Message to Whistle Blowers: Shut Up or Else

The Espionage Act of 1917 was passed after the United States entered World War I. The act states that a person cannot interfere with military operations or help US enemies during war.  But, there is nothing in the Espionage Act about whistle blowing or leaking information when the government is in the wrong. Yet, Attorney General Eric Holder “has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined.”

Mr. Holder has been Attorney General for a little over three years, and six people have been indicted under the law. The administration claims it is acting in the interest of national security, but the reality is if a government official talks to the media, their entire life, personal and professional, can be ruined. This administration does not want their corruption and waste to be exposed.

The DOJ put in new ways for their employees to expose waste and corruption and President Obama extended whistle blower protections to national security and intelligence employees. This bill passed the House, but is stalled in the Senate. However, these do not protect a person that goes to the media. Instead it only protects an employee if he goes through the proper channels.

Employees have tried reporting malfeasance by traditional means, but the chain of command did nothing. In fact if they don’t go through the chain of command the employees could be punished. In July ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones sent out a video warning agents they must go through their chain of command when they notice problems. A great example of this would be the treatment of the whistle blowers in Operation Fast & Furious, the government gunwalking operation that put 2,000 guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. These guns are linked to the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and 300+ Mexican citizens. Another gunwalking operation out of Dallas, TX is linked to the death of ICE Agent Jaime Zapata.

Katie Pavlich devotes an entire chapter on the treatment of whistle blowers in her book Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up. ATF Agent John Dodson did not like the idea of Fast & Furious and when he complained to his superiors: “Assistant Special Agent In Charge George Gillett made it clear that any agent who wanted a career with the ATF would stay away from Dodson and deny gunwalking allegations.” He was treated like a pariah. They took away his gun and he wasn’t allowed to work in operations. David Voth, one of his supervisors, ordered reports on his activities. They forced him to do surveillance duty, which meant 10 hours in a dark closet. Finally they forced him to turn over his ATF badge and head to the FBI office in Phoenix.

A year later he gave evidence against his former agency in congressional hearings. He refused to retract his testimony and in the middle of a hallway with other agents present, Agent Gillett “screamed that any agent who communicated with Dodson would find it detrimental to his ATF career.”

ATF Agent Vince Cefalu is a well-known whistle blower who has called out corruption many times during his career. He once reported to his supervisors that people were cutting corners to get wiretaps. Anyone knows it is extremely hard to get a wiretap approved, considering it’s an invasion of privacy. His supervisors told him to ignore it or be transferred to Fargo, North Dakota. When he filed an ethics complaint they labeled him as a disgruntled employee. Finally, in 2006, the agency accused him of misconduct. Some punishments included year long assignments away from his family and desk jobs out of the field. He said the most painful though was the way his friends of over 20 years ignored him. They knew “[I]f you’re seen with Vince, your career is over.”

Last week Agent Cefalu was officially fired. The ATF had the nerve to serve him his termination papers in a Denny’s parking lot in South Lake Tahoe, CA. 


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