|Ex-US atty admits leaking document to smear whistleblower|
Ex-U.S. attorney admits leaking Fast and Furious document
By Jerry Seper The Washington Times Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Arizona,who resigned in the wake of a congressional probe into the Fast and Furious undercover investigation his office oversaw, has admitted leaking a sensitive document about a federal agent who blew the whistle on the gunrunning operation, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.
Mr. Grassley, in a statement late Tuesday, said the leaked document was “deemed so sensitive by the Justice Department that it was not provided to Congress, except in a secured room at department headquarters.”
“Leaking sensitive documents to the press and retaliating against whistleblowers is not good faith cooperation with Congress,” Mr. Grassley said.
The leak involved Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agent John Dodson, one of several agents who testifed in June before a House committee that their ATF superiors told them to stand down and watch as weapons flowed from gun dealers in Arizona to criminals and violent drug cartels in Mexico as part of the Fast and Furious operation.
Agent Dodson told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the operation facilitated the sale of more than 2,000 firearms, and while hundreds have been recovered, there could be more than 1,000 still out. Agent Dodson said that of those, two-thirds were likely in Mexico and the rest still in the U.S.
“The Justice Department confirmed that the Inspector General continues to investigate the leak, which means there are others who may be involved in drafting and distributing the talking points and document to the press,” Mr. Grassley said.
In August, Mr. Burke, who oversaw all federal prosecutions in Arizona, resigned while Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, the lead prosecutor in the Fast and Furious investigation, was reassigned from the criminal division to the civil division. Kenneth E. Melson, ATF’s acting director, was reassigned the same day to a lesser role as senior adviser on forensic science.
The three Justice Department officials had come heavy criticism after Mr. Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, discovered that hundreds of weapons sold to straw buyers in the Fast and Furious operation had been “walked” to drug smugglers in Mexico.
At least two of those weapons, AK-47 assault rifles, turned up at the site of the fatal Dec. 14, 2010, shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, killed by Mexican bandits just north of Nogales, Ariz.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the Burke resignation and the reassignments.The Fast and Furious operation has been disavowed by Mr. Holder and President Obama.
Mr. Burke’s Phoenix attorney, Lee Stein, said in a Nov. 8 letter to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General — which was posted on Politico — that his client had provided information to a reporter who was working on several stories involving Fast and Furious. The attorney said “it was clear” to Mr. Burke from their conversations that the reporter already was aware of a memo about Agent Dodson and he wanted “to give context to information the reporter already had.”
The attorney wrote that because the memo’s topics involved closed investigations, it was not subject to any limitations on disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
“ Dennis regrets his role in disclosing the memo but he’s a stand-up guy and is willing to take responsibility for what he did,” the letter said. “It was absolutely not Dennis’s intent to retaliate against Special Agent Dodson or anyone else for the information they provided Congress.”
Mr. Stein said Mr. Burke has been “cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and with the Congress and will continue to do so.” It is unclear who else at Justice took part in sharing the memo with reporters. The Inspector General’s investigation into the leak was first reported by NPR in July.
The Inspector General’s Office and the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility are investigating the Fast and Furious operation, but it is not known when a final report might be made public.
Agent Dodson’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, said in a statement: “Special Agent Dodson demonstrated both tremendous courage and fidelity to the mission of ATF when he came forward to discuss the misguided Fast and Furious investigation. It is unfortunate that his superiors at ATF and DOJ did not listen to his attempts to address the matter internally, and instead chose to attack him once he, out of necessity, stepped forward.”
Mr. Driscoll described Mr. Burke’s public acknowledgment that he “participated in such misguided efforts to smear Agent Dodson is welcome, but unfortunately Burke did not act alone in attempting to ruin Special Agent Dodson’s career.”