"Bureaucracies throughout history have preferred to bury their mistakes in unmarked graves. The ATF is no different. If they think they can get away with it, they will do it." -- Anonymous retired member of Alabama law enforcement.
During the first week of May of this year, I received reports from more than one source of what I concluded was a credible threat to the life of a friend of mine. I still believe that it was credible then and remains credible to this day.
The reason? Had he broken a law? Threatened an ATF agent? No. He is hated by the ATF because he refuses to be a willing victim of ATF misconduct and has continued to be a thorn in their regulatory side. No more. No less.
Because of this, I wrote an open letter to a certain well-placed law enforcement official with the ability to short-circuit such a threat. It was entitled "No More Free Wacos: An Explication of the Obvious Addressed to Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States." You may find it here.
My friend's case continues, fought out in the shadows away from publicity because that is as he prefers it and as his lawyers recommend. But as the case progresses, it is increasingly apparent that, as my friend warned the government in the beginning, the outcome could prove a threat to the way they have done business for 40 years and indeed, perhaps an existential threat to the agency itself.
Bureaucrats, like cockroaches, are allergic to the antiseptic qualities of light. Given the clumsy maneuvering by the ATF in this case, involving predictable moves from their bureaucratic blackmail playbook, it is apparent that
a. they will do almost anything to make my friend's case, and perhaps my friend, go away, and
b. they believe that they can get away with it because, well, frankly, because they have since 1968.
If you can get away with Waco, you can get away with anything.
Throughout every administration since Nixon, regardless of party, regardless of alleged "principles", the ATF has survived and thrived. The botched ATF entrapment of Randy Weaver which led to the murder of innocents at Ruby Ridge, I should point out, occurred on the watch of Bush 41. David Olofson was set-up and railroaded by the ATF with the willing assistance of Dubya's Justice Department. Even the revered Ronald Reagan signed the plainly unconstitutional machine gun ban of 1986. Republican or Democrat, the ATF has nothing to fear from either. In their minds, if they and the FBI can get away with Waco, they can get away with anything.
There are people in the ATF who are smart enough to see where my friend's case is headed. But the bull-headed bureaucratic culture of the ATF shouts down such voices almost before they are raised.
TRIP WIRE (noun):
1. a small military force that serves as a first line of defense; if they become engaged in hostilities it will trigger the intervention of stronger military forces
2. a wire stretched close to the ground that activates something (a trap, camera or weapon) when tripped over.
And yet, the ATF is operating in a changed landscape since Waco. They are now unthinkingly tap dancing in a minefield of their own construction. As I warned Holder, there will be no more free Wacos. Yet there are apparently people within the agency who believe they can bury, literally bury, their blundering mistakes in the dark and get away with it.
The ATF and the Justice Department are by now coming to understand what an existential threat my friend's case poses to the agency. At the least, it seems to me, every recent case they have prosecuted, including David Olofson's, will have to be revisited if the evidence leads where it seems now to be going.
This very easily could be national headline stuff. The stuff of congressional investigations. And cockroaches hate the light.
Unfortunately, these particular frightened bureaucratic cockroaches are armed, dangerous and according to reports, both capable of and predisposed to removing this legal threat to their job security by extra-legal, if not illegal, means.
The experience of forty years has taught them not to fear the consequences. And yet they are poised mere inches from the tripwire they are institutionally incapable of seeing.
The adults in the agency (and there are a few) would, if completely briefed on what is at stake for them, counsel caution, contrition and a change in policy to save their collective bacon. This is unlikely to happen.
To all our sorrows, if the agency takes that one more step down their well-worn path of illegality, they will hit the tripwire, the grenade will come rolling out of the can and many, many people -- most of them innocents -- will die for the cause of their refusal to admit error and change a cowboy bureaucratic culture.
What a sorry-ass cause for anybody to die for.