ATF Special Agent’s Whistleblowing Creates a First Amendment Showdown

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"What is earnest is not always true; on the contrary, error is often more earnest than truth."

Benjamin Disraeli 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special Agent John Dodson is bringing together strange bedfellows — liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and conservatives in Congress. The ACLU has thrown its support behind Dodson because his attempts to release a book on the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious are being quashed by the governmental agency. Conservative legislators who earnestly support whistleblowers have joined the ACLU in supporting Dodson. 

The ATF’s transfer of guns to Mexico

Operation Fast and Furious was a 15-month ATF operation to allow illegal gun sales destined for Mexican drug cartels in order to monitor and arrest the buyers and sellers of the guns. It is estimated that 1,400 weapons were lost by the ATF in Mexico as part of the operation. In December 2010, Border patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in the Arizona desert and two weapons that were sold and purchased in Operation Fast and Furious were found near the scene. 

Blowing the whistle on illegal gun transfers

Shortly after Terry’s murder, Dodson blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious. Dodson's allegations of ATF supervisors authorizing the flow of semi-automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels created a scandal in 2011, causing the toppling of the ATF's top leadership in Washington and Phoenix.

Publishing the truth

After blowing the whistle and testifying before Congress, Dodson wrote "The Unarmed Truth." It provides Dodson's inside account how the federal government funneled approximately 2,000 guns to Mexican drug cartels. According to agency rules, Dodson must request permission for outside employment in order to publish and distribute his book. His initial request was rejected because the book would negatively impact morale and ATF's relationship with other federal law enforcement agencies. Dodson is committed to releasing his book in January 2014 irrespective of the ATF’s position.

Topics:  ACLU, ATF, Conservatives, First Amendment, Whistleblowers

Published In: Constitutional Law Updates, Elections & Politics Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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