Lost in all the Shutdown/debt ceiling furor of the past few days is a Washington Times report about a chilling training manual photo that has gotten the Justice Department into hot water. The photo, that was embedded in their annual Introduction to National Security Information online course for the ATF, suggests federal agents could face a firing squad for leaking government secrets.
The Photo was obtained by the Washington Times from a concerned law enforcement official, and “immediately drew protests from watchdogs who said it showed a lack of sensitivity to gun violence and the continuing hostile environment toward whistleblowers.”
A photo in the online manual for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — complete with a photo of a turn-of-the-century firing squad — was obtained by The Washington Times from a concerned federal law enforcement official, and it immediately drew protests from watchdogs who said it showed a lack of sensitivity to gun violence and the continuing hostile environment toward whistleblowers.
Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said the DOJ has forgotten about the protections of the First Amendment, which covers leaks to the media, and that the photo could scare its employees into self-censorship.
The photo “would have a chilling affect on legitimate speech. And some of the rhetoric used against whistleblowers could be construed as inciting to violence because they’ve turned up the rhetoric,” Mr. Kohn said.
Justice Department officials said the photo was included as a joke and that they were unaware it was viewed as offensive by agents. They plan to remove the entry, but not until the government shutdown is ended and federal officials return to work, said Richard Marianos, the special agent in charge of the Washington division of ATF.
In light of this Regime’s ongoing war against whistleblowers, the firing squad pic could hardly have been seen as a “joke”. It looks more like an a ham-fisted attempt at sending a message.
The Director of the National Whistleblower Center certainly wasn’t amused.
“The government leaks information all the time and they get away with it,” Mr. Kohn said. “They don’t go after leaks that they support. The government leaks, and when it is officially condoned they do not investigate or prosecute.”
A major incident that Mr. Kohn referenced was the case of former U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, who was removed from his position in Michigan by the DOJ after the DOJ leaked negative information about him.
“It significantly harmed his reputation, turned out not to be true, and we filed a privacy act lawsuit in 2003 and we are still fighting with the Justice Department to try to find out who the source of that leak was,” Mr. Kohn said. “They have used well over $1 million of taxpayer resources to cover up a DOJ employee who violated the law when he leaked information to defame a whistleblower and that’s one of the biggest problems with this whole campaign against leaks.”
An anonymous ATF agent at the Clean Up ATF forum commented,
“And to think, in early 2012, I got suspended for three days for having in my cubicle, in a discrete location, a printed-out sarcastic email from a former ATF GS, which my then-supervisor found “offensive.” You actually had to look HARD to find the e-mail in question. Meanwhile, another agent got away with mocking my line-of-duty injury by defacing a piece of mail addressed to me.
So, I applaud whoever complained about this asinine “slide” in the presentation. The complainant actually got the attention of Main DOJ and Drudge Report.”
Gosh, it must be great fun working in law enforcement under this wretched Regime.