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‘Gunrunner’ Whistleblower Vince Cefalu Speaks (PJM Exclusive)

Just a day after Rep. Issa warned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to not touch the whistleblowers, they present termination papers to Agent Cefalu -- a 30-year veteran of the ATF. (PJM will be posting Cefalu's termination papers shortly.)

by
Patrick Richardson

Bio

June 24, 2011 - 12:51 pm

Earlier this week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Deputy Director William J. Hoover, insisting on assurances there would be no reprisals against the ATF agents who have chosen to testify about the failed Operation Fast and Furious — the operation Issa has called “felony stupid.”

Just a day later,  ATF Special Agent Vince Cefalu received notice ATF wants to terminate his employment after more than 30 years with the agency. Cefalu is one of the founders of CleanUpATF.org, a message board dedicated to addressing abuses within the ATF. He is one of the most vocal critics of the heads of the organization.

He said the main reason given in the four-page document for his termination is “lack of candor.”

Four years ago, what originally landed Cefalu in trouble was a case called “Road Dog“. In that case, local law enforcement was allegedly using an illegal wiretap — something Cefalu resisted:

I threw the locals under the bus. … I became the most vocal critic and they got sick of my s***.

He’s since spent four years in a do-nothing job, with ATF managers hoping he’d get the message and retire:

They put me in a cage, paid me full salary, and hoped it would break me down mentally and I would retire.

Since he did a three-part series of interviews about the problems in ATF with CNN’s Anderson Cooper last May, Cefalu says he’s been given only 122 minutes of work:

Not GS-13 investigative work either. Changing batteries or filling cars with gas.

Cefalu said he’s suffered persecution in several other ways as well:

[Acting Director] Ken Melson can’t even respond to a letter from a committee chairman. … I can’t fart in public without being accused of violations. I’ve submitted to seven internal affairs investigations since I blew the whistle. Without an attorney present, I answered every question.

I’m representing dozens of agents [in greivance cases]. They take me out of play, they take a bunch of these cases out of play.

Cefalu says there should be prosecutions in the failed Operation Fast and Furious case, also known as “Gunwalker.” When asked if ATF had violated the law in this case, he responded:

Of course it violates the law! They conspired to traffic firearms, you can’t do that under color of law. … There was no intent to follow the guns, this never had a chance of succeeding. It was a failed plan from the beginning.

He also says there is no huge gun-trafficking operation, no “Iron Pipeline” of firearms traveling from the U.S. to Mexico — just lots of buyers who can make a couple thousand dollars selling weapons across the border.

In addition, he has some more explosive allegations: he says the Mexican government was not made aware of the operation, and neither was the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

And he says people within the Justice Department had to be aware of the operation — contrary to what Attorney General Eric Holder claimed. Cefalu says no one runs a major operation like this without getting approval from their boss.

Despite all of it, Cefalu said he just wants to see the agency he loves cleaned up:

It breaks my heart, it’s shameful to me.  … I’m afraid the agency will be abolished because of the actions of a few self-serving individuals.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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