Fast and Furious whistleblower John Dodson sues Time, alleges Fortune libeled him

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent John Dodson is suing Time, Inc., The Daily Caller has learned, alleging that its Fortune Magazine libeled him in an article it ran this summer. Dodson is the ATF agent who blew the whistle on Fast and Furious, exposing the failures of the operation to the American people.

The article, authored by Katherine Eban, claims that a “Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust.” The article was headlined “The Truth about the Fast and Furious Scandal.”

In his libel lawsuit complaint, obtained by TheDC, Dodson said that “predicate is false and deceptive in that it leads readers to erroneously believe that it is the only accurate account of these events.”

Dodson also alleges “the article is fictitious in the sense that it contains facts that Defendant knew to be false prior to publication. Further, the contentions made in the article have been eviscerated in the public domain.”

“[T]he article generally concerns the United States Justice Department’s ‘gun walking’ operation known as ‘Fast and Furious,’ which allowed firearms to end up in the possession of Mexican drug cartels,” Dodson said in the lawsuit. “Despite the admitted and unquestioned Justice Department directive to implement this program, known to Defendant prior to publication, the Defendant nonetheless characterized the ‘public case’ of this program as being ‘….. replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies.’”

Specifically, Dodson alleges that Eban – and therefore, Time – “falsely reported that the Plaintiff initiated gun walking activity based on a grudge he had with his superior.”

Dodson said the accurate way to report that would have been to characterize him as “an ATF agent stationed in Phoenix, Arizona,” who was “following a department directive.”

“Further, Defendant’s article is malicious because Defendant, through its author, disregarded whether the statements about Plaintiff are true or false, but rather, relied heavily on the opinion of one person without considering the person’s reputation for veracity,” Dodson added.

Dodson said the article also placed him “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, federal law enforcement.”

“He is described in the article as a ‘renegade,’” Dodson said of the way he was depicted. “The article, read as a whole, communicates that Plaintiff is unfit for his profession, a law breaker and motivated by personal grudges as opposed to his oath to follow the law.”

Dodson said the article falsely portrayed him as “lazy” and incorrectly claimed he “did not want to work weekends.”

Dodson also said the “article communicated that he took leave from work without a plan in place to interdict the guns that ‘walked.’ In contrast, the Plaintiff had in fact protested and objected to the program within his chain of command.”

In the complaint, Dodson said Time was “negligent, grossly negligent, willful and wanton in publishing the said statements referenced herein” and “purposely avoided the truth, including but not limited to, failing to interview the major witness in the case, the Plaintiff himself, especially when the Plaintiff offered to be interviewed and provided the author the proper protocol for arranging the interview through Plaintiff’s employer.”

Dodson also alleges that Time “published these false statements with actual knowledge of their falsity because, for example, congressional staffers informed Defendant through its author prior to publication that the article’s premise was flawed” meaning the article ran “with a reckless disregard for the truth.”

Dodson is suing for damages “in excess of $75,000.00.”

Spokespersons for Time, Inc., haven’t responded to TheDC’s request for comment on the lawsuit. The docket report for Dodson’s case on PACER.gov shows no official response from Time. A summons ordering Time to respond “within 21 days after service of this summons on you (not counting the day you received it)” is dated Oct. 15, 2012. It’s unclear if the summons has been served on Time already or if it’s en route.

Through his lawyer, Dodson asked Fortune editor Andrew Serwer to retract the article, arguing the Justice Department’s Inspector General report on Fast and Furious proved Eban’s article was “demonstrably false in many respects.”

Eban disagreed, and then doubled down on her original article. She argued the IG report “appear[s] to corroborate a number of Fortune’s findings: that there was no conspiracy to walk guns, no higher-up plan to do so and that walking guns was not the goal of the investigation, but rather a response to ‘legal and tactical’ circumstances on the ground, as the report states.”

“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,” Eban added.

She and her editors have refused to retract the article.

Dodson did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

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