"Things are going to change, or else." -- Attributed to John Spencer, Chief of ATF Firearms Technology Branch.
The "Concrete Asshole of the Universe": ATF Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
CPT R.A. Bear, S-2 of the feared and fabled Dogtown Rangers, has checked in with a more complete briefing on the big meeting held at the new ATF headquarters (dubbed by COL "Mad Bob" REDACTED as "the Concrete Asshole of the Universe") last Wednesday.
Before going on about the participants and the substance of that meeting, let us introduce you to the current Acting Director of the BATFE (the latest of many, if you keep track of them as they go by).
Meet Ken Melson.
From the press release in April 2009, announcing Ken Melson's appointment:
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder today announced that he will appoint Kenneth E. Melson to serve as acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), H. Marshall Jarrett to head the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), and Mary Patrice Brown to serve as acting head of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
"These extremely experienced and capable long time career prosecutors are uniquely qualified to lead these important offices," said Attorney General Holder. "I am pleased that these dedicated public servants, Ken, Marshall, and Mary Pat, have accepted their new challenges with enthusiasm. I know that they will lead their new offices with their usual high standards of professionalism, integrity and dedication."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is one of the Department’s principal law enforcement agencies dedicated to preventing terrorism, reducing violent crime and enforcing federal criminal laws and regulations in the firearms and explosives industries.
Since 2007, Melson has been the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. Previous to that, he was the First Assistant for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. From 1991 to 2001, Melson served as Acting and Interim U.S. Attorney of that office during various periods of time. He began his career as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia in 1983 where he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney until he became First Assistant in 1986.
From 1975 to 1983, Melson served in different positions for the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Arlington County, Va. From 1980 to 1983, he was the Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, from 1978 to 1980, he was the Chief Assistant, and from 1975 to 1978 he was an Assistant. He served in private law practice in Arlington, Va., from 1974 to 1975.
Melson is a past President and Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and currently participates on behalf of the Department on the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board. He has been an adjunct professor at George Washington University for almost 30 years teaching both law and forensic science courses.
Melson received his B.A. from Denison University in 1970 and his J.D. from George Washington University in 1973.
"Ken’s more than 25 years of career federal prosecutor service and his knowledge in forensic science will make him a valuable asset to ATF," said Attorney General Holder. "I am pleased that he will provide his talents to such an important Department of Justice agency."
"As the head of ATF, I am looking forward to using my management and prosecutorial experience, as well as my knowledge of crime labs and forensic science to combat violent crime," said Melson.
The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys acts as a liaison between the Department and the 94 U.S. Attorneys offices throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Now Melson is viewed as a techo guy and although he's a career prosecutor, forensics has always been his interest. The street agents are less than impressed with him, calling him a "geek" and other less printable names. He is viewed as someone with no street sense.
But as evidenced by the meeting last week, Melson is a man running an agency with many problems, few of them easily solvable. The meeting, according to CPT Bear, included Melson, a noted, high-ranking representative from Main Justice, the entire Firearms Technology Branch (now led by Iraq War veteran John Spencer, by most accounts one of the few honest men in the whorehouse) and the leading lights of the NFA branch and the ATF Chief Counsel's Office (they run the whorehouse).
A goodly portion of the meeting was given over to a discussion of my friend who was the subject of my initial letter to Eric Holder, "No More Free Wacos." It would seem that they are now beyond simple plots to kill him in a dynamic raid and are now looking for an end game solution to that tawdry affair of felonious bureaucratic revenge.
In short, there are various parts of the agency chewing on one another, some of it beyond mere ankle biting. Finger pointing and blame shifting abound. More departures and lateral transfers are in motion and everyone is playing the game of "pin-the-blame-on-the-lowest-man (not me)."
Now, this process can either be very good or very bad, depending upon the intentions of Main Justice. The Friesen case demonstrated that the NFA registry is worthless as a means of future prosecutions. So, will they declare an amnesty to "correct" the list? If so, what effect will that have on the rights of firearm owners? Will arms currently considered non-NFA weapons be reclassified as "destructive devices"? (Fifty-cals come instantly to mind.) The citizen disarmament lobby will go nuts at any amnesty. Will other restrictions like expanding the DD list be thrown to them as a sop to our detriment? As pissed off as most of these people are at being put to the trouble of following rules, any rules, it wouldn't surprise me. If so, we must be prepared to resist them. Remember: NOT ONE STEP BACK. PERIOD.
It is also evident to the higher echelon at Main Justice, and to US Attorneys all over the country, that the number of cases which have blown up in the faces of the ATF Chief Counsels Office makes any case they bring subject to great skepticism. These are questions of competence that ATF higher-uppers, especially those in the Counsels' Office, are not used to being asked, let alone answering.
One thing is plain, even without being in the meeting: the adults at Main Justice can no longer ignore the incompetent idiocies which have abounded at that subordinate agency.
Whether that is good news or bad news for firearms owners remains to be seen.
PS This analysis is brought to you courtesy of Jody Keeku, the principal ATF railroader of David Olofson. After all, I wouldn't be blogging if it weren't for ole Jody's malfeasances. Ya gotta love the Law of Unintended Consequences.