Friday, September 4, 2009

Cleaning up the ATF's Augean stables?

In Greek mythology, Augeas was the King of Elis and was best known for his stables, which housed the single greatest number of cattle in the country and had never been cleaned -- at least until the time of the great hero Heracles. (Also known as Hercules.) In the Fifth of the Twelve Labors of Heracles, the Greek hero was given the task of cleaning out these Augean stables in a single day. Unlike Heracles' previous tasks, this was intended to be both humiliating and impossible, since the livestock were immortal and divinely healthy, thus producing an enormous quantity of cow pies.

In the tale, however, Heracles succeeds in cleaning the stables by rerouting the rivers Alpheus and Peneus to wash out the excrement. This made Augeas furious because he had promised Heracles one-tenth of his cattle if the job was finished in one day. Angry beyond reason, he refused to honor the agreement, and Heracles killed him after completing the tasks and gave his kingdom to Augeas' son, Phyleus, who had been exiled for supporting Heracles against his father. However, the success of his labor was ultimately discounted because the rushing waters had done the work of cleaning the stables, not Heracles, and because the hero was paid. In any case, the cows kept dumping.

I thought about old Heracles, when a good friend sent me a link to this.

From the website:

Managers, Counsel, Internal Affairs and staff of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE or "ATF") have repeatedly given false testimony, concealed substantial waste, fraud and abuse, abused their lawful authority, and waged systematic campaigns of reprisal against their own employees that dare to speak out. This website is intended by members of the ATF community to promote restoration of integrity, accountability and responsibility to ATF's leadership, and regain the trust of the American taxpayer. is a non-profit organization dedicated to returning integrity, accountability and decency to the management of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE or "ATF").

In recent years, ATF management has become widely and officially known for corruption, self-service, and at times, overt incompetence. Moreover, ATF managers at all levels routinely retaliate or discriminate against employees who make good faith attempts to address significant cases of flagrant abuse, unlawful acts, waste of taxpayer resources, etc. Managers often use the threat or actual imposition of unfounded disciplinary actions, Internal Affairs “investigations”, punitive transfers, and other flagrantly unethical measures to suppress dissension and subvert legitimate complaints about serious abuses.

In the last two years alone, there have been nearly 400 employee complaints. In an organization with only about 5,000 employees, that is a huge drain on resources and adversely impacts the agency's ability to pursue its purported mission of locking up bad guys. Many experienced and skilled field agents spend so much time just trying to cover their rear ends against trivial, bureaucratic internal policies and arbitrary management actions, that they have little time to actually enforce the nation's firearms and other laws.

Recently publicized cases have involved malicious and carefully orchestrated management campaigns to smear, discredit, and professionally destroy agents who have repeatedly risked their lives for ATF and the public, solely in reprisal for the filing of legitimate complaints. In some instances, management has gone so far as to implicitly accuse agents of firebombing their own homes, without the slightest shred of evidence, while refusing to adequately investigate the actual criminal suspects, all for the sole purpose of harassing and cowing ATF’s own people into quiet submission.

The Bureau's leadership has also miserably failed or even deliberately refused to meet its responsibility to protect highly decorated undercover agents from documented threats of murder, rape or other acts of reprisal against themselves and their families by some of the most vicious criminals on the planet.

All of these factors substantially degrade BATFE's ability to accomplish its authorized missions, and constitute an inexcusable misuse of taxpayer resources.

Now, this may strike many of my readers as ridiculous. One called it, "Just like being a shop steward representing concentration camp guards -- he's still a guard. Who cares if he has a bitch with the camp commandant? Why would we want to support somebody who just wants to make an unconstitutional agency more fair and efficient?"

Well, I'll tell you why. The fact of the matter is that WE, all by ourselves, are not ever going to get oversight hearings into ATF misconduct in cases like David Olofson's or Doug Friesen's. Not on our own, not by ourselves. It ain't happening.

And, I will concede that it may well be too late for any hearings to have a material effect on events. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

And these guys are in a perfect spot to shine a light on the cockroaches who run ATF -- the SES, Senior Executive Service. "Waco Jim"? SES. Little Jimmy Vann (alleged named by an ATF secretary because of the size of his member) of the agency's national counsel's office? SES.

So here's what I urge you to do. If you have a congressman or congresswoman who is on any oversight committee, whether they are Republican or Democrat, forward these damning allegations by field agents against the SES crooks to the congresscritters with the demand that they look into these charges. Don't editorialize. Don't criticize the agency's mission. Keep it short and simple. You want the taxpayer's dollars protected and spent wisely. You want these agents' complaints looked into.

Take Bart Stupak, for example. That Michigan Comgressman who represents the UP and some of the "thumb," tries to stay on the NRA "A" list (and yes, I hear your groans, but what matters in this case is not his purity but his utility).

To quote from his website:

Within the Commerce Committee, Stupak serves as the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee (commonly referred to as “O&I”). Throughout 2006, as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee, Stupak helped spearhead investigations into high-profile issues like online child pornography, security breaches at U.S. nuclear labs, the 2006 Hewlett-Packard pretexting scandal and the BP pipeline rupture at Prudhoe Bay. Stupak’s law enforcement background and his work as an attorney make him uniquely qualified to chair the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, a position he obtained in January of 2007.

So why can't Bart investigate the ATF? Hell, their alleged justification for all their operations is "interstate commerce," right? But don't stop with Bart. Write your congresscritter. Adopt these agent's cause, at least for one letter. For if THEY are able to get an oversight hearing, some GOPer may be able to slide in a panel on Olofson, Friesen, et al., meaning WE get an oversight hearing too.

Remember this, you ideologically-pure warriors. Your cockroach enemy hates the light, ANY light.

So shine it.

It may be that the ATF's Augean stables can never be cleaned. Probably not. That doesn't mean there aren't a few particular turds who badly need flushing in and of themselves.



Jim said...

Bart happens to be my personal critter, and I hate to say it, he's not too bad for a Dem. I'll definitely write him in these regards. Thanks for the prod. It couldn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

The entire agency needs to be closed and any constitutional duties assumed by other Federal law enforcement agencys. The bad foot soldiers will be weeded out and the good can be retained. All management is redundant and should be dismissed. Alcohol, Tobacco and firearms should be a convience store not a federal agency.

I believe the good agents would also be much happeir and morale would be boosted by working for the FBI, U.S. Marshalls service , DEA, Border patrol, Etc.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with PAK, it seems to me that writing our congresscritters to bring further light is well worth the effort. If investigations are forth coming, it will at least keep the SES busy with something more than harassing the citizens.

Thanks Mike,


David Codrea said...

Why Mike--you're using the system and being pragmatic. Whatever will the liars who say you're just an incendiary think about this?

Especially since the idea to take advantage of disgruntled ATF insiders has come from you, and not from their "more effective" lobbying group...?


Mike Foster said...

Great idea. Thanks, Mike.

Will said...

Back in the '90s, the suggestion was made to close down ATF and transfer the agents to other .gov depts. They won't take them. That was made quite clear by managers and agents. Waco defines them, and the rest don't want to be tarred with the same brush. They know the public's perception of their professionalism will take a big hit very quickly, with an influx of ATF types.