John Dodson, the ATF agent who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious, is suing Time Inc. for libel over an investigative story that cast a very different light on the firearm investigation.
The story, which appeared in the Time Inc.-owned Fortune magazine in June, portrayed Dodson as a disgruntled employee who had issues with authority. Dodson said his supervisors at ATF allowed guns to “walk” over the border into Mexico as part of a poorly engineered strategy. However, the story, written by reporter Katherine Eban, challenged that narrative: Guns were never intentionally allowed over the border; Investigators were “hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn,” the story states.
But a Justice Department Inspector General report last month was critical of the ATF’’s handling of the gun probe, saying officials had, in fact, knowingly allowed guns to cross the border in an attempt to trace them to Mexican drug cartels. The report said officials had not given enough thought to public safety.
Dodson’s lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, as first reported by Politico. Dodson’s lawyer, Stephen F. DeAntonio of DeAntonio Law Firm LLC in South Carolina, argues in the lawsuit that the basic premise of Eban’s article is incorrect.
“This predicate is false and deceptive in that it leads readers to erroneously believe that it is the only accurate account of these events,” the lawsuit states.
Dodson also hits back on his characterization in the lengthy piece, which he requested be retracted by Fortune back in August.
“The article placed the plaintiff in a false light by describing him as showing up to work in flip-flops, unprepared, without safety equipment or back up plans, and essentially accusing him of being incapable and unfit in his chosen line of profession,” it contends.
A Time Inc. spokesman did not immediately respond for a request for comment from Main Justice. The company has previously stood behind Eban’s work, calling it the “result of more than six months of reporting and unprecedented access.”
Eban wrote, following the September release of the Justice Department Inspector General’s report, that “the facts presented by Fortune do not appear to be in dispute, but on this point the Inspector General has drawn a different conclusion from them.”