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Fast And Furious Whistle-blower Reaches Agreement Over Retaliation Claims

Peter Forcelli, an ATF agent who blew the whistle on management lapses in the gun trafficking scandal known as Fast and Furious, has reached an agreement with the bureau over his retaliation claims.

A lawyer for Forcelli declined to disclose the terms of the settlement because it was the product of a confidential mediation process.

"We can't reveal the details but Mr. Forcelli's smile could not be broader," lawyer Tom Devine, of the Government Accountability Project, told NPR in an interview. "This outcome was a 180 degree reversal by new management... This dispute is over."

Forcelli appeared in Congress in June 2011 to blast his supervisors and the U.S. attorney in Arizona for failing to oversee a law enforcement operation that lost track of as many as 2,000 guns along the Southwest border.

"What we have here is actually a colossal failure in leadership from within ATF, within the chain of command involved in this case, within the United States attorney's office and within DOJ as to the individuals who were aware of this strategy," Forcelli testified.

Forcelli said he never understood the strategy behind the ATF operation. To watch guns walk across the Southwest border, he said, was a recipe for disaster.

"We weren't giving guns to people who were hunting bear. We were giving guns to people who were killing other humans," he said.

That testimony resulted in what his lawyer called "non stop witch hunts and character assassination" by prosecutors in Arizona and a few ATF officials. "The situation became intolerable," Devine said. Ultimately, Forcelli moved to work in Washington headquarters.

Devine says he continues to represent another ATF whistleblower, Larry Alt, whose case is currently in mediation in front of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal employees from reprisal for whistleblowing. The OSC's leader, Carolyn Lerner, said the Forcelli case is "a testament to the ability of mediation to resolve complex cases."

In other Fast and Furious news, the details of the 2,359-page report issued by the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee continue to emerge.

El Paso Times reported yesterday on a bit that is worth noting: A firearm that was tied to Operation Fast and Furious was "seized in Tijuana in connection with a drug cartel's conspiracy to kill the" then police chief of the city.

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Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.
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