Gunwalker: Issa Defends ATF Whistleblowers from Retaliation

As the Operation Fast and Furious scandal deepens, Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has fired another broadside at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Issa has sent a letter to Deputy ATF Director William J. Hoover, insisting on assurances there would be no reprisals against the ATF agents who have chosen to testify about a program Issa called "felony stupid":

I write to request your assurance that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will not retaliate against witnesses who have provided information to this Committee. I make this request in light of the fact that on June 15,2011, in a hearing before the Committee entitled "Operation Fast and Furious: Reckless Decisions, Tragic Outcomes," three veteran ATF special agents gave testimony highly critical of the ATF. They should not face reprisals of any kind for their testimony. No other ATF employees who cooperate with Congress should face retaliation either.

Operation Fast and Furious, which has come to be known as "Gunwalker," was the operation in which more than 2,000 firearms -- including semiautomatic versions of the AK-47 and .50 Barrett sniper rifles which fire the same round as a .50 caliber machine gun -- were allowed to walk across the border in hopes of tracking them to cartel members. While the guns have turned up at the scene of murders both in the U.S. and in Mexico, no one but the low-level straw buyers who bought the weapons have been indicted, let alone convicted.

Issa's concerns about retaliation against ATF agents are well-founded. At least one of the agents who testified was reluctant to do so for fear of job repercussions, as quoted in Issa's letter:

[T]here has been a lot of undertones of retaliation. Like I took the schism as, hey, you don't like what we are doing here, quit, or we will fire you or whatever. … ATF is just -- they have been known historically from my experience ... just depending on the supervisor, to be a very retaliatory agency. And that's why when ... your office reached out to me, I wanted to talk back then, but it would have been under the guise of a whistle blower. And … this is important enough to blow a whistle on, but I would be afraid of the retaliation that still might be coming down.