ATF whistleblower fired after 'Project Gunrunner' leak

Tuesday - 6/28/2011, 5:07pm EDT

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms recently fired agent Vince Cefalu shortly after he helped bring to light a major scandal within an anti-gun smuggling campaign.

The campaign, known as "Operation Gunrunner," allowed for thousands of guns to fall into the possession of Mexican drug gangs. Cefalu first spoke out about the controversy in December.

The agency served Cefalu termination papers last week, despite having an 18-year track record of positive performance reviews, according to Cefalu in an interview with Fox News.

According to Cefalu, his termination letter said he was fired because he leaked documents on CleanupATF.org, a website which he helped create. While Cefalu admits to the document leak, he said he only did so after omitting sensitive pieces of information and following agency protocol.

Days before Cefalu's termination, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter to the ATF, asking the agency not to hastily act out against whistleblowers. If Cefalu decides to appeal his firing, he will remain on paid administrative leave throughout the process.

Cefalu's tipoff about Operation Gunrunner has parlayed into congressional hearings and may lead to the resignation of ATF chief Ken Melson. President Barack Obama reproached the ATF's handling of Operation Gunrunner, calling the agency's actions "a serious mistake."

"Simply put, we knowingly let hundreds of guns and dozens of identified bad guys go across the border," Cefalu said to Fox News.

Jory Heckman is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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