WASHINGTON (MCT) — The ATF’s acting director has warned agents they risk “consequences” if they complain to anyone outside their chain of command, which some Capitol Hill lawmakers interpreted as an effort to stifle whistle-blowers.
In a video posted July 9, B. Todd Jones warned that agents and other employees should bring complaints to their direct supervisors, not voice them outside the bureau.
“Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command...there will be consequences,” said Jones, who was appointed to run the beleaguered agency after the Fast and Furious gun scandal — which was brought to light by whistleblowers.
The video, shared with all employees, was part of Jones’ recurring messages on how he plans to run the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
John Hageman, the ATF’s acting chief of legislative affairs in Washington, said Wednesday that Jones taped the comments after visiting field offices, where he was often asked what would happen to employees who went public with allegations of misconduct.
“He regularly invites feedback and many employees’ concerns have been about a lack of accountability for those who don’t abide by agency rules,” Hageman said. “That is what he set out to address.”
The Phoenix-based Fast and Furious operation allowed hundreds of illegal gun sales in the hopes that U.S. officials could track them to Mexican drug cartels. Instead, most weapons vanished, and several turned up at crime scenes in the U.S. and Mexico. Two were found just north of the U.S.-Mexico border where U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was shot to death.
Jones’ video prompted Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who have been investigating Fast and Furious on Capitol Hill, to write him asking for clarification.
“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,” Grassley and Issa said.