From: Otis Willie
Subject: FBI Memo Highly Critical of ATF
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 21:35:18 EST
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 02:35:18 GMT
FBI Memo Highly Critical of ATF
(EXCERPT) By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - FBI (news - web sites) Director Robert Mueller
welcomes the proposed transfer of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms to the Justice Department (news - web sites) despite an
earlier FBI memo sharply criticizing ATF's abilities to handle major
bombing and terrorism investigations.
In a statement Tuesday, Mueller said the FBI is working to ensure that
legislation making the transfer "would preserve the ATF's existing
criminal and regulatory enforcement authorities." The earlier memo
cast doubt on ATF's abilities.
Congress is considering a proposal to transfer parts of ATF from the
Treasury Department (news - web sites) to the Justice Department,
which oversees the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
One Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said ATF's law enforcement elements — whose duties include bombing,
arson and weapons investigations — likely would become a separate unit
within Justice if the plan is approved.
The earlier FBI memo, which officials said did not reflect official
agency policy, said the FBI should remain the nation's premier
investigative agency, and any proposal to give ATF some of that power
would be "unwarranted and counterproductive."
Rivalries between law enforcement agencies are nothing new. But the
FBI memo was notable for its detailed criticism of a fellow federal
agency at a time when the Bush administration has put a premium on
cooperation in the battle against terrorism.
The memo said ATF is too small, has insufficient training facilities
and forensic labs, and the wrong command structure to lead major
violent crime, civil rights or domestic terrorism cases.
It noted that ATF "sought out the FBI for DNA work" in last month's
serial sniper shootings, and added: "The full breadth of expertise
that the FBI Laboratory can offer is unmatched."
ATF, it said, has a "lack of strategic vision" and has "crept into
areas beyond their mandate."
The memo recommended that Congress transfer the bomb and weapons law
enforcement functions from ATF to the FBI, not create a stand-alone
ATF within Justice. That would leave the Treasury Department with
regulatory, licensing and tax collection responsibilities in the areas
of firearms, explosives, alcohol and tobacco.
In his statement, Mueller said the FBI supports moving ATF into
Justice as a separate entity and added, "The FBI has the utmost
respect for the men and women of the ATF." He cited the sniper case as
a recent successful collaborative effort between the two that would
continue under the new arrangement.
ATF officials declined comment on the earlier FBI memo but did echo
support for the transfer to Justice.
"We look forward to ATF's law enforcement functions moving to DOJ,
where our knowledge and expertise in firearms, explosives and arson
investigations can be shared and utilized even more effectively to
help protect the American people," said ATF spokesman Tom Hill.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents
19,000 federal officers, issued a statement Tuesday saying it was
"appalled at the unwarranted criticism of ATF agents and ATF
expertise" in the earlier FBI memo.
"This document seems to have been prepared by someone within the FBI
who is very ignorant of how law enforcement is practiced in real-life
situations," the statement said.
Although the memo was circulated on Capitol Hill, one law enforcement
official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was intended to
remain within the FBI.
The federal law enforcement officers group has endorsed moving ATF's
law enforcement functions to Justice as a stand-alone firearms,
explosives and arson investigations entity. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis.,
plans to offer an amendment doing essentially that to legislation that
would create a new Homeland Security Department, which Congress is
considering in its lame-duck session.
That bill, among other things, would also transfer the Secret Service
(news - web sites) and Customs Service from the Treasury Department to
the new agency.
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