When Guns Walked: Sharyl Attkisson and John Dodson on Fast and Furious

In her book Stonewalled, Sharyl Attkisson reminds readers of the Fast and Furious debacle: the issue of corruption, coverups, and government misdeeds. Early in the Obama Administration, ATF officials came up with a plan to secretly enlist the help of licensed gun dealers in Arizona and encouraged them to sell firearms to suspected traffickers for the Mexican drug cartels. Part of the plan was to allow these guns to be used in crimes that would lead to the arrest of major drug cartel figures. American Thinker interviewed journalist Sharyl Attkisson and John Dodson, the Fast and Furious whistleblower who helped to make this outrageous scheme public. 

Dodson joined the ATF nearly ten years ago after serving in the military and working for the sheriff’s office in Virginia. He felt, in the beginning of his career, that as an ATF agent he made a difference in people’s lives and took the oath of protection literally. Yet, all that changed after he was assigned to the Fast and Furious case. He could not believe his assignment and told American Thinker, “I asked my superiors, are you prepared to go to the funeral for a federal officer killed with one of these guns, and watch their widow hold the folded flag?”

Wanting to do the right thing, in January 2011 Dodson informed Senator Chuck Grassley’s office about the Fast and Furious operation. He then told his bosses at ATF what he said, and instead of being forthright, they drafted a letter in February denying ATF ever let guns walk, and did not sanction or knowingly allow the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers. Sharyl Attkisson, in pursuing the story, was told by an Obama Administration official, “Every other outlet is ‘reasonable’ except you. Nobody else thinks there is a story. Just you. You’re the only one. Sharyl Attkisson is right and everybody else is wrong?” She directly commented, “There was a great deal of pushback, attempts to manipulate opinion by the Obama administration. According to my sources, other reporters were trying to publish stories on Fast and Furious, but their managers or editors apparently blocked it.”

Recently, Judicial Watch was able to force the Obama Administration to release documents from their FOIA lawsuit. Among the documents was the stunning, but not surprising, targeting of Sharyl. http://www.judicialwatch.org/fast-furious-documents-released/ She noted, “"Is this how you envision your tax dollars being spent? Here it is in black and white: documents President Obama withheld under executive privilege showing his government taxpayer-paid press flacks targeting me for reporting on Fast and Furious and Obama flacks planting negative stories about their political enemies with friendly press."

In an email dated October 4, 2011, Attorney General Holder’s top press aide, Tracy Schmaler, called Attkisson “out of control.” Schmaler told White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz that he intended to call CBS news anchor Bob Schieffer to get the network to stop Attkisson. She told American Thinker, “’Out of control’ is a very telling phrase. It implies they think they should be able to ‘control’ the media. The outrage is: the email exchange shows they aren’t upset that Attorney General Eric Holder gave questionable testimony to Congress; they aren’t upset that their own internal documents contradict what Holder said, but they are upset at me for factually reporting it.”

In Stonewalled, Attkisson talks about what she refers to as “controversializing,” where a propaganda campaign is launched by surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts by focusing on the personality instead of the evidence. This is no more evident than with John Dodson. He told American Thinker, “My supervisors looked for ways to fire me and try to indict me on the accusation that I released classified information.  I owe thanks to Senator Grassley and Congressman Issa’s staff that kept me afloat and alive.  I do mean that figuratively and literally.  Just think of it, if they made me go away, the whole problem goes away.  I could see their game escalating.  I have been transferred, slandered, and ostracized. They had their journalist friends try to destroy my character and reputation, including leaking my internal personnel files.They tracked my vehicle, searched my computer and cell phones, and had surveillance over my family and myself. I knew about these, but what is really terrifying is what I don’t know about. I do fear that if something happened to me now there would not be an outcry.”

Because of his frustration with the coverage, Dodson wrote a book that came out a year ago entitled, The Unarmed Truth: My Fight to Blow the Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious. He was hoping to get the issue back in the public eye since there are still questions that remain. Mainly, where did this plan originate, who was ultimately responsible, and how was it allowed to progress and grow? Both he and Sharyl believe the DOJ is “stonewalling” the information requested by Congress. Specifically, that every time a gun from Fast and Furious is involved in a crime Congress is supposed to be told who used the gun, and what was the crime it was involved in. He warns, “Americans need to understand that no one knows the amount of guns sold. Fast and Furious involved only one group that came out of one field position, with 2400 guns sold. But there are other offices within Arizona and the Southwest that we do not know about that are under different case names. I think it is almost impossible to know how many people will have died from this operation since the gun recovered will only be from the latest crime. The previous crimes that the gun was associated with would never be known.”

Dodson was “taken back by the fact that the banner was not taken up by everybody. Those in the media dismissed it because they were told to dismiss it. It became an exercise in futility. I went to Sharyl in March 2011 because everyone seemed to circle around that February letter, which was a lie. No official ever talked to me, or people handling the case, because all they were concerned with was giving a response to Congress. I knew something had to be done and fortunately Sharyl was around. ”

Attkisson regards John Dodson as a hero and understands that the plight of the whistleblower is very difficult. “No one can guarantee what the outcome of blowing the whistle will be. Those who disparaged John never offered an apology. Higher-ups never thanked him for risking his career to expose an ill-advised program responsible for contributing to murders on both sides of the border. He only received heartache. Even after the government admitted wrongdoing, when I called ATF for comment about his book, The Unarmed Truth, they clearly still viewed him as a mortal enemy for the simple act of telling the truth.”

Dodson hopes that the whistleblower laws will change because the current ones are useless. “The government can make your life hell without ever taking any dollars out of your paycheck. The laws do not protect this. ATF poisoned the well toward me and made me toxic so that my co-workers ignored me for the fear any association with me will be detrimental to their careers. I am radioactive and my life is upside down. It seems after you give out the information you are on your own.” He has a good point since criminals who inform are put in the Witness Protection Program with a new life and financial support, while whistleblowers become forgotten and are mistreated.

He also wished he received some support from the gun shop owners who assisted the ATF in this operation. Dodson is disappointed that not very many have spoken out publicly to substantiate what he said. Journalist Jack Cashill, the author of You Lie! -- The Evasions, Omissions, Fabrications, Frauds, and Outright Falsehoods of Barack Obama, feels that the gun storeowners “were in no position to blow the whistle on Fast and Furious or support people like John Dodson because they are dependent on the government and are so heavily regulated. The government is able to tie their hands and make their life a living hell like they did with John.”

Both Attkisson and Dodson question what happened to the good guys. Dodson wonders how the government gets away with protecting and standing by those individuals who headed up this program, essentially buying their silence, while Attkisson calls it the “Alice in Wonderland” effect. She commented, “Good is bad, bad is good. You tell the truth that is bad, but if you help in the cover-up that is rewarded. By and large very little happened to the wrongdoers, but people like John were marginalized.”

Had it not been for people like Sharyl Attkisson and John Dodson more guns might have been “walked,” with the end result of more people dying. Their books, Stonewalled and The Unarmed Truth, inform Americans about the malfeasance going on by the ATF and the DOJ regarding the illegal activities of Fast and Furious. Americans need to read these books to understand how there are still those who will step up and do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.