Dennis Burke, a former U.S. attorney, retaliated against the primary whistleblower in the botched effort to trace the flow of thousands of guns to Mexico’s drug cartels, according to a newly released report from the Inspector General. Burke allegedly did so when he leaked information to Fox News and The New York Times in an effort to undermine the credibility of the whistleblower.
IG Michael Horowitz also says there is evidence that Burke retaliated by disclosing a memo written by the whistleblower, federal agent John Dodson. The report called Burke’s decision “wholly unbefitting of a U.S. attorney.”
The botched operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious,” became public (and an embarrassment for the Obama administration) after one of the weapons was implicated in the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010. Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress for withholding certain documents related to the operation, but was later cleared.
According to the new report, Burke, who stepped down amid the probe, admitted to providing an internal ATF memo to Fox News in 2011. The idea, apparently, was that it would discredit Dodson.
The report says Dodson drafted an email to his supervisor in May 2010 in which he proposed going undercover as a straw purchaser and delivering firearms to suspected traffickers—a plan very similar to Fast and Furious. Dodson was also one of the first law enforcement officials to criticize the operation to Congress. Leaking the memo, it seems, was an attempt to smear Dodson for seemingly coming up with the plan but later criticizing it.
“Although Burke denied to congressional investigators that he had any retaliatory motive for his actions, we found substantial evidence to the contrary,” the report says. “We found the timing of the disclosure coupled with Burke’s apparent frustration regarding Dodson’s testimony to Congress to be a strong indicators of his state of mind and motivation.”
According to the report, Burke and Justice Department officials exchanged emails about Dodson. Burke expressed outrage that Dodson spoke to CBS and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa about the secret operation.
“Unbelievable. [Dodson] called Grassley and CBS to unearth what he in fact was proposing to do by himself. When you thought the hypocrisy of this whole matter had hit the limit already,” Burke wrote in April 2011.
Burke also misled Assistant Attorney General James Cole when he confronted Burke about the leak, according to the IG report. It said Burke at first was “evasive” before admitting he was involved. Burke was “admonished” by Cole for “lying” to him and put him “on notice that such disclosures should not occur.”
The report comes as the DOJ is under fire for secretly obtaining Associated Press journalists’ phone records and investigating the disclosure of classified information having to do with a CIA operation in Yemen to stop a bomb plot.
Again, Holder is coming under fire, with some Republicans demanding he resign, although he said he recused himself from the probe and handed the baton to his deputy.
Obama said last week that Holder was here to stay. He defended the DOJ investigation as crucial for national security but also called for a balance of press freedom.
“I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general,” Obama said. “He does his job with integrity and I expect he will continue to do so.”