Ex-U.S. Attorney Leaked Confidential Docs to Media

     (CN) – Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke leaked confidential documents related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “gunwalking” operations to Fox News and The New York Times, a Justice Department probe concluded.
     In July 2011, Special Agent John Dodson, who worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was contacted by a Fox News producer asking for comments about a confidential ATF memorandum he had written.
     When the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the leak, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke admitted he had released the Dodson memorandum to Fox News reporter Mike Levine, but said the reporter already seemed familiar with the report’s contents.
     Burke had previously been investigated by the Justice Department for leaking a internal U.S. Attorney’s Office memo regarding Operation Fast and Furious suspect Jaime Avila to the New York Times.
     Burke resigned in August 2011 and declined further Justice Department requests for an interview.
     In a report released this month, the Justice Department found that Burke violated Department policy by releasing the report to Levine. It also found that Burke was aware his disclosure was illegal, because rather than emailing the memorandum directly to Levine, he emailed it to a personal friend in D.C., who provided Levine a hard copy.
     The report said Burke’s misconduct was “particularly egregious because of Burke’s apparent effort to undermine the credibility of Dodson’s significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious.”
     The Dodson memo described a proposed operation, in which Dodson would act as an undercover firearms purchaser and deliver six firearms to a suspected arms trafficker. The operation was carried out in June 2010, and followed the suspect to a storage facility, but then ended its surveillance.
     Two months later, the suspected trafficker told Dodson that he no longer dealt in firearms. When Dodson identified himself as an ATF agent, the suspect told him he no longer possessed the weapons, but he was not arrested, and the case was closed.
     Over the course of the entire operation, the ATF monitored the sale of 2,000 weapons at a cost of $1.5 million, but only 710 were recovered, and the operation never led to the arrest of higher-level traffickers as intended.
     Congress launched an investigation when two of the weapons sold in the undercover operation were allegedly used in a firefight along the Mexican border that killed a border protection officer.
     Dodson spoke with CBS News and told reporter Sharyl Attkisson that the ATF intentionally allowed firearms to cross the Mexican border and that he was ordered by his superiors not to take any actions to stop the gun-trafficking. He also said he believed ATF was partly to blame for the violence along the Mexican border.
     As U.S. Attorney, Burke assisted prepare ATF documents related to Operation Fast and Furious for Congress’ review.
     In an email, he expressed his incredulousness that Dodson was acting as a whistleblower for Operation Fast and Furious, when he proposed using the very same tactics: “Unbelievable. This guy called [Senator Chuck] Grassley and CBS to unearth what he in fact was proposing to do by himself. When you thought the hypocrisy of this whole matter had hit the limit already,” Burke said.
     In June 2011, Dodson testified before Congress that “during this operation referred to as ‘Fast and Furious,’ we, the ATF, failed to fulfill one of our most fundamental obligations: to caretake the public trust, in part to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. … Prior to my coming to Phoenix, I had never been involved in or even heard of an operation in which law enforcement officers would let guns walk. The very idea of doing so is unthinkable to most law enforcement … I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.”
     The Justice Department found that “Burke’s intention in disclosing the memorandum was to show that ATF, through Dodson, proposed in another investigation the very tactics that Dodson and other agents were criticizing ATF for using in Operation Fast and Furious. We believe that this explanation, taken together with the other evidence cited above, demonstrate that Burke’s conduct in disclosing the memorandum to Levine was likely motivated by his desire to undermine Dodson’s public criticisms.”
     This behavior was “inappropriate for a Department employee and wholly unbefitting a U.S. Attorney,” the report said. The Department will refer its finding to the state bars of which Burke is a member, and may lead to Burke’s disbarment.

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