John Dodson, the Operation Fast and Furious whistle-blower whose account has been publicly doubted, is writing a book about his experience of the botched "gun-walking" sting. In fact, he's already written it—the manuscript, titled The Unarmed Truth, is simply waiting to be published. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have already written a foreword for it.
There's only one problem: Dodson is still employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). And the ATF doesn't particularly want Dodson to publish his account of the 2012 scandal, which has reportedly already been snatched up by Simon & Schuster. So, naturally, they're trying to block him, claiming the account "would have a negative impact on morale" and "would have a detrimental effect on our relationships with DEA and FBI."
Today, family members of Brian Terry, the Border Patrol agent allegedly killed by walked guns illegally supplied by ATF, voiced their support for Dodson and his right to publish:
The family of slain U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry stands behind ATF whistleblower John Dodson and supports his attempts to publish his manuscript pertaining to the flawed gun trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious. [ . . . ] This latest incident reignites concerns that ATF leadership is again seeking to avoid responsibility for the deadly errors made in allowing the flawed gun walking tactics.
The American Civil Liberties Union has also gotten involved, representing Dodson's First Amendment rights. So has Senator Grassley, telling The Washington Post that "just because the ATF leadership doesn’t like the content of the book doesn’t mean they should be able to prevent the author from giving his side of the story."
But Dodson's "side of the story" remains in dispute. A 2012 Fortune investigation, for instance, argued that the ATF never meant to let "walked" guns be used by Mexican drug cartels, claiming the public narrative is "replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies."
And the legal boundaries are tangled. The ATF can't likely prevent Dodson from going public with his account of the operation. But government-wide policy does require federal employees to submit outside employment requests to receive payment "for from any source other than the government for teaching, speaking or writing that relates to the employee’s official duties."
Such requests can be denied "for any reason."
"It's not clear that they are denying him the ability to publish, but rather to receive compensation for publishing the book," Lee Rowland, an ACLU staff attorney, explained to The Atlantic Wire. "[But] we had real concerns about Agent Dodson's First Amendment rights to speak about an issue of real public interest here.
Rowland thinks Dodson will likely be able to publish the book: "I'm very pleased to report that we have already begun a very fruitful conversation with the ATF about his case and it's rapidly developing," she said.
Simon & Schuster, however, did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether or not it still intends to publish the book. Here's the ACLU's letter to the ATF, via the Huffington Post.