ATF has two distinct sets of rules when it comes to handling employee matters. On one hand, managers at all levels are ruthlessly shielded from scrutiny and rightful accountability, even when their conduct is flagrantly and deliberately unlawful. On the other hand, agents and employees that speak out in any way against management abuse or misconduct are often threatened or disciplined for the most minor infractions. And if there are no minor infractions to be found, they will be fabricated. The following are two cases in point:
Standard A: Management:
- It is a little publicized fact that an ATF Special-Agent-in-Charge (SAC), a high-ranking management official, was the subject of a lengthy investigation conducted by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The investigation concluded that this ATF manager had repeatedly engaged in substantial acts of criminal and ethical misconduct, including abuses of authority, discrimination, retaliation, misuse of government funds, resources and personnel, and other flagrantly unlawful behavior.
- The OIG investigation also formally determined that the subject, a senior federal law enforcement management official, misused her position and ATF resources for personal gain. Specifically, the SAC allegedly directed ATF agents to provide security for a personal friend who was signing books at a local bookstore, and that the SAC knowingly made numerous false statements to federal investigators.
- The accusations first surfaced while the individual was an Assistant SAC (ASAC) in the Atlanta Field Division. Nevertheless, ATF Headquarters promoted her to be SAC of the Houston Division, but continuing complaints and allegations eventually prompted her removal and transfer to HQ. However, once again, rather than demoting or firing this disgraceful individual as they would have done with any normal agent or employee, ATF's leadership simply moved her into the SAC position in Atlanta, where the misconduct had been first reported!
- Eventually, this person's misconduct became so embarrassing to ATF that top management officials, including ADFO Hoover and DAD Mark Chait, personally travelled to Atlanta to remove her from her SAC position. But once again, rather than immediately terminating her from government service, they simply created a new position so that she could keep a low profile until the extremely damaging OIG report blew over. When Atlanta Journal reporter Robin Cook questioned ATF about the SAC's sudden departure, the Bureau responded that it was just a "normal reassignment to HQ".
- This incredibly corrupt law enforcement official was not only allowed to retain her Senior Executive Service (SES) status, but reportedly to receive per diem (travel payments). She remained "on the job" until the very last minute before the OIG report was published.
- During a meeting with an unrelated complainant, ATF Deputy Director Carter flatly denied that there had been a formal finding of discrimination against the subject SAC. He was either unaware or more likely, deliberately covering up the unpleasant facts. Both are unacceptable on the part of such a high public law enforcement official.
- Most of these facts had been repeatedly reported to senior ATF managers Hoover and Carter. It is apparent that they were entirely misled either by their own Counsel's Office as to the severity of the misconduct, or were fully aware and opted to sweep the entire matter under the rug. The fact that the SAC in question was so unceremoniously removed from a senior divisional management position suggests that they knew precisely what was going on.
- Despite unmistakable evidence of substantial criminal misconduct, the U.S. Attorney's Office eventually declined to prosecute the corrupt SAC and allowed ATF to send her quietly into retirement. Such "passes" are almost never given without direct input from the involved agency (in this case, ATF). Who from ATF was aware that one of the leading managers was under a deserved threat of criminal prosecution, and what was their response?
- During this reporting period, the OIG received over 200 complaints involving ATF. The most common allegations made by ATF employees involved waste, misuse of government property and theft. The OIG opened three cases and referred others to ATF's OPR for internal "review". At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had six open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to ATF employees. The criminal investigations included release of information, denial of rights or due process, drug trafficking, and fraud. The administrative investigations involved serious allegations of misconduct, such as the aforementioned Atlanta SAC, however, as usual, ATF looks the other way whenever a management official is involved.
An ATF Special Agent survives 20 years of outstanding service as an undercover operative and is the recipient of numerous commendations and awards for investigative excellence and bravery. He was the subject of many ATF national headlines showcasing him as the epitome of how ATF contributes to public safety. He has repeatedly taught and presented in support of ATF's mission. He spent a large portion of his life away from his wife and children to serve his oath and the greater good of his country. He has never been found lacking in terms of ethics, competence or commitment, and has always accepted responsibility for any mistakes. However, this agent had the audacity to speak out against horrendous abuses on the part of ATF management. For his vast contributions in comparison to the SAC (manager) described above, he has received the following considerations:
- Although still employed by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in an office job, he's been forced to file two lawsuits against ATF as a result of the Bureau's abject failure to protect him from years of death threats made by vicious outlaw bikers and other criminals. A landmark 2008 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General report concluded that the agent's claims were accurate. OIG found that ATF had failed to move the agent and his family, failed to protect their identities, and that ATF's response to certain death threats was "inadequate, incomplete and needlessly delayed, and that ATF reached "dismissive conclusions about the threats without adequate investigation."
- The agent has been forced to move his family more than 10 times in 4 years.
- A Hells Angel in prison was caught writing a letter to another gang member, saying they should arrange for the gang rape of the agent's wife and torture of his teenage daughter.
- By filing suits and alerting members of Congress about the insane abuses he has suffered at the hands of his own managers, the agent is committing career suicide, but does so with the knowledge that there is a greater good involved at that, "Nobody has ever stood up to these guys before."
- When unknown criminals burned the agent's house down with his family sleeping inside, ATF not only failed to promptly or adequately investigate, but actually accused the agent, who was 100 miles away at the time, of setting the fire! They also claimed without any evidence that he was "mentally unfit".
- The criminals themselves have claimed that a major undercover investigation conducted by this agent went "bad" due to misconduct on the part of that agent. However, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, Tim Duax, says that's "nonsense...(the agent's) undercover work was solid." The reason the case disintegrated, "...had nothing to do with the Agent."
- The agent's superiors told him that by filing his complaints, he'd be ending his career in "a postage stamp in the middle of nowhere,"
- During a recent mediation hearing related to his lawsuit, ATF's mediation offer was, "Quit or be fired."