Judicial Watch Sues Department of Justice on behalf of ATF Fast & Furious Whistleblower Dodson
Suit specifically seeks communications between former DOJ Public Affairs Director Tracy Schmaler and Katherine Eban, author of controversial “Fortune” magazine article denounced by House Oversight Committee
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on May 28, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of ATF Fast and Furious whistleblower Special Agent John Dodson (Judicial Watch v U.S. Department of Justice ((No. 1:14-cv-00896)).
On September 24, 2012, Dodson filed three FOIA requests seeking the following information:
a) Any and all emails between (either directed to or received from) DOJ Spokeswoman/Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler and Katherine Eban, between the dates of January 20, 2011 and September 24, 2012.
b) All emails (sent and received) by DOJ Spokeswoman/Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler that contain the name John Dodson, Dodson, or make reference to any ATF whistleblower (whether directly stated or implied), between the dates of January 20, 2011 and September 24, 2012.
c) All Department of Justice communications generated between January 20, 2010 and September 24, 2012 including, but not limited to, emails, internal memos, letters, drafts, recordings and other documents, which refer to me (Special Agent John Dodson) whether by name or implication, or make reference to me as an ATF whistleblower, whether directly stated or implied. Excluded from this request are my own ATF case files, case documents, and emails from my ATF/DOJ email account.
To date, DOJ has failed to respond to Dodson’s requests. The Judicial Watch lawsuit filed on behalf of Dodson asks that the District Court order the DOJ to conduct searches for all records responsive to the FOIA requests and to “produce, by a certain date, any and all non-exempt records,” along with indices of all records that DOJ continues to declare exempt.
Dodson’s requests stem from the suspected leaking of information about him by former DOJ Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler to Fortune magazine writer Katherine Eban, including Dodson’s confidential personnel file. Eban’s June 2012 Fortune magazine article defending the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) was denounced by the House Oversight Committee, which publicly called for a retraction.
In 2011, Dodson became the first ATF special agent to go public with allegations that his supervisors had authorized the flow of weapons into Mexico as part of the failed Fast and Furious gun-walking operation. In May 2013, the Justice Department Inspector General published a report confirming that senior officials at DOJ, including Schmaler, discussed discrediting Dodson. Schmaler resigned her position at the DOJ in March 2013 after news broke that she had worked with leftwing advocacy group Media Matters to discredit Dodson, other whistleblowers, and members of Congress and the media who sought to investigate DOJ scandals.
“It is clear that John Dodson was smeared by DOJ officials for having the courage to be the first whistleblower in the Fast and Furious scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And it is equally clear that those who attacked him have gone unpunished, despite the disciplinary provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act. Perhaps once we have the complete records of Ms. Schmaler’s actions, the Office of Special Counsel will do its job and we will finally see justice prevail.”
“For almost two years, the Obama Justice Department has stonewalled my efforts to receive information about me,” said Dodson. “It is disappointing that I have to sue to receive information about how my employer provided personal and confidential information about me to eager reporters willing to tell the administration’s side of the story.”
The Dodson FOIA lawsuit is not the first such suit Judicial Watch has filed against the Obama administration seeking records related to the Fast & Furious scandal. On October 11, 2011, the organization sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain all Fast & Furious records submitted to the House Committee on Oversight. On June 6, 2012, the organization sued the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and Kevin O’Reilly, former Obama White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council. On September 13, 2012, it filed a lawsuit against the DOJ for records regarding President Obama’s claim of executive privilege after Holder’s refusal to produce records for the House Oversight Committee. On September 5, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the DOJ seeking access to all records of communications between DOJ and the Oversight Committee relating to settlement discussions in the Committee’s 2012 contempt of Congress lawsuit against Holder. The contempt citation stemmed from Holder’s refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.