A week after rankling Republicans with his remarks on whisteblowers, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Acting Director B. Todd Jones is clarifying his statements, according to a report by Fox News.
In an internal message to employees, Jones said that “ATF policy telling employees to raise concerns ‘through the chain of command can be trumped by an employee’s right to become a protected whistleblower,” Fox News reports. In addition, Jones wrote a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif) to expand on his initial video circulated to employees, which the lawmakers said was threatening.
“This latest video message … was designed to reinforce and highlight the importance of accountability at all levels of ATF to [promote] safe and efficient Federal law enforcement, one of the main concerns raised to me by employees in the field,” Jones wrote in the letter, according to Fox. “One of the main employee concerns expressed to me since my appointment has been the lack of accountability for those who do not abide by the rules … [and the video] specifically addressed employee concerns about accountability.”
He added: “[The video] was not intended in any way to discourage disclosures covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act or imply that employees would be disciplined for making such protected disclosures.”
Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Jones last week after seeing the video, saying the “ominous message — which could be interpreted as a threat — is likely to have a major chilling effect on ATF employees exercising their rights to contact Congress.”
The message may have caught the lawmakers’ attention in particular because of their involvement in the congressional investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. ATF Agent John Dodson’s whistleblower complaints brought the botched program to the attention of Congress.
In the video, Jones warns ATF employees of breaking the “chain of command.”