Lawmakers and government accountability advocates have expressed concern over a July 9 video message directed at Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents by ATF Acting Director Todd Jones, which they say is a veiled threat to government whistleblowers.
“Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences, because we cannot tolerate—we cannot tolerate—an undisciplined organization,” Jones said in the video.
Some lawmakers and government accountability groups interpreted the words as a warning to employees considering blowing the whistle on corruption.
In a July 18 letter to Jones, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) wrote ATF employees must be “free and clear of agency interference or retaliation” if they choose to talk to Congress.
“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,” the two lawmakers wrote. “Therefore, it needs to be clarified.”