Cefalu first told FoxNews.com about the ATF’s embattled anti-gun smuggling operation in December, before the first reports on the story appeared in February. “Simply put, we knowingly let hundreds of guns and dozens of identified bad guys go across the border,” Cefalu said at the time.
Since then, Cefalu’s claims have been vindicated, as a number of agents with first-hand knowledge of the case came forward. The scandal over Project Gunrunner led to congressional hearings, a presidential reprimand – Obama called the operation “a serious mistake” – and speculation that ATF chief Ken Melson will resign.
Yet last week, Cefalu, who has worked for the agency for 24 years, was forced to turn in his gun and badge. He can appeal but will be on “paid administrative leave” during the process.
Cefalu’s dismissal follows a string of allegations that the ATF retaliates against whistleblowers. When the Project Gunrunner scandal broke, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote the ATF that an agent who had been giving his staff members information about the scandal had been “allegedly accused… of misconduct” by the agent’s boss for talking with Grassley’s staffers.
And two days before Cefalu was served with termination papers, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the ATF warning officials not to retaliate against whistleblowers.
ATF spokesman Drew Wade denied in a statement to FoxNews.com that the bureau is retaliating, but he declined to comment about Cefalu’s case. “ATF will not comment on specific, ongoing personnel matters. It is illegal to use disciplinary actions to retaliate against employees, and ATF does not engage in such improper reprisals.”
The ATF’s termination letter to Cefalu, obtained by FoxNews.com, makes no mention of Cefalu’s role in the latest scandal.
“You think they would just come out and say that?” Cefalu said.
The letter instead says that Cefalu should be fired because he leaked documents on a website he helped create, CleanupATF.org, and showed a “lack of candor” on past projects, in particular a 2005 operation that Cefalu led. Cefalu admits he made information about the case public but says he did so only after redacting sensitive parts and exhausting internal channels.
In the 2005 case, local police wanted to wiretap a suspect to gather evidence, but Cefalu objected, saying it would be illegal to use wiretaps until all other options for gathering evidence had been tried.
Cefalu was then removed from the case. But he continued to speak out and file internal complaints about what he viewed as illegal ATF wiretapping. And that’s when his life became difficult.
“That was the beginning of the end,” Cefalu told FoxNews.com.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/27/atf-to-fire-gunrunner-whistleblower/#ixzz1QVwUIJ5F