In their latest attempt to protect whistleblowers from BATFE reprisal, on July 18 Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter to BATFE Acting Director B. Todd Jones, asking him to clarify the comments he made in a video message sent to agency employees. In the video, entitled "Choices and Consequences," Jones states, "Choices and consequences mean, 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."
In their letter, the lawmakers tell Jones that his message "could be interpreted as a threat" to whistleblowers, and remind him that BATFE employees have the "right to talk to Congress and provide Congress with information free and clear of agency interference or retaliation"--a right expressly protected by federal law. The congressmen made clear to Jones that they expect a written response to the letter no later than July 25.
Jones' message is only the latest act of BATFE whistleblower intimidation in the wake of the Fast and Furious scandal. On June 29th Grassley and Issa informed the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice of actions taken by BATFE Division Chief of the Firearms Operations Unit Scot Thomasson against whistleblowers, Special Agents John Dodson and Pete Forcelli. The letter states Thomasson had been overheard saying "We need to get whatever dirt we can on [the whistleblowers] and take them down" and "All these whistleblowers have axes to grind." Thomasson reportedly went on to use highly profane language to describe what he thought the agency should do to Dodson and Forcelli. Adding to the suspicion of ongoing retaliation is that Dodson and Forcelli were placed under Thomasson's supervision following their disclosures to Congress.
In June, Dodson gave an interview with Fox News, in which he alluded to the difficulties facing BATFE whistleblowers. Dodson told the interviewer, "Do I regret it? No. To me there wasn't a choice. But I thought I would be one of many agents to come forward," with his wife adding, "Other agents were held back because of their families."
BATFE whistleblowers should be free to do the right thing, without fear for their careers or their families' future. Congress and the Department of Justice need to work to eliminate the culture of retaliation at BATFE and ensure that whistleblowers are fully protected when they bring dangerous government abuses to light.