WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is blocking a federal law enforcement agent from publishing a book about the failed "Fast and Furious" gun-smuggling sting operation because of concerns that the book would negatively affect morale, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.
The ACLU charged that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is worried that the book proposed by an ATF agent would hurt relationships with other U.S. law enforcement agencies.
In a six-page letter to ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, the ACLU said the bureau's decision to block the book proposed by Special Agent John Dodson was a violation of his First Amendment rights. The ACLU described Dodson as a whistle-blower.
According to the letter, the ATF denied Dodson's request to try to publish a book about his version of the Fast and Furious scandal because the bureau predicted it would have "a negative impact on morale in the Phoenix (Field Division) and would have a detrimental" impact on ATF relationships with the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The ATF didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
A federal law enforcement official said the government is still considering whether Dodson can publish his proposed book if he doesn't make any money. Federal law prohibits government employees from profiting on outside work related to their official duties while still employed by the government.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, decried the ATF's opposition to Dodson's book proposal.
"Three years later, the Justice Department is still trying to silence whistle-blower accounts of Operation Fast and Furious because they're embarrassing for the department," Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement.
The Washington Times first reported the ATF's decision Monday.
Dodson was an agent in the Phoenix field office, where Fast and Furious investigation was run, when he went to Congress with details about the sting operation in which the ATF allowed gun-runners to buy weapons in hopes of tracking them and disrupting Mexican gun smuggling rings. At least one of the guns was found at the scene of the 2010 shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in southern Arizona.
In the wake of the public revelations about Fast and Furious, many top bureau leaders were reassigned, forced out of the agency or retired, including then-Acting Director Kenneth Melson.
In a statement provided by the ACLU, Dodson defended his book.
"At the end of the day, we have a right to know and talk about what law enforcement agencies do in our name," Dodson said.
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