ATF pledges to deal with ‘terrorism envy’

Mike Riggs Contributor

Looks like ATF plans to stop obstructing the war on terror:

[U]nder the new plan, the ATF is taking on a less prominent role in investigating terrorism – leaving the issue primarily to the FBI – as it instead refocuses on combating violent crime.

“The terrorism police in the United States are the FBI, rightfully so, that’s where they should be focused,” said an ATF official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been finalized. “We believe that our position, the way we best serve this country, is by impacting violent crime.”

The ATF will continue to assist the FBI by providing explosives expertise in, but not leading, investigations that are classified as “terrorist bombings.” That includes incidents tied to recognized terrorist organizations including domestic terrorism such as acts by animal- or environmental-rights extremists. According to ATF, 99 percent of all bombings in the U.S. are not tied to terrorist organizations and fall under its jurisdiction.

“We have a definite role in terrorism and national security, we regulate the tools of the trade,” said the ATF official. “But is our primary mission terrorism? No, it’s not.”

ATF went through a period “terrorism envy” after Sept. 11, the official conceded.

To demonstrate the changed focus, ATF has changed its slogan to “AThe Frontline Against Violent Crime.” Previously, the ATF billed itself as “on the frontlines in our nation’s war against terror.”

But conflicts between the FBI and the ATF remain ongoing.

A DOJ Inspector General’s audit report issued last October found that the FBI and the ATF were not coordinating their efforts.

In testimony before a House panel last month, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said the agencies’ explosives investigators would race to the scene of an incident in the hopes of “calling dibs” on a case. As some agents acknowledged to Fine, they believed “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” The Deputy Attorney General is meeting this month with working groups from both agencies to resolve the conflicts.