WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa today urged the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to clarify his remarks to employees about reporting concerns within the agency. Grassley and Issa expressed concern that the remarks are likely to chill whistleblowers from reporting legitimate problems and undermine a necessary function for making improvements. The concern is significant because whistleblowers recently put their careers on the line to expose the operational tactics in Operation Fast and Furious that might have led to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
In a video message released to ATF staff on July 9, 2012, ATF Acting Director Todd Jones says, “… 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. …”
Grassley and Issa wrote to Jones, stating that the essence of whistleblowing is reporting problems outside of an employee’s chain of command, and whistleblowers were instrumental in exposing the shortcomings of the government’s botched gun-walking operation, Fast and Furious. Grassley and Issa wrote to Jones, “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.”
Grassley and Issa also wrote, “On numerous occasions, we have stressed to ATF and the Department of Justice the importance of protecting whistleblower disclosures and preventing retaliation against whistleblowers.”
The context for Jones’ remarks and the intent behind them are unclear. Grassley and Issa asked for a response by July 25. The text of their letter is available here. The video is available here.