Senator Charles Grassley and Congressman Darrel Issa are moving to protect two Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives whistleblowers in the Operation Fast and Furious scandal after learning they have been placed under the supervision of a man who “vowed to retaliate against them.”
The new revelation will add more sparks to discussions progressing on Seattle Guns, Northwest Firearms and Gun Rights Media forums in the wake of Thursday’s historic contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has been out front calling for full disclosure, but the group has not revealed what its next move may be, following the release of a blistering anti-Holder video several days ago.
The retaliation allegation is contained in the opening paragraph of a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, sent Friday by Grassley and Issa.
It’s not the only new development in the investigation. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that an operation similar to Fast and Furious was mounted in Minnesota during the Clinton Administration, and it involved a central figure in the Arizona-based gun walking scandal linked to the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
According to the newspaper, then-ATF field agent George Gillett was working a case involving straw purchases of guns that went to suspected gang members. As with the Terry slaying, guns involved in that 1996 investigation reportedly turned up at a north Minneapolis crime scene.
Gillett abruptly terminated a telephone conversation with this column in March 2011 when asked about a meeting related to the then-unfolding Fast and Furious investigation. Confidential sources had advised Gun Rights Examiner at the time that Gillett had retained counsel, and later it was revealed by Grassley that Gillett was cooperating with the investigation and had asked for whistleblower protection.
That was ironic because Gillett’s name first surfaced in relation to Grassley’s early inquiries about gun walking as having allegedly confronted ATF whistleblowers at the Phoenix field office, in a letter the senator wrote to Kenneth Melson, then acting ATF director, on Jan. 31, 2011.
The Grassley-Issa letter to Horowitz asserts that Scot Thomasson, who was serving as chief of the ATF’s public affairs division, wanted to “get whatever dirt we can on” the whistleblowers “and take them down.” CBS News first reported on this late Friday.
Grassley and Issa also allege in their letter that Thomasson was overheard stating, “All these whistleblowers have axes to grind. ATF needs to f—k these guys.”
“It is difficult to understand why ATF leadership would put two of these courageous whistleblowers at the mercy of an individual who made such reckless, irresponsible, and inaccurate comments about them 18 months ago,” Grassley and Issa say in the letter.
Issa set off a tidal wave Thursday, as this column noted, when he deftly included in the official House record an exchange of letters he had with Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, about wiretap applications that Issa had obtained. Issa and Cummings disagree about the importance of those applications and what they contain.
The disclosure that Issa had those documents was cause for an investigation into how he obtained those “leaked documents.” However, the answer to that question may be found in a June 19 Wall Street Journal article in which reporter Evan Perez noted: “Another probe is focused on the unauthorized sharing of sealed wiretap documents related to the operation. A lawyer for an ATF supervisor who oversaw Fast and Furious inadvertently included court-sealed material in a batch of documents he turned over to the congressional investigators, these people said. The lawyer, Joshua Levy, was advised of his error by congressional staffers who declined to return the documents, they said. Mr. Levy didn’t respond to a request for comment.”
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National Gun Rights Examiner Dan