Fast and Furious blowback? Issa believes 'thinly veiled' threat from ATF chief targeted would-be whistleblowers

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Has the ATF scandal just gotten bigger? Are ATF whistleblowers now being threatened? Watch this video message to ATF workers. It's from their boss, the ATF acting director. What's the message behind it?


B. TODD JONES, ATF ACTING DIRECTOR: 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.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now, lawmakers are calling the video message ominous and scary. Is it really meant to chill whistleblowers? House Oversight chair Darrell Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley firing off a letter to ATF acting director Todd Jones to find out.

Chairman Issa joins us. So what do you think of this video?

REP. DARRELL ISSA, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Greta, I don't think your viewers can reach any other conclusion except this is a thinly veiled threat, telling people, Don't go to the press, don't go to Congress, even if the chain of command isn't working, which is really what happened in Fast and Furious.

It wasn't that ATF people weren't screaming bloody murder. It's they weren't being listened to by Justice or by some of their leaders.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, were your whistleblowers ATF?

ISSA: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I guess you draw the conclusion that this is -- that this video was a statement to other whistleblowers within ATF.

ISSA: When law enforcement closes ranks even when things are wrong, that is exactly what the American people are concerned about. And especially when you have a U.S. attorney who helps cover it up and then an attorney general who ultimately won't turn over the facts related to it, of course, you're worried about it.

If not for the whistleblowers, Senator Grassley and our investigation would have never gotten started. Whistleblowers were critical to us understanding and ultimately knowing what to ask for. And in most cases, the most meaningful information we never got from Justice, we got from whistleblowers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the ATF is denying that this video was an effort to tell whistleblowers they better shut up. The ATF spokeswoman says that the video clip was taken out of context. She said the message was one of eight internal videos released since March that addressed topics ranging from trust to mission to morale, that this one dealt with choices and consequences, but it was not meant to discourage legally protected activities. It was directed at employees who violate the rules. It was not directed at those with protected disclosure.

ISSA: You know, when I was a young man, if my hand was in the cookie jar and my mom wanted to know if I was taking a cookie, I didn't say, What cookie jar? You can look at this in context, and it's very clear: Use your chain of command or else. No question at all about it. It speaks for itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where did you get this video?

ISSA: Well, I think one of the things that we're proud of is that people who see wrongdoing take advantage of federally protected rights to come to Congress. Sometimes they go to the press. We're not always happy when they go to the press, but candidly, they've got to go somewhere when their chain of command is failing.

If that video hadn't come to our attention, we again would have had a closing of the ranks, intimidation that would lead to whistleblowers not doing the right thing. And let's remember some of our whistleblowers are discrete. People don't know who they are. Some became known. The ones that became known have been the subject of intimidation and bad treatment. No questions about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, is it safe to say that a whistleblower -- I mean, in your view -- got this tape in the public domain? I take it it was not being distributed by the acting director to everybody else.

ISSA: Well, let's understand you can give this kind of information to Congress. The statutes are very specific. You know, we're not some...

VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, this -- I mean -- I mean, this whole tape, though, I mean, that -- I mean, the -- the acting director, Mr. B. Todd Jones, didn't say, Here's a videotape, I want you to see what I'm sending out to the ATF, not that he would necessarily be obliged to, but I mean, you didn't get it from them.

ISSA: We did not get it from them. And in fact, we continue to still be stonewalled post-contempt on any cooperation, even to get an answer from the U.S. attorney here in the District of Columbia as to whether or not he will proceed according to the statute on the contempt that was already voted by a bipartisan group of Congressmen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you get the initial information about Fast and Furious and the border agent who was murdered with guns that are part of Fast and Furious -- did you get that from a whistleblower?

ISSA: Senator Grassley got the first whistleblower, and we then worked with Senator Grassley and other whistleblowers.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, in this letter that you and Senator Grassley have signed dated July 18th to the acting director, the man we saw on the video, you have asked him to respond to the letter by July 25th. What do you want from him?

ISSA: Well, first of all, we'd like to see an answer of what he says is in context. We'd like to look at all the video.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have all this particular video so that -- I mean, we only have that clip.

ISSA: We have the full video. We do not have -- and there's -- this -- we did not take it out of context. More importantly, we'd like to see all the videos. We'd like to see the training material because it does look to us as a thinly veiled threat. And I can reach no other conclusion. And by the way, the people that helped get it to us could reach no other conclusion.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if -- I'd love to have Mr. B. Todd Jones come on and tell us what he meant so we...

ISSA: Send him an invitation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he's welcome. If he's watching, he's welcome. He's always got an open invitation. Anyway, nice to see you, sir.

ISSA: Thank you, Greta.