WASHINGTON — The Justice Department inspector general said Monday that a former U.S. attorney in Phoenix retaliated against a whistle-blower in a botched federal gun operation by leaking information meant to harm the whistle-blower's credibility.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz determined that former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke violated Justice Department policy when he gave a Fox News producer a memo about John Dodson. Dodson is a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent who had testified before Congress about the failed gun operation known as Fast and Furious.
"There was substantial evidence that Burke's motive for disclosing the memorandum was to retaliate against Special Agent Dodson, who two weeks earlier had testified before a congressional committee regarding his concerns about Operation Fast and Furious," Horowitz wrote in his 21-page report.
In the two-year Phoenix operation that began in 2009, ATF agents watched as more than 2,000 guns sold to suspected traffickers hit the streets. The operation to link guns to a Mexican drug cartel fell apart after two of the guns were found at the scene of a shootout that killed a border patrol agent.
That led to an 18-month congressional investigation and a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not disclosing documents about the Justice Department's response to the outcry.
The memo that Burke released to Fox News detailed a 2010 operation in which Dodson proposed to act as an undercover straw purchaser and deliver firearms to a suspected trafficker, but take no enforcement action. The plan was similar to the actions taken with thousands of guns in Fast and Furious.
Burke was forced to resign as U.S. attorney on Aug. 30, 2011. He later took responsibility for leaking the memo about Dodson.
Burke's attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, said Burke had not intended to retaliate against Dodson.