The federal agent who exposed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms disastrous gun-running scandal has been denied permission to publish a book offering a first-hand account of “Operation Fast and Furious.”
An ATF ethics official wrote a letter to whistleblower John Dodson denying his request to publish “The Unarmed Truth” because it “would have a negative impact on morale in the Phoenix [Field Division] and would have a detremental effect on our relationships with DEA and FBI,” according to a blog post by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Dodson while he appeals the decision.
According to ATF’s guidelines, the agency can deny requests for outside employment “for any reason” (ATF’s emphasis), the ACLU reported.
The ACLU sent a letter Monday to ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, saying its refusal to grant Dodson permission to publish the book violates the First Amendment right to free speech and “undermines the importance that whistleblowers and public employee speech play in revealing wrongdoing and contributing to public debate.”
The ACLU took issue with ATF’s guidelines governing outside employment, saying the sweeping authority given to supervisors to deny permission for “any reason” to those employees who wish to teach, speak or write outside the agency is “constitutionally impermissible,” the letter said.
“This failure [of the guidelines] to specify offending content or conduct cannot support line-by-line redactions, much less censorship of the sum and total of his manuscript,” the ACLU wrote. “Nor does this policy limit the reasons for denying a publication request to legitimate employment-related injuries; it grants supervisors the discretion to censor critical speech simply because it annoys the supervisor or embarrasses the ATF.”
What remains to be seen is whether Dodson would receive ATF permission to publish the book if he doesn’t accept compensation, therefore potentially falling outside the agency’s “outside employment” requirements.
Dodson alerted Congress about Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed over 2,000 guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, after two weapons were reportedly used in the 2010 murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote a foreword for Dodson’s book, which Dodson said will be published with or without ATF’s permission, Fox News reported.
“I don’t care if you’re on the left or the right,” Dodson said, according to the ACLU’s blog. “At the end of the day, we have a right to know and talk about what law enforcement agencies do in our name.”