Will the ATF cook up another Waco to save itself?

The Patrick Henry Society warns that it might.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has introduced legislation to abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Gun-running, Explosives, and Childkilling, also known as ATF or BATFE. According to his proposal, he thinks the ATF’s ‘duties’ (I use the term loosely) could be absorbed by the FBI and DEA. If the bill passes, then the ATF has six months to come up with a plan for how it’ll dissolve.

While a lot of folks are cheering because Drain The Swamp and Take Our Country Back and all of that stuff, they’re missing a whole other layer to this situation.

Remember last time the ATF was up for dissolution? That was in 1993. When Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) proposed back then that ATF needed to be dissolved, the agency scrambled to find a way to justify its own existence. Surely, if they had a big bust, a big save, the government would see how very important and necessary they were. But who could they arrest? What could they do to prove they needed to stick around?

They decided to go after a guy in Texas, named Vernon Howell–known to his church as David Koresh. The rest, as they say, is history; a bloody, horrifying, charred and craven piece of history that proved only the depravity of the ATF and the greater federal government.

There’s more at the link.

I share the author’s concern.  I served as a chaplain with the Bureau of Prisons (part of the Department of Justice).  I had (and sometimes still have, in retirement) occasion, professionally and privately, to discuss federal law enforcement with members of the FBI, the US Marshals Service, and other agencies.  Their opinion of the ATF was and is unanimous – and frequently unprintable.  The individuals concerned regarded it as unprofessional, politicized, and actively seeking to aggrandize itself at the expense of other agencies, to so great an extent that they tried to avoid having to cooperate with it in joint investigations.  I’ve never forgotten one agent’s reaction.  He shook his head at having to go on a raid with ATF agents in attendance, and said disgustedly, “If they’re guarding my back, I’m gonna double up on back body armor!”  Everyone else in attendance indicated their emphatic agreement, some in words of approximately one syllable.

I found it telling that when the disbandment of the ATF was last discussed, back in 1993, it was mooted that ATF agents might be transferred to the FBI.  I was told (by an FBI Special Agent in charge of a field office) that the agency flatly refused to even consider accepting them.  The words “not professional enough” were bandied about when the matter was discussed, along with sundry other, less polite expressions.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the ATF try to justify its continued existence by staging some major operation in the full glare of publicity.  Given their past efforts – which have included Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Operation Fast and Furious, the latter leading to the deaths of at least two federal law enforcement officers so far, plus hundreds of people in Mexico – the prospect does not fill me with confidence.

I don’t know the Patrick Henry Society.  It appears to be a one-man-band operation, as far as I can tell, and the article cited above has some extreme views with which I disagree.  Nevertheless, on this issue, I fear the author may be correct.  We’ll all do well to keep our eyes open for any sign that the ATF may be at it again.



  1. F&F was NOT the only such operation. There are about twenty-five BATFE Field Divisions across the country, and every one of them had their own version. Barry Sotero got into office promising to outlaw guns. When his supporters asked why he had not done so, he replied that he was working it "under the radar". During the F&F scandal, the BATFE IG released an audio recording of Agent Hope McAllister from their Phoenix Field Division admitting that not two but three guns were found at the scene of Agent Terry's murder, and that the third gun was not sold in Phoenix but instead came from Dallas. Of course, I have no doubt that the BATFE Dallas Field Division would have no problems with the Phoenix Field Division running an operation on their front porch, would they? By the way, Agent McAllister specifically called Agent Terry's murder "collateral damage". Heard any other members of the Blue Wall categorizing murders of their Brothers and Sisters in Blue that way? But it seems that nobody in "Law Enforcement" in this country cares enough to refuse to work with her…

    Of course, all twenty-five Field Divisions could not credibly be running guns to Mexican drug cartels. Their stations in the Midwest were running guns to gangs in Chicago, Detroit, and other fine hives. Gang members have recently admitted that they got guns from the government. Down here in Central Florida, my local BATFE Field Division is in Tampa. Their deal was running weapons to communist terrorists supporting former president Zelaya in Honduras. You remember him – he's the guy who wanted to ignore their Constitution and be president for life! The Sotero adminstration had no problem with that, and came out strongly against the Honduran Legislature and Courts who dared to stand against his treason. But then who wouldn't expect one Commie to support another against the evils of capitalism?

    Anyway, that's just a little more background on SOME of the treason by the BATFE and their agents. The evil runs very deep in that organization.

  2. There was a story that Delta team sent a couple of its men to observer the ATF during the planning for Waco. They were horrified at what they heard and commented that it sounded like the ATF got most of their assault ideas from watching Rambo.

  3. And I,for one, will remember Vanderboegh's words: "No More Free Wacos". I heartily agree.

    I'm retired. I have the time. I have the tools. I have the motivation.

    And I have NOTHING to lose.

    The ATF/Feds/FBI might remember that there are many like me.

  4. The ATF was in charge of the sting that Randy Weaver ran afoul of. But the murder of Sammy Weaver was on the Marshals and the murder of Vicki was on the FBI. Just like the arson murder at Waco was on the FBI. All Federal law enforcement agencies are corrupt and should be disbanded as unconstitutional. Since the only three crimes the Feds are given authority to deal with are treason, piracy, and counterfeiting, we can keep the border patrol, the Coast Guard, and the section of the Secret Service that handles counterfeiting. We can give the SS treason as well.

  5. If you have forgotten: the FBI sniper (Lon Horiuchi) that killed Randy's wife Vicky at Ruby Ridge, was also active at WACO. His emplacement/hide was found to have lots of discarded brass after the FBI vacated the site.
    The reason ATF still exists is that NONE of the other Fed agencies would accept ANY agent bulk transfers from them. It is an extremely rare occurrence for an ATF agent to move to one of the other depts, and perhaps never the other direction. Since they are .gov employees, you can't just fire all of them. So, my question is, can they build walls?

  6. @will

    it's hard to fire a government employee from a job, but if the job goes away, you aren't firing them.

    There is no requirement to give them another job. They can apply to another job and may have a n inside track as they already have clearances, etc. But there is no official preference they can depend on.

  7. @Annie Mouse: Annie, an e-mail address is in my blog profile. Click on my name under "About Me & Contact Info" in the sidebar.

  8. Clearly if the ATF is dissolved (preferably in some powerful solvent), the agents should be absorbed by some agency of an equal degree of professionalism. I propose the Department of Education.

  9. A few decades ago, I read an article reporting how the ATF, due to sting funds never recovered, had contributed millions to the underground drug market. If that level of incompetence continued to the present, there's not telling how much harm was done in the name of "law enforcement".

  10. Perhaps we should follow law enforcement's example; their seemingly- method of operation, and be proactive; assaulting, arresting, assaulting, imprisoning predicted, uh, suspected perps before they can commit – and before we can prove they committed – the crime?

  11. A few years back, I had an idea about how to do this. It starts by declaring a surrender in the Drug War. Just as we learned during Prohibition's 'War On Demon Rum', the two sides in that war are the American Government, and the aggregate desires of the American People.

    So, legalize drugs, all of them, and regulate them for quality so a user knows exactly what they're getting in their dosage. Thus is born the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Recreational Pharmaceuticals, and it goes under the FDA as a basket for all the stuff that won't kill you in short order but isn't good for you. To balance the removal of the disincentive of criminality, pass a law that says that health and liability insurance doesn't cover any malady or harm as a result of the use of mind altering drugs (including alcohol, for fairness) without a specific rider for that drug type, which may have limits for dosage and frequency. All sellers of rec-pharms would have to check in with the buyer's insurance so they could print the usage guidance on the packaging, and also to supply the purchase details to the insurer for compliance with the rider's provisions. (Otherwise… insurance fraud, which the government does actually have some demonstrated capability to enforce.)

    Meanwhile, the technical branch of the of BATFE goes to the Department of Defense. I can't think of any other part of the federal government that would have the local expertise and desire to impartially evaluate firearms without any of this "a shoestring is a machine gun" nonsense.

    All the tax related parts of the BATFE do back to the Treasury Department from whence they came, although whatever is left of the NFA after the Hearing Protection Act is passed changes so that the paperwork for the transfer gets processed first, and then when otherwise approved, the applicant THEN pays the $200. This'll motivate efficiency in government.

    I've been concerned about moving the law enforcement side to the FBI, but there is really no other agency better suited, unless we're going to tear down the FBI to just the three crimes specified in the Constitution. If a Dept of the Militia is ever established under the DoD, I'm sure all misuse of firearms and explosives could be handles under such an umbrella. It'd be good to put the responsibility for prosecuting and sentencing weapon crimes in the hands of people who actually know something about the use of weapons.

    Furthermore, when I am king, we're going to have a moon colony, dammit.

  12. The FBI might not want them, but now they can just dump them all in with DHS and TSA. Birds of a feather. They can all get their jollies feeling up airline passengers.

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