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.
It is against federal law to retaliate against whistleblowers -- which doesn't mean it doesn't happen. In fact, the Web site CleanUpATF.org, which purports to be run by ATF agents who want to clean up an organization which has, at best, a bad reputation within law enforcement, claims abuse of field agents by management is common. According to their executive summary:
The founding Members of this website have repeatedly made good faith attempts, sometimes far beyond the mere reasonable, to resolve their grievances informally and at the lowest possible level. Every representation herein contained is supported by memoranda, court documents, sworn depositions and internal written communications. It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that ATF managers at all levels, along with the legal counsel, Internal Affairs staff and other personnel they control, have:
● Systematically given false, misleading and perjured testimony to Congressional bodies, federal "watchdog" and other official investigating agencies, and within numerous judicial proceedings;
● Concealed widespread waste, fraud and other unlawful conduct;
● Overtly abused their lawful powers by improperly using government resources for purposes not authorized or even expressly prohibited by federal statutes, regulations and Bureau policy.
● Repeatedly engaged in a longstanding pattern of unlawful reprisal, retaliation and discrimination against not only their own employees, but even private citizens.
● Routinely escaped any rightful accountability for intentionally harmful and illegal conduct. Senior managers that have already been proven by outside investigatory tribunals to have engaged in flagrantly illegal acts of discrimination or retaliation, have received no disciplinary action whatsoever. In many cases, they have even been promoted or otherwise rewarded.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice claims they did comply with a subpoena by Issa by sending him more than 90 pages of documents -- most of them all but completely redacted. One person familiar with the case said an "insane amount" of the pages were redacted, so many they didn't bother to count. Indeed, Issa himself said in a hearing that DOJ may as well have sent him a ream of blank printer paper.
While all this is going on, and Issa and his staff are preparing for the next round of hearings, the New York Times, Washington Post and presumably the rest of the mainstream media are attempting to take Issa down.
As PJM reported on June 22, the New York Times has run an editorial claiming what is needed is a new assault weapons ban, while continuing to make the claim that most weapons in Mexico came from the U.S. -- an assertion which was debunked months ago. This editorial gives credence to the theory the entire Gunrunner operation was nothing but a stunt to promote gun control. The Post is employing a different tactic, trying to destroy Issa's credibility: their article claims Issa was aware of the operation from the beginning -- and uses anonymous sources to say so. Which brings up the question: if Issa really was briefed in on the operation, why would WaPo need to hide the identity of their sources?
In the end it seems clear the rot at ATF -- and the DOJ -- goes deep, and no one knows at this point where the bottom of the sewer is.