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ATF Whistleblower Speaks Out About Botched Gun Operation

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 30, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: The biggest scandal to hit the Obama administration since it took office is this harebrained scheme to allow Mexican drug dealers to buy weapons in the United States and then take them over the border to Mexico supposedly to track their movements. Well, of course, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms quickly lost track of the weapons. Two of these guns were then found at the scene where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in December of last year. Now President Obama was asked about this botched sting operation yesterday.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: My attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico. The investigation is still pending. I'm not going to comment on a current investigation. I have made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF and we have got to find out how that happened. As soon as the investigation is completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken.


INGRAHAM: Well, who knew what when, and how far up the chain of command did this ineptitude, if that's all it is, go? Well, one ATF agent, Vince Cefalu, who helped blow the whistle on this embarrassing mess, is now joining us from Reno, Nevada. Vincent, great to see you. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this, what is the story with your job? Because you were the whistleblower here. You gave a lot of the information to the public, stuff we wouldn't have known otherwise. I thought we were all in favor of whistleblowers in the United States, but what's happened to you?

VINCE CEFALU, ATF WHISTLEBLOWER: Well, I have recently received my notice that the Bureau of ATF no longer needs my services or wants them as a result of my actions, along with dozens of others who have come forward.

INGRAHAM: And Vincent, I'm looking at your file here in front of me, you have gotten repeated glowing reviews, job reviews over the years that you have been with ATF. I mean, you've been commended for your exemplary service and you've served in a variety of capacities. So what exactly happened? You reported what you knew about this back in December of last year. Tell us the narrative.

CEFALU: The short version is when I became aware -- I had been exposing what I saw as a deterioration in the senior leadership in ATF to the point where it started crossing pretty huge ethical and legal boundaries. Other agents were coming to me from across the country just because I'm as senior as I am, and I became vocal and open and public about it. The straw that broke the back for me was when one of our own was killed with a gun that we allowed to walk.

INGRAHAM: So back in December of last year, we find out that all these guns that were purchased in the United States had made their way into Mexico and the total, it looks like, is about 1,765 guns under this "Fast and Furious" program that was supposed to be so wonderful because I guess we were going to catch all these gun and drug runners as a result of this sting. When did you realize that we were allowing these purchasers of weapons to basically walk across the border with the weapons? When did you know that?

CEFALU: Some time back in October, November, I started catching wind of it. They kept a pretty tight lid on this, and that was where the threats and the implied threats to the agents who were doing it came from that have now been released to the media in the way of e-mails and what have you, threatening anyone who spoke out or wasn't on the team, you know, could go work somewhere else.

INGRAHAM: And we should remind everybody that ATF is under the auspices of the Department of Justice and obviously the Attorney General Eric Holder. He has been asked about this, Vincent. He said, similar to the president, I didn't authorize this. This is improper. This isn't something I would ever authorize. But is it conceivable that an operation like this, with this many weapons moving across our border into Mexico that no one at the Justice Department in a senior position would have authorized this type of operation?

CEFALU: Oh, there were people at the Justice Department that were intimately aware of this. Through my own discussions with people in Mexico, ATF agents who were involved in this. You know, Senator Grassley and Chairman Issa, well they'll get to the bottom of this. And whether the attorney general approved it, ordered it, whatever words we're playing here, it should have been stopped immediately when he did find out about it. And if he didn't know about it, why didn't he?

INGRAHAM: Well, it seems like one or the other. Either he has no handle on his own staff or the operations. This is a major operation. 1,700-plus weapons crossing the border? I mean, we already have a huge gun and drug problem at the border, and now we become part of the problem, even if obviously that wasn't our goal. We become part of the problem. Meanwhile, we have a dead Border Patrol agent inside of Mexico and two of these guns were found at the scene.

CEFALU: Yes. And I would like to point out that there is also another agent who should be acknowledged, Jaime Zapata, who lost his life in service to the country as well that may be tied somehow. And countless Mexican law enforcement, they carry the same authority and the same oath that we do on their side of the border and they are just as important as our people carrying guns and badges on this side that lost their lives because of this foolishness.

INGRAHAM: Vincent, are you being terminated in your mind because you are a whistleblower?

CEFALU: Absolutely. This has been a long time coming. I have become the most vocal in this process now and, you know, it's going to cost me whatever it costs me from here on out.

INGRAHAM: Cleaning up the ATF is going to be a lot of work. Vincent, thank you for the update. We appreciate it.

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