower.
The ACLU is slated to become involved in the case Monday, informing ATF it is representing Mr. Dodson and filing a formal protest to the decision to reject his request to publish the already written book, sources told The Times, speaking only on the condition of anonymity.
The Washington Times reports that they are treating Dodson’s request as “outside employment” in order to make that argument, even while acknowledging through tacit omission that the information would not compromise actual, legitimate ATF efforts:
Their rejection made no claims that the book would release sensitive or classified information or compromise ongoing law enforcement proceedings.
Rather, the supervisors offered a different reason for their decision. “This would have a negative impact on morale in the Phoenix [Field Division] and would have a detrimental effect on our relationships with DEA and FBI.”
The ATF general counsel’s office subsequently sanctioned the decision, all but killing the book project.
“An employee’s supervisory chain may disapprove any outside employment request for any reason, at any supervisory level,” ATF attorney Greg Serres wrote Mr. Dodson on Aug. 29, underlining the word “any” for emphasis. “The Office of Chief Counsel cannot approve outside employment requests in lieu of the supervisory chain’s disapproval.
The ACLU got involved today in this case on Dodson’s behalf:
The Obama administration is blocking a federal law enforcement agent from publishing a book about the failed “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling sting operation because of concerns that the book would negatively affect morale, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.
The ACLU charged that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is worried that the book proposed by an ATF agent would hurt relationships with other U.S. law enforcement agencies.
In a six-page letter to ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, the ACLU said the bureau’s decision to block the book proposed by Special Agent John Dodson was a violation of his First Amendment rights. The ACLU described Dodson as a whistleblower.
It’s not difficult to understand the ACLU’s interest in this case. This isn’t an issue of “outside employment” but of free speech. It has nothing to do with protecting classified materials, and everything to do with protecting the butts of Dodson’s superiors. This falls squarely under the First Amendment, which notably does not include an exemption for speech that might cause damage to the morale of government and law enforcement. Letting this slide would set a precedent the ACLU can ill afford, even in its public relations.
One has to wonder just whether Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would laugh or cry at that argument. Probably both.
The Times’ John Solomon also notes that this will undoubtedly pique the curiosity of House Oversight chair Darrell Issa, who is still pushing to gain access to e-mails and correspondence that the White House protected under a claim of executive privilege. Both Issa and Senator Charles Grassley wrote a forward to Dodson’s book, and the ATF action will bring the agency back to the top of the priority list for Issa, at the least.
By the way, one would think arming drug dealers to score cheap political points in the gun-control debate would hurt morale at the ATF more than providing accountability for it, but apparently that mileage varies at the top echelons of the ATF, the Department of Justice, and the White House. This Hopenchange Most Transparent Administration Evah is a real hoot, huh?