Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars posted an internal memo sent to him by an ATF insider. It indicates that they had an inkling that Sharyl Attkisson’s CBS News report on Operation Gunrunner was going to be bad. I am not surprised by the arrogant tone taken by ATF’s PR people. They’ve gotten away with it for years and why should they expect now to be any different. Time will tell.
Public Information Officers:
Please make every effort for the next two weeks to maximize coverage of ATF operations/enforcement actions/arrests at the local and regional level. Given the negative coverage by CBS Evening News last week and upcoming events this week, the bureau should look for every opportunity to push coverage of good stories. Fortunately, the CBS story has not sparked any follow up coverage by mainstream media and seems to have fizzled.
It was shoddy reporting, as CBS failed to air on-the-record interviews by former ATF officials and HQ statements for attribution that expressed opposing views and explained the law and difficulties of firearm trafficking investigations. The CBS producer for the story made only a feigned effort at the 11th hour to reach ATF HQ for comment.
This week (To 3/1/2011), Attorney General Holder testifies on the Hill and likely will get questions about the allegations in the story. Also (The 3/3/2011), Mexico President Calderon will visit the White House and likely will testify on the Hill. He will probably draw attention to the lack of political support for demand letter 3 and Project Gunrunner.
ATF needs to proactively push positive stories this week, in an effort to preempt some negative reporting, or at minimum, lessen the coverage of such stories in the news cycle by replacing them with good stories about ATF. The more time we spend highlighting the great work of the agents through press releases and various media outreaches in the coming days and weeks, the better off we will be.
Thanks for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any significant operations that should get national media coverage, please reach out to the Public Affairs Division for support, coordination and clearance.
Scot L. Thomasson
Chief, ATF Public Affairs Division
UPDATE: CBS News just published the above memo and said they will be “staying on the story.” I don’t think Sharyl Attkission is too impressed by the ATF’s PR offensive. I have to hand it to her – she is a lot more than just a pretty face and she has come through on Project Gunwalker. When I first read her request for sources on CleanUpATF.org, I thought it was a 50-50 chance that she would come out with a puff piece exonerating ATF. I was wrong. Happily wrong but wrong nonetheless.
She deserves a lot of credit for getting Agent John Dodson to come on camera and on the record. He deserves a lot of credit for showing the intestinal fortitude to take that step. Many other ATF Special Agents knew what was going on and were scared to come out of the shadows about it.