FBI-ATF Turf Wars Smackdown

As noted by Joe Huffman and SayUncle, the FBI and BATFE have been engaged in a turf war to see which agency would be the lead agency when it comes to investigating explosions. This has been going on for some years. As a result, every now and then the Justice Department leadership would issue a memo telling them to quit fighting. Of course, they never did.

Gary Grindler, Acting Deputy AG, issued a memo that was pretty much a smackdown to both agencies. In the future, the FBI will be the lead agency for both international and domestic terrorism related explosives cases. This was  a slap to the ATF who thought they should have lead status on domestic terrorism.

Likewise, the ATF will be the lead agency in maintaining the explosives database called Bomb and Arson Tracking System (BATS). The Inspector General’s report found that the FBI had never reported any explosives incident data into the BATS database “even though it was previously designated as the single Department database for reporting and tracking explosives incidents.” Grindler order the FBI to immediately send all the info that they maintained to ATF for inclusion in the database. He noted that the Attorney General John Ashcroft had mandated all explosives data be stored in the single BATS database back in 2004.

The situation between the agencies had deteriorated to such a level that first responders didn’t know who was supposed to be in charge. TPMMuckraker reported that:

Inspector General Glenn Fine told Congress in February that agents would often race to the scene of an incident in the hopes of calling dibs on a case. Some agents acknowledged to Fine that they believed “possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

Some at ATF admitted that in the post-9/11 world their agency had “terrorism envy” and wanted to be a lead agency in the war against terror.

Now that this has been somewhat resolved for the time being, I wonder if the pressure to name a Director for ATF by the gun control groups will increase. With the leak of the name of the Chicago SAC Andrew Traver about a week and a half ago, one must wonder.

Originally posted on Aug 18.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has a story about these turf wars in today’s paper. I guess better late than never is their motto.


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