DOJ probing whether ‘Fast and Furious’ whistleblowers are safe from retaliation

The Justice Department’s inspector general is probing whether two federal agents could face retaliation for blowing the whistle on operation “Fast and Furious.”

In a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), made public on Monday, IG Michael Horowitz said he was investigating their concerns that two federal officials could be at risk of retaliatory action for speaking out against the botched gun-tracking operation.

John Dodson and Pete Forcelli, special agents in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), testified before Congress last year about the shortcomings of Operation Fast and Furious as details of the failed program were becoming public.

At that time, Scot Thomasson was the chief Public Affairs officer for ATF and, according to Grassley and Issa, made attempts to shut the whistle-blowers up before they could say more about the operation’s failure. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“We need to get whatever dirt we can on these guys [Dodson and Forcelli] and take them down,” said Thomasson, according to Issa and Grassley, who cited a “direct eye witness account” in their letter to the DOJ’s IG last month. 

“All these whistle-blowers have axes to grind,” Thomasson allegedly said. “ATF needs to f--k these guys.”

Since then, Thomasson has been made the division chief of the Firearms Operations Unit and the whistle-blowers have been placed under his supervision, raising concerns for Grassley and Issa that the officials could face retaliation. The two lawmakers asked Horowitz to detail what steps have been taken to ensure the whistle-blowers are not punished for speaking out.

Early last year, Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, launched Congress’s probe of Operation Fast and Furious, a failed federal attempt to dismantle gun-trafficking routes into Mexico that resulted in the authorized sale of nearly 2,000 firearms to known straw buyers for drug cartels.

Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has pursued the issue more doggedly since then, issuing a series of subpoenas to the DOJ and grilling Attorney General Eric Holder, whom he successfully moved to place in contempt of Congress last month for failing to turn over requested documents.