ATF Violates Freedom of Speech by Blocking Publication of Book on “Fast and Furious” Scandal
The ATF agent (John Dodson) who originally blew the whistle on the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” aka “Gun Walker” scandal wanted to tell his story in the form of a book, but the agency with the most to lose, the ATF itself, has used a federal privilege to block it’s publication entirely.
The ATF allowed thousands of guns to be sold, under its supervision, to violent drug cartels in Mexico.
The guns have been linked to numerous murders in Mexico (as recently as several weeks ago) as well as the death of at least one US Border Patrol agent (Agent Brian Terry in 2010).
Typically, federal employees, especially those working on sensitive projects, such as law enforcement, counter terrorism, and the military have to get approval to publish information about their employment.
Normally the respective department will review the manuscript and strike certain lines or sections of the work that might negatively affect active operations or reveal still classified information.
However, in this case, the ATF simply blocked the entire book, saying it would be bad for agency morale if it was published. In other words, the ATF denied publication of the book simply because it would make the ATF look bad and might embarrass some current agents and agency leaders.
According to Fox News,
Rather than provide a specific objection which would allow for a line-by-line redaction, ATF used a policy that “grants supervisors the discretion to censor critical speech simply because it annoys or embarrasses the ATF,” Rowland wrote in a letter delivered Monday.
“Given the national importance of both the Fast and Furious operation and ATF practices more broadly, ATF faces an extremely high burden in demonstrating that its interests outweigh Agent Dodson’s right to speak — and the public’s right to hear — his views about Operation Fast and Furious,” she explained.
First Amendment rights are especially strong when the speech affected deals with public policy, Rowland said, requiring the government to meet a very high bar. Precisely because Dodson’s views differ dramatically from those of his supervisors, his “thoughts and opinions” should not be censored, Rowland said.
While one can certainly understand the need for this review process in regards to undercover operations, current counter terrorism information, or active military operations, I simply don’t see how affecting morale can be a viable excuse for denying an American citizen’s First Amendment rights.
The ACLU is representing Dodson in the case against the ATF.