Published June 18, 2012
GREENVILLE, SC – More than a year after ATF Special Agent John Dodson first blew the whistle on the scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, Dodson says he is "disheartened and disappointed" by the congressional investigation and Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of the botched gunrunning probe.
"I am here today because it's been a year since the first hearing and Brian Terry's family still doesn't have answers," Dodson said from his living room in Greenville, S.C.
In his first interview since February 2011, when he first revealed the U.S. government was helping run guns to Mexican cartels, Dodson exclusively told Fox News he has no regrets.
"We did it. I was there. I was part of it. You don't get to lie about it. That is not who we are," Dodson said.
According to records, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation sent some 2,500 guns to the Sinaloa Cartel from September 2009 to January 2011. Agents asked American gun dealers to sell the weapons and report the transactions immediately to the ATF. Despite their misgivings, most firearms dealers went along. When the guns began showing up immediately at crime scenes in Mexico, Dodson warned his supervisors their operation was going to kill an American law enforcement officer, not to mention hundreds of Mexicans.
"I asked them if they were prepared to go to the funeral of a Border Patrol agent over this or Cochise County deputy – if they were prepared to watch that widow accept that folded flag because that’s exactly what was going to happen. So they can't claim that was an unforeseen consequence," he said.
While Dodson's offhand warning in May 2010 in the office lunchroom may seem inconsequential, legally it's not. The Terry family is preparing to sue the U.S. government for wrongful death. In similar cases, government agencies often argue accidental deaths or injuries are an "unforeseen consequence" of their actions. Dodson's warning makes that defense problematic.
"I don't feel vindicated at all," Dodson explained. "It's not a matter of me feeling vindicated. ... Maybe the truth will come out -- ultimately that's what this is supposed to be about ... to get the truth."
After internal emails revealed Fast and Furious guns were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Dodson said he complained repeatedly to the ATF Office of Professional Responsibility. Twice he was directed to voicemail. Eventually, he went outside the agency to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
"Do I regret it? No. To me, there wasn't a choice. But I thought I would be one of many agents to come forward,” he said. Dodson was wrong.
Dodson says Grassley's staff warned, "going public will probably not end well for you." But he went ahead, knowing he could lose his job. Other agents considered it, but were urged not to.
"Other agents were held back because of their families," said Dodson's wife Keri. "When you have a family and spouse who wants and expects certain things, the thought of losing that is incomprehensible."
Dodson and his wife say they were raised in the rural South by families with strong values but limited means.
After Terry's shooting,"John had to come forward," Keri Dodson said. "The way we were both brought up, truth is the ultimate. Truth may hurt. It may sting. It may be hard to deal with. To lie or not tell truth because you are worried about money is just not something that we do."
Dodson paid a high price for the truth. Moving to Arizona had been a dream come true. But after he blew the whistle, he was ostracized and told to leave Phoenix. Agent-in-Charge Tom Brandon knew the boss in South Carolina and felt Dodson would feel less retribution there.
"It was hard leaving Phoenix," Keri Dodson said.
Even though Attorney General Eric Holder admitted Fast and Furious was a mistake and ordered the agency to stop walking guns, Dodson says the ATF never acknowledged it did anything wrong. His former chain of command filed a complaint against Dodson for lying. Despite a mountain of evidence and testimony to the contrary, he remains on leave, rendered ineffective by the claims against him.
"I can't do my job. Every time I help another agent, I endanger his case by being there under this cloud of accusation," Dodson said.
The attorney general has asked the inspector general to investigate Fast and Furious and determine who is responsible for its mistakes. More than a year later, Dodson finds it incredible no one has been punished and held accountable.
"The Secret Service scandal that just happened. Did we have to wait on an OIG report? No. In three weeks 10 guys were gone," he said. "The GSA scandal? Dealt with and gone. We shouldn't have to wait a year on a OIG report."
As for the current congressional investigation, Dodson says lawmakers should stop playing politics.
"I don't care if you're on the right or left. No one has ever asked me my political affiliation. To say this is all party games, not for me. Not for Brian Terry's family, I assure you.”
As for holding Holder in contempt of Congress -- which some lawmakers are pushing for with a committee vote as early as this week -- Dodson says: "We either do it or we don't. Either you think he is in contempt or you don't. If you do, then you vote. Give it the floor time. You play your cards."