ATF Damage Control on Whistleblowers Raising New Concerns

ATF agents

USA – A video posted yesterday by The Washington Guardian, featuring Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Acting Director B. Todd Jones that warns against agents taking complaints “outside the chain of command,” is being met with alarm and skepticism by politicians, agents, and others determined to get to the bottom of Bureau and Department of Justice corruption charges. In a related simultaneous development, a memo reminding ATF management of “Rights and Duties Under the Whistleblower Protection Act” is being dismissed as a cynical ploy by an activist attorney.

“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,” ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Charles E. Grassley and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa told Jones in a July 18 letter in response to his “Changecast” video.

“If courageous whistleblowers…had not come forward to Congress, the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious might never have come to light,” they reminded him.

Gun Rights Examiner has closely followed retaliation-related incidents related to whistleblowers, including reporting how, in early January 2011, ATF’s then-Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Chief Counsel Stephen Stephen R. Rubenstein corresponded about using Orders and Standards of Conduct and Internal Affairs investigators against the poster who first revealed large numbers of guns were being walked and some of those were found at Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder scene on the CleanUpATF whistleblower website. Since then, this column has actually had to spike investigative exposes ready for publication because the sources backed out in fear of retaliation, and has backed off from developing stories halted for the same reasons.

Thus when the story came out that “senior officials inside the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began preparing as early as February 2011 to treat the agents who unmasked the bungled Fast and Furious gun operation as whistleblowers,” aside from snorting at the “bungled” assumption, it looked to some like ATF may have been taking its legal obligation more seriously than previously recognized. But the operative phrase is “looked like,” because some “in the know” maintain the appearance is calculated and deceptive, and that this fits an established and cynical pattern of abuse.

Kay Kubicki is a former ATF group supervisor turned lawyer, who has been acting as an advocate on behalf of disaffected agents for years, and who posts in the third person on CleanUpATF under the screen name “Madea.” With a reputation for bluntness and for not suffering fools, gladly or otherwise, she is a recognized authority on management and its practices, including as they relate to retaliation.

“If you’ll notice in the email from [ATF Associate Chief Counsel Joel J.] Roessner, he’s telling the managers not to ask any of the whistleblowers if they are indeed whistleblowers,” Madea explained. “Because you see, if the managers asked the question and got caught retaliating, the managers could not claim they “DIDN’T KNOW” when the inevitable lawsuit goes before the MSPB [Merit System Protection Board] or Federal Court. And in this case, you can believe these managers will go before congress and claim they ‘didn’t know he was a whistleblower at the time of the alleged reprisal.”

“This is an ATF standard that Madea hears every time it can be used,” she elaborated. Remember, it’s the reason they always get someone else to sign the proposal letter to suspend/terminate, so the proposing official can say, ‘why, I had no idea he was a whistleblower,’ or ‘I had no idea he had filed a complaint’.”

“’No idea’ Madea’s a….”

About David Codrea

David Codrea is a long-time gun rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He is a field editor for GUNS Magazine, and a blogger at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance. Read more at

David Codrea