Schiller: In the Philippines when you passed that bag of underwear, Moscow was not amused! I should have acted then. But now it is no longer possible for you to remain United States. This bizarre incident has given them their Yuri, Evgeny Segevich. -- No Way Out, 1987, starring Kevin Costner.
Andy Traver, Chicago Field Office, asks: "Where's Waldo?"
Ken Melson, Deputy Director, asks (among other things): "Where's Waldo?"
Eric Holder wants to know, too: "Where's Waldo?"
James P. "Little Jimmy" Vann, Chief Counsel's Office, is pissing all over his shoes in a fifth floor restroom: "WHERE THE HELL IS WALDO?!?!?"
All together now: "WHERE'S WALDO?!?"
Hiding in plain sight, sez Waldo, and don't they wish they knew where?
So, when we last left the ATF soap opera stage on the fifth floor at the Concrete Asshole of the Universe, Sipsey Street Irregulars had just broken the story that the Obamanoid Chicago gang was trying to get one of their own, a virulent anti-firearm zealot, into the Acting Director's spot, preparatory to putting him in front of Congress as the next official Big Cheese of the Gun Cops. My story, it seems, has led to a "No Way Out" rat hunt, but more of that in a moment.
Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Where's Buttercup?
Inigo Montoya: Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. -- The Princess Bride.
First we turn to Deputy Director Ken Melson and the Augean Stables* he has undertaken to clean out. (* Classical reference, look it up yourself.)
Hercules contemplates shoveling huge amounts of cow flop at the ATF stables.
The longer Ken Melson has been on the job, the more his forensic science sensibilities have been shocked by ATF standard operating procedures ("Hey, we make it up as we go along!") and the more convinced he has become of the many lies he has been told by the Chief Counsel's Office Mafia -- Steve "The Spider" Rubenstein, Teresa "Two Bit" Ficaretta, James P. "Little Jimmy" Vann and their stooges in the various departments like the Firearms Testing Branch (FTB).
Evidence of Melson's attempt to shovel inherited agency excrement can be found here.
As CPT Jonathan Tuttle reports, in part:
This is a new entry in the "Legal issues regarding the accuracy and completeness of the NFRTR" section of the NFAOA "Resources" page at http://www.nfaoa.org/resources.html. . . This is all Public Domain material . . . One would think at some point the legal system will gag when confronted with the deliberate withholding of potentially exculpatory evidence, and evidence that doesn't meet the Federal Rules of Evidence standard. I think it started to gag in the Friesen case, and it won't take much more of a nudge to get that going again.
The ATF documents Tuttle discusses comes from the NFAOA website and their commentary continues:
In June 2010, ATF Deputy Director responds to citizen concerns about the legal validity of NFRTR evidence
On June 8, 2010, a citizen wrote to ATF Deputy Director Kenneth Melson, citing testimony by an Expert Witness in a 2009 criminal case "that NFRTR data were useful for exploratory purposes, but could not be used for prosecution unless the data could be independently verified," and expressed concerns about the legal validity of ATF routinely using evidence from NFRTR lookups "to justify issuing search warrants, filing criminal charges, and other law enforcement activities." On June 9, 2010, Deputy Director Melson responded: "I will make sure we look into this." To read a copy of the e-mail message and the response, click here. http://www.nfaoa.org/documents/MelsonResponseonNFRTR.pdf
During the latter part of June 2010, ATF created an updated PowerPoint presentation entitled "OVERVIEW OF NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT: ROLL CALL TRAINING," which was made available to all ATF employees (click here to see it).
Slide 39 states:
--The NFRTR System is an effective investigative tool in determining whether an inquiry is worth pursuing; however, an "official" NFRTR must be obtained for purposes of "probable cause" for a warrant or for conducting a compliance inspection of an NFA dealer, manufacturer or importer.
--The "official" NFRTR is only available from the NFA Branch.
--Sealed certificates must be requested for Court.
The language in the first bullet of Slide 39 is nearly identical to language in the e-mail message to Deputy Director Melson, and implies that a higher standard of evaluation has now been formally implemented for review of NFRTR evidence than has been in the case in the past. Whether or to what extent ATF has made "unofficial" use of NFRTR data was not addressed in the presentation.
Concurrently available with the PowerPoint presentation is a Memorandum dated December 4, 2007, (click here to http://www.nfaoa.org/documents/MendozaNFRTRMemo2007.pdf read it) which states "there has not always been a consistent procedure for reconciling inventory discrepancy reports sent to the NFA Branch by Industry Operations Investigators (IOIs)." The Memorandum also notes that "[t]he NFA Branch has no independent means of validating" NFRTR data "from applications submitted by [firearm] industry members and law enforcement agencies," and that field inspections "serve as an important quality assurance check on NFRTR data not previously validated by an independent, physical examination of a weapon." This latter statement appears to acknowledge that ATF has been aware for some time that its NFRTR description of an NFA firearm or device may not be accurate.
The records of missing NFRTR documents included under FOIA release 08-726 (click here http://www.nfaoa.org/documents/FOIA2010NFRTR.pdf to read them), were not disclosed until after the plea bargain in the Friesen case was completed. Had those documents been timely disclosed (defense counsel had requested them in Discovery, without results), the motion in limine filed in Friesen (click here http://www.nfaoa.org/documents/Friesen_Motion_in_Limine_NFRTR.pdf to read it) would have been more complete. Arguably, ATF's failure to disclose the records of missing NFRTR documents in Friesen constitutes withholding potentially exculpatory evidence (Brady material) and obstruction of justice.
Slide 39 also seems to confirm that top ATF management is becoming more aware that the NFRTR would be unable to withstand the scrutiny that certain kinds of federal criminal prosecutions would bring. One logical outcome of this realization is that as defense counsel and U.S. Attorneys become familiar with NFRTR issues, ATF may be careful to present cases that (1) do not use any NFRTR data, or (2) NFRTR data which are presented as evidence have been independently confirmed as valid and reliable. It also seems likely there maybe more seizures and forfeitures instead of criminal charges, and perhaps fewer cases in which a gun owner is encouraged to "voluntarily abandon" an NFR firearm or device, as U.S. Attorneys become more and more aware of the problems with raw NFRTR evidence that has not been independently validated.
Because of long-standing efforts by ATF, the Treasury Department Inspector General, and the Department of Justice Inspector General to willfully cover up materially significant errors in the NFRTR, NFAOA has necessarily been skeptical of implications that these long-standing problems will be resolved, and the NFRTR rendered accurate and complete. Regarding the latter, it is clear that much work remains to be done -- perhaps establishing a new amnesty period. In the meantime, however, it would be remiss of NFAOA not to acknowledge the significant action that Deputy Director Melson has initiated, because it is the clearest action to date by ATF that acknowledges there are problems with the legal validity of some NFRTR evidence.
Well, it would seem that under Melson the ATF has come a long way from this:
"Let me say that when we testify in court, we testify that the data base is 100 percent accurate. That's what we testify to, and we will always testify to that. As you probably well know, that may not be 100 percent true." -- Thomas Busey, Chief of ATF's National Firearms Act Branch, October 1995.
Video record of "Busey's Finest Hour" here.
CPT R.A. Bear reports that there are a number of Chief Counsel's Office employees who have already been shifted out (the usual purgatory is to the TSA) and more who are under threat of walking the plank. "A nudge is good as a wink to a blind bat." You know who they are, don't you "Little Jimmy?"
CPT Bear also reports that, to his chagrin, the internal ATF hounds have been pulled off his case and assigned to the burning Fifth Floor question of the hour:
In a previous search for Waldo, ATF Field Agent Garland Gumption (center left with garbage bag) patrols an unnamed Florida beach far from the DC snowdrifts in his undercover disguise looking for "Waldo," the elusive agency snitch who's been ratting out the Chief Counsel's Office lately. Gumption has been told to be on the lookout for "the guy with the whistle." (The lifeguard has already been hauled off for interrogation on the orders of James P. "Little Jimmy" Vann, on the theory that they are looking for a "whistleblower.")
It seems my attribution to the elusive Waldo of the news of the Chicago gang putsch to take over the agency has gotten all their Senior Executive Service bowels in an uproar.
While not even I know of the exact identity of Waldo, in the interest of fairness and preservation of wasted tax dollars (something the Chief Counsel's Office Mafia is expert in -- the waste, not fairness) I have been instructed to give the hapless ATF counterintelligence agents (and what supervisory ATF agent is not "counterintelligent"?) a clue to help them along the way to their own private No Way Out.
Have y'all considered that "Waldo" might be an acronym -- "W.A.L.D.O."?
I can tell you one thing for sure. Waldo doesn't hand off mere underwear to his control agent.
Unless, of course, it is dirty underwear belonging to the Chief Counsel's Office.
And the OODA just keeps going loop de loop.
This just in from one of Waldo's many "dead drops": Chief Counsel's Office dirty underwear. "Little Jimmy, is that yours?"