Citizen: an inhabitant of a city, state or nation; especially, one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman and who undertakes the duties and responsibilities necessary to secure those rights for all.
John Dodson, American citizen.
I must preface this by saying that I do not know John Dodson, the public face of the ATF whistleblower agents who bravely and at great risk outed the Project Gunwalker Scandal. There are now, by my private count, something more than a dozen such whistleblowers and more are stepping forward to Senator Grassley every day.
When I first heard about this story from sources within the ATF at least a week before Christmas of last year, I tried hard to find someone who was closest to the point of scandal as we understood it at the time: the Phoenix office of ATF. Although I have dealt with several whistleblowers over the past months, I never learned the names of about half of them. This was as it had to be. They were vouched for by others so I was content.
I am fairly certain that John Dodson was not one of the ones I was talking to via email.
"A beginning is a very delicate time." -- Dune.
One thing that I have made clear before and bears repeating now is that the whistleblowers did not approach the Senators or the press. Knowing of their existence and how to contact them, even if just by email provided by others, was enough information for us to begin working on the senators to contact them.
Readers will recall "Senators crawfish on helping agents in Project Gunwalker scandal. See if you can't help concentrate their minds." This was posted on 18 January:
Folks, this has been a frustrating morning. Senate staffers who have been completely briefed on the Project Gunwalker scandal over the last few weeks are deliberately not answering their phones. Others, including Charlie Harmon, the chief of staff of Saxby Chambliss, the U.S. Senator from Georgia, told one of his constituents, "We're on it." Yet, when pressed about the urgency of the matter, said "these guys need to get a lawyer."
No, Charlie, right now they need a Senator with a spine and a pair to do his damn job. The agents need a Senator to COME TO THEM. There are ongoing investigations, the main thrust of which, in my opinion, is to cover up the circumstances of Project Gunwalker and the death of Border Patrol agent Terry. To volunteer to go to the press during an ongoing investigation can end their careers or put them in jail themselves. Yet some are willing to do so, if forced by the inaction of your elected senators and representatives. The tools that the agency, Main Justice and the White House have at their disposal to shut these agents up are many and powerful. These guys need whistleblower protection NOW.
We had been making nuisances of ourselves for more than two weeks at this point. After breaking the news of the CUATF post mentioning the rumors on 28 December, I immediately used sources that friends and I had developed to find a point of contact for a whistleblower and then, once we had those, I turned to the office of my own Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
They had been on my ATF scandal email list for some time, what with Sessions being the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the previous Congress. He was replaced in this Congress by Senator Grassley of Iowa -- a deft touch of the hand of God if you want my opinion.
Note: After considerable back and forth with what I was later informed were "the wrong people" in Sessions' office, I got through -- by dint of what small public pressure David Codrea and I could whip up with our blogs and behind-the-scenes politics in which Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America played an initial small but pivotal role -- to the "right people" in Sessions' office. (When told by the "right people" that I had been talking to the "wrong people" -- thus excusing the Senator's inaction up to that point -- I protested that the "wrong people" had indeed been telling me that THEY were the "right people" so how was I supposed to tell the difference?) The email exchanges at this period, looking back on them now, are priceless examples of the human comedy of frustration.
So, the right guy in Sessions' office -- and he was a very GOOD "right guy" -- got in touch through our backdoor route with the whistleblowers. Remember that. For very good reasons (any one of which could have been used by ATF management to strangle this baby of truth in the crib) the Senators got in touch with the agents, not the other way around.
And although I'm certain we never thought of ourselves in this role, David and I were proud to have been the midwives in at the birth of the Project Gunwalker scandal. (I'm thinking of adding "scandal midwifery" to my business card. Although maybe "scandal mongery" would be less genderly confusing.)
Jokes aside, this scandal could not, would not, have been broken wide open without the whistleblowers like John Dodson, and especially Dodson himself.
Recall this ATF spin-merchant's directive?
Please make every effort for the next two weeks to maximize coverage of ATF operations/enforcement actions/arrests at the local and regional level. Given the negative coverage by CBS Evening News last week and upcoming events this week, the bureau should look for every opportunity to push coverage of good stories. Fortunately, the CBS story has not sparked any follow up coverage by mainstream media and seems to have fizzled. (Emphasis supplied, MBV)
At the time Scot Thomasson, chief of the ATF's Public Affairs Division, wrote that he was dead on accurate. The story was flagging and those of us behind the scenes sensed it, feared it.
The chief problem with the initial CBS piece was that it had no whistleblowers on camera. We heard this complaint from other reporters, who royally, arrogantly, demanded our sources, saying, "Well, if they won't go on camera and on the record, then maybe they don't exist."
Well, they existed.
But the uncertainty hung in the air, and reporters, almost all reporters of almost every stripe are lazy, herd creatures. They are only motivated by the thought that somebody else might get the story. If nobody else is chasing the story then why should they? Fortunately there still remain a tiny minority of real journalists, folks like Sharyl Attkisson, Kim Murphy of the LA Times and John Solomon of the CPI who actually get out there and chase the potential story.
Yet we worried that the CBS muckety-mucks would lose interest or kill the story.
(Note: The Clintonistas were very good at that. ABC News was about to run a story back after the OKC bombing that raised serious questions about the McVeigh "lone bomber theory." Someone in the White House made a call to ABC to try and kill the story. ABC resisted. Then they called the owner of ABC, Disney, and Mickey Mouse issued the orders that killed the story. My long-time friend and OKC investigation expert LTC Roger Charles, USMC (Ret'd) can tell you all about that for he observed it up close.)
"I am Spartacus!"
The story seemed to us to be hanging in the balance. It was, to use David Codrea's term, an "I am Spartacus!" moment.
Then John Dodson stepped into the light.
Let's revisit that debut:
Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
"Yes ma'am," Dodson told CBS News. "The agency was."
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson's job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns "walk." In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.
Dodson's bosses say that never happened. Now, he's risking his job to go public.
"I'm boots on the ground in Phoenix, telling you we've been doing it every day since I've been here," he said. "Here I am. Tell me I didn't do the things that I did. Tell me you didn't order me to do the things I did. Tell me it didn't happen. Now you have a name on it. You have a face to put with it. Here I am. Someone now, tell me it didn't happen."
Agent Dodson and other sources say the gun walking strategy was approved all the way up to the Justice Department. The idea was to see where the guns ended up, build a big case and take down a cartel. And it was all kept secret from Mexico.
ATF named the case "Fast and Furious."
Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows suspected drug cartel suppliers carrying boxes of weapons to their cars at a Phoenix gun shop. The long boxes shown in the video being loaded in were AK-47-type assault rifles.
So it turns out ATF not only allowed it - they videotaped it.
Documents show the inevitable result: The guns that ATF let go began showing up at crime scenes in Mexico. And as ATF stood by watching thousands of weapons hit the streets... the Fast and Furious group supervisor noted the escalating Mexican violence.
One e-mail noted, "958 killed in March 2010 ... most violent month since 2005." The same e-mail notes: "Our subjects purchased 359 firearms during March alone," including "numerous Barrett .50 caliber rifles."
Dodson feels that ATF was partly to blame for the escalating violence in Mexico and on the border. "I even asked them if they could see the correlation between the two," he said. "The more our guys buy, the more violence we're having down there."
Senior agents including Dodson told CBS News they confronted their supervisors over and over.
Their answer, according to Dodson, was, "If you're going to make an omelette, you've got to break some eggs."
There was so much opposition to the gun walking, that an ATF supervisor issued an e-mail noting a "schism" among the agents. "Whether you care or not people of rank and authority at HQ are paying close attention to this case...we are doing what they envisioned.... If you don't think this is fun you're in the wrong line of work... Maybe the Maricopa County jail is hiring detention officers and you can get $30,000 ... to serve lunch to inmates..."
"We just knew it wasn't going to end well. There's just no way it could," Dodson said.
On Dec. 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down. Dodson got the bad news from a colleague.
According to Dodson, "They said, 'Did you hear about the border patrol agent?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And they said 'Well it was one of the Fast and Furious guns.' There's not really much you can say after that."
Two assault rifles ATF had let go nearly a year before were found at Terry's murder.
Dodson said, "I felt guilty. I mean it's crushing. I don't know how to explain it."
Sen. Grassley began investigating after his office spoke to Dodson and a dozen other ATF sources -- all telling the same story.
The response was "practically zilch," Grassley said. "From the standpoint that documents we want - we have not gotten them. I think it's a case of stonewalling."
Dodson said he hopes that speaking out helps Terry's family. They haven't been told much of anything about his murder - or where the bullet came from.
"First of all, I'd tell them that I'm sorry. Second of all, I'd tell them I've done everything that I can for them to get the truth," Dodson said. "After this, I don't know what else I can do. But I hope they get it."
Dodson said they never did take down a drug cartels. However, he said thousands of Fast and Furious weapons are still out there and will be claiming victims on both sides of the border for years to come. . .
With that act of going public, John Dodson made certain that the Project Gunwalker scandal would not just fade away.
AND HE HAD TO GO IN AND FACE "GUNWALKER BILL" NEWELL, HIS OTHER BOSSES AND CO-WORKERS THE NEXT DAY.
Think about that. John Dodson took his career at ATF and deliberately flushed it down the toilet all because he knew it was the right thing to do, that it had to be done -- that as a citizen, as a man, he had the duty to do it no matter the cost to himself.
Challenged by the banally evil men who put him in that position, he walked into the light and boldly declared "I am Spartacus!" No. Matter. What. The. Cost.
I'm sure this was not done lightly. Remember, he, along with other whistleblowers, had objected all the way along the line. This isn't a guy who is only emerging now to cut a deal. He has to know what being a whistleblower, even a successful whistleblower, really costs. In other administrations in other times he could well have been dead already. And by the time Lanny Breuer's attack dogs are done with him, his bank account (if nothing else) will be in tatters. And such evil men as Breuer do not forget and they do not forgive.
I tried to reach out to John Dodson through the other whistleblowers in preparation for writing this piece, and failed. One of the ATF agents who knows him said:
As much as I'm sure he appreciates it, he knows the importance of keeping the story about the story and not about him. He didn't do anything special, only what he thought was right. The last thing he ever wanted was to be "google-able". And let's be honest here, the guy has a face for radio!
"He didn't do anything special, only what he thought was right."
That, my friends, is the quintessential definition of an American citizen.
Would that there were more of them.
John Dodson, I salute you, sir.
The alleged leader of a merry band of Three Percenters.
I'm Spartacus! link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q