The U.S. government is barring a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent from publishing a book about a botched gun operation called Fast and Furious, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The ACLU said agent John Dodson of the ATF field division in Phoenix was prohibited from writing about the operation. An ATF ethics official said in a letter that allowing Dodson to publish a book about Fast and Furious could harm morale and the bureau’s relationships with other federal law enforcement agencies, the ACLU said.
In a letter to ATF, the ACLU said the bureau’s policy was too restrictive and violated Dodson’s free-speech rights.
“As a knowledgeable and informed ‘insider’ who was directly involved in Operation Fast and Furious, agent Dodson will add significantly to the national conversation about gun policy and its implementation by federal law enforcement agencies,” the ACLU’s letter said.
Dodson was one of the first law enforcement officials to publicly criticize operations where agents allowed firearms to “walk” -- be purchased by straw buyers and cross into Mexico.
The operations were intended to lead law enforcement authorities to individuals in Mexican drug cartels, which utilize straw purchasers to get guns for their organizations.
One of the operations, known as Fast and Furious, became a focal point for congressional investigators as they sought to identify the origins and driving forces behind the program.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report in September 2012 outlining management failures at the ATF and the Justice Department as part of the operation that lost track of about 2,000 guns purchased by straw buyers. Two of those guns were found at the scene of the 2010 killing in Arizona of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
ATF spokesman Timothy Graden said in an e-mailed statement today that federal regulations prohibit agents from “writing about issues that arise from his or her duties as a special agent and profiting from his or her experiences while still acting in the special agent capacity.”
In a statement released by the ACLU, Dodson said, “We have a right to know and talk about what law enforcement agencies do in our name.”