Rep. Darrell Issa is accusing officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of “closing ranks” in an effort to intimidate potential whistleblowers within the agency.
In an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren” Thursday evening, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee took issue with a recent ATF training video, in which he said agency director Todd Jones threatened “there will be consequences” if agents went outside “the chain of command” with complaints.
Without whistleblowers, Issa insisted, the problems with the controversial Fast and Furious gun-running operation within the agency would never have been brought to light.
“This is a thinly veiled threat, telling people: ‘Don't go to the press, don't go to Congress, even if the chain of command isn’t working,’ which is really what happened in Fast and Furious,” Issa said.“It wasn’t that ATF people weren’t screaming bloody murder. It’s they weren't being listened to by Justice or by some of their leaders.”
Agency officials have denied the video was intended to threaten ATF employees or that it was meant to keep secrets within the agency. But the California Republican and Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley have written to Jones asking him to clarify his comments in the video.
“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,” the two lawmakers wrote. “You must remind ATF employees about their right to talk to Congress and provide Congress with information free and clear of agency interference or retaliation.”
Issa — who headed the push in Congress to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not turning over documents related to the Fast and Furious investigation — suggested the video was more evidence of what he considers was a cover-up within the Justice Department and ATF.
”When law enforcement closes ranks even when things are wrong, that is exactly what the American people are concerned about,” he said. “We continue to still be stonewalled post-contempt on any cooperation, even to get an answer from the U.S. attorney here in the District of Columbia as to whether or not he will proceed according to the statute on the contempt that was already voted by a bipartisan group of congressmen.”
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