Fast & Furious Tell-All: ATF Told in May 2010 Program Would Lead to Officers' Deaths
The opening prologue of the new tell-all book from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent John Dodson shows the ATF was made aware of concerns that someone in U.S. law enforcement might die as a result of the program Operation Fast and Furious as early May 2010.
Several months later, on Dec. 15, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered with Fast and Furious weapons that Mexican drug cartel operatives in the region were using.
Dodson is the man who single-handedly brought the truth about Operation Fast and Furious to the American people as a whistleblower and has published a tell-all book about the program and his struggle to get the story out. The Unarmed Truth: My Fight to Blow the Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious hit shelves on Tuesday and has already garnered attention of several major media outlets. The book details Dodson’s activities with the ATF, his and others’ roles in Operation Fast and Furious, and his decision to go to Congress to blow the whistle on the program.
In the prologue, Dodson opens with a blistering scene from May 2010 when he walked into his office with fellow ATF agent Hope MacAllister—someone who was initially very supportive of Fast and Furious while Dodson opposed it internally at Phoenix’s Strike Force office.
“On an early morning in May 2010, sliding through the metal doors just as they were about to close, I encountered Hope MacAllister,” Dodson writes.
She and I were both assigned to the newly formed Strike Force. Although comprising several federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (more commonly known as ATF), the Strike Force was located on the fourth floor of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s building in Phoenix. Hope was the case agent for the ongoing investigation she had dubbed "Fast and Furious."
Dodson lays out how he had been, for “nearly half a year” at that point, “waging” a “battle” with regard to Fast and Furious—what Dodson describes as “the Phoenix ATF office’s most prized operation, one that the brass in Washington had taken an unusual interest in.”
“I felt confused, frustrated, and pissed-off with my front- row seat to an impending train wreck,” Dodson writes. “Sharing twenty awkward seconds with the person driving the locomotive did little to make it better.”
Dodson sets the scene of riding the elevator—and all the awkwardness that comes with doing so. Then MacAllister turned to Dodson and asked about Fast and Furious: “John, what do you really think about this case?”
“My mouth opened and for a second or so I didn’t say a word,” Dodson writes about his thoughts in response.
Really? What do I think about this case? For months now, our office had been watching known small-time criminals purchase hundreds of weapons... AK-47 variants, AR variants, .50 cals... all “weapons of choice” for drug traffickers... and then hand them off to drug cartels in Mexico. There was no question in anyone’s mind that these weapons were being trafficked and that we were not only allowing it but in fact facilitating it. A few of us pleaded with our superiors to allow us to arrest these buyers—more commonly known as "straw purchasers"—interdict their load of guns, or seize their money before the purchase. To do something, anything to take some kind of enforcement action. To do our jobs.
Dodson notes that several times, he and his fellow agents who wanted to enforce the laws were told “to stand down.”
“Hope, don’t ask me questions that you don’t want to know the answers to,” Dodson writes of how he responded to MacAllister.
“I do want to know,” MacAllister responded, according to Dodson, noting that she “seemed sincere.”
“What do you really think?” she asked.
After walking off the elevator with her, then down a hallway to their office, Dodson replied:
We’re walking guns. How many guns have we flooded the border with? How much of the crime down there are we responsible for? We are just as culpable as if we had sold them ourselves. We’re never going to get anywhere with this case. We’re not going to climb the ladder. At best, you’re only going to get back to the DEA wire. That’s as high as you can go. We haven’t learned anything. The only thing that’s changed from the very beginning is the number of guns we’ve let walk.
At that point, Dodson and MacAllister had reached their office and had “drawn the attention of everyone in the room.”
“All the agents in our Strike Force Group VII turned to watch, as did the Gun Runner Impact Team (GRIT) guys who were there on detail from all around the country, called in to help us with Fast and Furious,” Dodson writes. “Even David Voth, our group supervisor, had stepped out of his office.”
Dodson says his “eyes were still focused on Hope, but my fury was directed more broadly to all of those complicit in Fast and Furious, a number of whom were within earshot, especially the guy who was now listening closely.”
He asked them all: “What you need to ask yourself is this: Are you prepared to go to a border patrol agent’s funeral or a Cochise County deputy’s funeral over this? Are you prepared to watch that widow accept that folded flag?”
The room went silent.
“Around me jaws dropped, fingers stopped jabbing at keyboards, all attention now intensely focused on us,” Dodson writes. “I had just said what we all knew deep down inside. Everyone in that room knew this was what I thought, but no one had ever expected me to say it aloud, so bluntly, so publicly. I knew what I was doing. I was telling the truth. We were going to get people killed.”
At that point, Dodson gave another dire warning to those present: “It isn’t a matter of ‘if.’ It’s only a matter of ‘when.’ And everyone in this room knows it.”
Seven months later, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in Peck Canyon near Nogales, AZ, several miles inside the U.S. Border with Mexico.