ATF Director Threatens Whistleblowers

Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones released a video on July 9, 2012 in which he warns agents not to go outside the chain of command and provide anything that would damage the agency. Specifically the message sounds like a threat against any agent that might provide information regarding the Fast and Furious gunwalking operation.

Mr. Jones, a Minnesota U.S. Attorney, stepped up to take the place of ATF Director Kenneth Melson after he was ousted because of his role in Operation Fast and Furious by Attorney General Eric Holder.

The transcript of the video is as follows:

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Over these last six months, we’ve provided you with a lot of information in these first eight change casts. We’ve talked about our leadership philosophy. We’ve talked about the pace and challenge of change. We’ve talked about roles, missions and functions, both as a law enforcement organization with a regulatory function, and within the Department of Justice. I hope that they have been informational to you about our strategic view of the way forward.

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I want to close out this first set by talking about, quite frankly, a less pleasant topic, but one that is critical to the functioning of any organization, particularly one with a public safety mission, like ATF’s, and that’s choices and consequences. And when I’m talking about choices and consequences, I’m talking about a disciplinary process. Our last Changecast, we laid out some clear expectations about organizational discipline. One ATF, everyone working together, exemplifying one of the pieces of our leadership philosophy: that being teamwork. I want to make it clear in this last Changecast, before we start doing specific topics, what my expectation is, as the acting director, when it comes to the disciplinary process.

Choices and consequences simply means that, as an employee of ATF, should you decide not to abide by the standards of conduct or the rules of the road, should you decide that you’re not going to play by the rules, there will be consequences. We spent some time over the last six months reinvigorating our PRB. Katie Torres has worked very diligently to make sure that our Office of Professional Responsibility and our Internal Affairs unit responds quickly to hot spots around the country and in headquarters when they find something wrong.

Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences because we cannot tolerate, we cannot tolerate an undisciplined organization. I wanted to make this very clear to everyone as we turn the page with our first set of Changecasts.

The information you provide us on the website is invaluable, and the next time that we talk, we’ll start to grind down on some of the specifics about how we’re going to actually follow through on this accelerated change that we’ve been implementing here at ATF over the last nine months. Thank you for your attention. Keep your comments coming in. And we’ll talk to you again real soon.

Many veteran agents have taken this as a warning to keep their mouths shut.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) blasted away at the ATF director “a leader of a major organization of any department, particularly law enforcement, would have the temerity to make those sort of comments…You can’t put up with agency heads like this having this attitude.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa also chimed in. “This is a thinly veiled threat, telling people: ‘Don’t go to the press, don’t go to Congress, even if the chain of command isn’t working,’ which is really what happened in Fast and Furious,” Issa said.“It wasn’t that ATF people weren’t screaming bloody murder. It’s they weren’t being listened to by Justice or by some of their leaders.”

Both men wrote to Mr. Jones asking him to clarify his comments.

“Your ominous message, which could be interpreted as a threat, is likely to have a major chilling effect on ATF employees exercising their rights to contact Congress. Therefore it needs to be clarified. You must remind ATF employees about their right to talk to Congress and provide Congress with information free and clear of agency interference or retaliation.”

Issa also said, ”When law enforcement closes ranks even when things are wrong, that is exactly what the American people are concerned about. We continue to still be stonewalled post-contempt on any cooperation, even to get an answer from the U.S. attorney here in the District of Columbia as to whether or not he will proceed according to the statute on the contempt that was already voted by a bipartisan group of congressmen.”

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