The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is being accused of retaliating against an agent who helped publicize the agency’s role in allowing thousands of guns to cross the U.S. border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug gangs.
The agent, Vince Cefalu, who has spoken out about the ATF's so-called "Project Gunrunner" scandal, says he was served with termination papers just last week, and he calls the move politically motivated.
“Aside from Jay Dobyns, I don't know of anyone that's been more vocal about ATF mismanagement than me,” said Cefalu, a senior special agent based in Dublin, Calif. “That's why this is happening.” Dobyns, an ATF special agent based in Tucson, has appeared several times on Fox News to discuss the scandal.
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.