Overview of Agency The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has seen many changes since it origin in 1789. Originally established to tax the sale and distribution of alcohol, the ATF now posses more responsibilities in the world of law enforcement. It is important to understand the historical events and current changes that shaped the agency in the past several decades. Events such as the Whiskey Rebellion defined the ATF in its early years (Kurian, 2008).
With the ratification of the 18th Amendment, and the Volstead Prohibition Enforcement Act, the dawn of the Prohibition began (Trac Reports, 2007, p. 1). With prohibition came bolstering of the enforcement aspect of the ATF, at that time considered the “Prohibition Unit” (History of TBB, 2006, p. 1). “Taxation from alcohol was a huge aspect of the total revenue for the federal government prior to the creation of income taxes” (Kurian, 2008, p. 2). The ATF originally operated under the command of the Treasury Department. However, in January 2003, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was ratified. Rendering the functions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms into two new organizations with separate functions, the Act created a new tax and trade bureau within the Department of the Treasury, and shifted certain law enforcement functions of the ATF to the Department of Justice”(History of TTB, 2006, p. 1). Currently the ATF functions under the command of the Department of Justice. Since September 11, 2001 the ATF began focusing on firearms and explosives almost exclusively, although the regulation of alcohol is still an aspect of the ATF.
Looking specifically at the ATF field offices in Georgia, only one group out of 10 is responsible for alcohol related offenses and enforcement of regulations. Learning the history of the ATF has given me a great deal of understanding in regards to the responsibilities of the agency. With the threat of violence and terrorism as a top priority of the American government, it is only fitting that the agency’s top priorities are violence associated with firearms and explosives. The ATF’s Mission: A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology” (Kurian, 2008, p. ) As I have spend all my time with the law enforcement aspect of the ATF, specifically ‘SAFE” (Suburban Area Firearms Enforcement), it is evident this agency stands by its mission statement and focuses on firearms and explosives. As my internship has progressed my roles and responsibilities have change drastically. Initially, getting to know the agents was my top priority. The ATF field office in Atlanta is a great organization. They know and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, work well together, and communicate effectively.
My first initiative when I arrived in late September was surviving the ‘pestering’ of the agents in my group. I took this as a form of initiation. I was assigned to group seven, which again is SAFE. There are roughly ten special agents (SA) in this group. Once I established relationships with the agents, I began to learn what goes on, what I could be a part of, and how I would fit in. It is difficult to pinpoint my role because I was all over the building, and all over town. One day I would be assigned changing the labels on evidence if the case switched groups.
Another day I would have some down time to pry information out of the agents about this paper. And then other days I would be in the field, observing and being a part of whatever the case presented. At the ATF my main responsibility was to learn everything I could about the agency and federal policing. I did this by being engaged in every operation they would let me. I had to be aggressive in my approach because simply put, if your not in an agents face, he’s not going to remember to give the intern a call before he goes out to the field. Personal Objectives
When I first began my internship at the ATF I was not sure what to expect. This is a national agency. Their reputation is prestigious and I am just an intern from Kennesaw State University. How can they possibly need or even want me around? I quickly came to find that respect is earned in the Atlanta field office of the ATF. Through my Criminal Justice degree at KSU I have learned a huge amount about the world of Justice in our country. I have a basic understand of our rights as citizens, the police that protect us, and the courts that govern us. However, I have no real work experience to see how this all actually works.
How does everything really fit together in the real world of policing? Originally my objectives were to gain real world experience. If I could learn it in a classroom, I wanted to see it in action. This objective was broad to say the least. As I began my internship, I was able to narrow down my personal objectives based on my experiences at the ATF and the objectives given to me by my committee board. My personal objectives develop in two different paths. I wanted to adapt my knowledge from the classroom to the federal government. And I was curious as to how I fit into policing as a whole?
Is this really a career for me? Will I enjoy myself? As my internship has progressed I have learned a considerable amount of information regarding laws and procedures of our government. I have also been able to see a federal case develop as a whole. Beginning with the evidence presented for a warrant, to the buy/bust to catch the crook, to the court proceedings that develop. I have grown significantly through these experiences as a criminal justice scholar. On the other hand, I have been able to better understand what an ideal roll will be for me as a criminal justice professional. The ATF is a great organization.
I have worked with some of the most professional men and women I have ever meet. They make every effort to do things by the book and in a professional manner. Through my experienced with the ATF I have found a place I would love to end up. The danger of certain aspects of their job is enticing to me. But at the same time the training they have, and the knowledge they posses creates a safe working environment. It has been proven to me on countless occasions that the federal government has done its best to provide the public with agents that are trained, specialized, mature, and completely capable of performing their jobs to the highest level.
Because of this I have every desire to be a part of the ATF in the future. Analytical Issues – Professor Ballard The mission and history of the ATF were describes in detail in the agency overview, with exception to its current goals. With the expansion of responsibilities the ATF has taken on post 9/11, the goals of the agency have increased. Currently there are six main goals associated with the mission statement of the ATF: 1) Illegal firearm trafficking, 2) Criminal Groups and Gangs, 3) Explosives, Bombs, and Bombings, 4) Fire and Arson, 5) Modernization, 6) Workforces (Melson, 2010).
Although these are broad ideas, they have helped shaped the recent group changes of the ATF. There are eight groups at the ATF Atlanta field office. Group 1: Firearms Trafficking; dedicated to the illegal distribution of firearms that is likely involved in the gun trade across state and federal boundaries. This group works specifically with federal code 18:922 F &G which target the trafficking and illegal possess of firearms for any of the stated reasons such as but not limited to: conviction of a felony, dishonorable discharge, conviction of domestic violence, fugitive from justice, etc. (Federal Code 18:922 F-G).
Group 2: Arson, Explosives has the specific duty of investigating fire related issues. Their current stated goal is: “Strengthen the detection, prevention, and investigation of explosives and bombing incidents through partnerships, collaboration, and comprehensive intelligence and information sharing” (Melson, 2010, p. 25). Group 3: Violent Crime Enforcement Taskforce (VCIT) and Group 7: Suburban Area Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) both have the same mission of enforcing firearm laws. Each group deals with general ATF responsibilities as well as national firearm acts. The majority of their investigations deal with armed drug dealers.
Group 4, which is located in the FBI building, is the Organized Crime Enforcement Task Force (OCEDTF). This task force is one of the only federal task forces that combine the resources of almost all of the federal police agencies. “OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies which include: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U. S. Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U. S. Coast Guard” (DEA, 2009, p. 2).
Group 5 and 8 are both Industry operations units. These units are made of up investigative analysts, not special agents (1811). Their policing responsibilities are the inspection of legal gun trades and sales across the state of Georgia. They are also vital to the ATF in industry organization, which will be described later. The last group at the Atlanta field office is group 6: Intel. This group is also not comprised of special agents but is non-the-less vital to the organization. The Intel group is responsible for everything from background checks, to investigations of suspected criminals for all groups at the ATF.
Each group works in a separate area of the 3rd floor blocked off by security guards, and scanners on every door. With that said it is amazing the communication they have. This aspect of the ATF is one of their strong points. Each group keeps the other informed of current cases as well as developing cases. The Industry Operations and Intel groups keep the special agents informed daily with each group helping the other to the best of their abilities. With each group representing a different goal of the agency, there are many differences between them. However, the 2nd Amendment is a hot issue they all face on a daily basis.
In fact, it has just recently found itself in national news once again in the McDonald V. Chicago case. Gostin, 2010, stresses that it is vital to understand that the 2nd Amendment has never consistently ruled in favor of protecting individual rights as much as it has protected the states from enforcing their own firearms laws. However, the agents at the ATF that I have spoke with seem to disagree with this, citing the D. C. v. Heller case that specifically illustrates the courts desire to allow citizens the right to posses a firearm, specifically a handgun.
It was assumed on my part that many ATF agents would find the restrictions on firearms to relax, but after speaking with many of them, they seem to have the opposite opinion. “ I’m sure you will get the occasional ATF agent who thinks no one should have a gun and that if it were up to him only he should have one. That’s not the case with most of us though. We respect the right to own a gun for safely, even recreational use. If you don’t illegal posses a weapon or do dumb things with it, I am no different than any other guy. I don’t care if you have a gun”(ATF agent).
This specific issue was interesting to me because of the nature of the ATF’s work; however, the ATF agent quoted in the paper is in the norm when it comes to opinions on gun control. Analytical Objectives: Professor Fenton Investigative analysts are the backbone of the ATF. With one of the broadest job descriptions in the agency, they are involved in every aspect of the ATF. The investigative analysts (IA) begin with the physical security as well as property management of the building. All of the security and contract work is managed by the IA’s . Their job does not stop there.
Every case opened by the agents at the Atlanta field office will need an assigned IA who will be the Victim-Witness coordinator. Their job in this situation is to makes sure the victim knows his or her rights and what he can and cannot do. The IA will also be responsible for any needs of the witness or defendant. These needs include such things as: witness protection program, time off from their current job, any physicians that are required for mental or emotions needs of the witness or defendant, as well as all managerial aspects that go alone with these needs.
Another aspect of the IA’s job is the Task Force Officers (TFO). Because the ATF works so frequently with local police departments, there are many local officers sworn in under federal law to function as ATF agents when need be. All of these officers are required to go through an extensive background check performed by the IA’s. The IA’s also perform the background checks on all contract work done in the ATF’s building. Background checks are also done on all SA’s that are hired for service of the federal government. Once the background check is complete in D. C. , it is handed to the IA in Atlanta for sign off.
Once the completion of each 1811’s background check is done they are turned over to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Facility (FLETC) to begin their basic training as a special agent. Once the training as FLETC is completed all SA’s spend a minimum of three years ‘on the job training’ where they are mentored by a senior special agent. Every quarter each special agent is required advanced training in firearms or tactics. For instance, I was a part of the quarterly tactical training for all agents that dealt with under cover rescue from an automobile. This type of training is very specific and allows the agents to stay sharp on the job.
All described training so far has been mandatory. However, the ATF, depending on agent’s own goals, may request for specific training in a field of their choice. Some of the most popular and sought after courses are the Certified Fire Investigator (CFI), the Certified Explosive Specialist (CES), the Special Response Team (SRT), and the National Response Team (NRT). Each career path option is a require two year course. Most of the time once the course is completed the agent returns to the role of a special agent in his or hers respective city with exception to the NRT.
The NRT is a highly skilled group of SA’s that are sent around the country in response to high value cases. If a case involved national security or terrorism, the NRT will be there. When talking about high value cases, even cases in general that involve the cooperation of many agencies, the term linkage blindness begins to slip into the equation. Linkage blindness was originally coined to serial killers (Petherick, 2003). The idea was that these killers were committing numerous crimes in multiple jurisdictions and the departments in charge of investigating these crimes were not putting the crimes together as one single person.
As the years have gone on this term has been used to describe the lack of communication between law enforcement agencies themselves. Many of the cases the ATF run will cross jurisdictions as far as federal and local prosecution is concerned. Because of this the ATF spends majority of their time communicating and working with other agencies both local and federal. Already described are the TFO’s, task force officers, “who are the ATF’s bread and butter. They help out with almost every case, especially on UC operations in the area” (ATF Agent). 
When you begin talking about illegal arms two things usually come into play, felons and drugs (Hemmens & Worrall ,2005). With any high priority case dealing with drugs, the ATF contacts the DEA. These agencies have a positive relationship and seem to work well together in joint operations. The ATF also spends a good deal of time with ICE because many of these firearms being purchased illegally end up in the hands of gang members, most likely felons, as well as illegal immigrants. The last thing the ATF wants is a legal firearm purchase that makes it’s way into felon’s hands, or across country boarders.
The federal agencies positive relations seem to end there. A good example of how many ATF officers feel about the CIA and the FBI can be summed up in the quote. “We see the FBI as a shadier organization, as is the CIA. They just don’t operate by the book as well try to do. If you talk about bending the rules, look to those guys. Don’t get me wrong, we need them. And many times they need us. But that doesn’t mean we always get along. If you get on with the FBI or CIA, even if you don’t have their persona, you will once you’re done with training. It’s a different ballgame a lot of the time. – ATF Agent You can see some of the tension between agencies; the idea of linkage blindness is definitely a factor in this situation. The agent goes on to describe the desire to keep cases to themselves when speaking of the FBI. “It’s to bad we can’t rely on them to work well with others” (ATF Agent). Analytical Issues – Professor Crowder For decades the FBI has had the reputation of seeing themselves far superior to all law enforcement personnel. However, Eric Rudolph created a situation in which it was vital the FBI and ATF worked together effectively.
The Eric Rudolph bombings spiked a nation wide search ultimately ending in his capture and eventual incarceration. In a news conference after the sentencing of Eric Rudolph then Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) stated this about the investigation of Eric Rudolph: “What followed was a criminal investigation and manhunt unprecedented in size and scope. Involving over 27,000 initial leads, 2,800 — excuse me, 28, 000 witness interviews, and over 1,000 pieces of evidence, which were submitted for analysis to the FBI laboratory.
And to those numbers add over 30,000 photographs and 1,700 videotapes and case files for these three Atlanta bombings now total nearly 112,000 entries. (CNN, 2005, p. 3) The transcript goes on to thank the ATF’s Southeast Bomb Task Force for their support and expertise. Because of the shear magnitude of this case these government agencies had to rely on one another’s support. It would not have been possible for just one government agency to handle this investigation (CNN, 2005). The bomb technicians of the ATF are unmatched in any other government agency.
On the opposite side of the spectrum the FBI’s size and resources required them to spear head the investigation. The ATF and the FBI shared their resources and information. Linkage blindness was were laid to the side and as a result created one of the most successful joint investigations by any two federal government agencies. This case was an example of how the government should work together. Another incident that took place in Wako, Texas is an example of a lack of communication and management on behalf of the ATF. On February 28, 1993 ATF agents executed a search warrant on the Mount Carmel Compound in Wako, Texas (Scruggs, 1993).
This search warrant was granted by an affidavit submitted by Special Agent David Aguilera of the ATF. From the very beginning the management of the ATF in the Wako case was suspect (Ammerman, 1993). The affidavit, which should have been cleared by the Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the Texas branch of the ATF, claimed several false statements including the suspicion that the compound was serving as a methamphetamine lab (Ammerman, 1993). The ATF was also notified that the raid had been compromised; however, it was still cleared to continue in spit of the fact that the entire raid was based on the element of surprise (Scruggs, 1993).
The result of the raid and the month long siege that followed was a culmination of uneducated decisions and poor leadership. After the shooting began on February 28th, the ATF leadership at the scene began to break down (Scruggs, 1993). ATF agents were responding to urgent matters pertaining to the wounded and the dead. In the Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events of Wako, Texas, Assistant to the Attorney General Richards Scruggs states: At about 5:30 p. m. , SAC Jamar arrived from San Antonio and immediately began to establish a command post for the FBI.
Several hours later, Daniel Conroy, ATF Deputy Associate Director of Law Enforcement, arrived at the ATF command post to find it still in disarray, despite efforts by the on-scene commanders to restore order and deal with the most pressing tasks, such as continuing negotiations with the Branch Davidians, coordinating the recovery of the released children, and handling the large influx of ATF agents, and state and local law enforcement officers volunteering for service. The lessons learned by the ATF in the post Wako era created a stronger centralized leadership. It was an obvious message that our procedures for warrants, specifically raids, must be revamped. This is why we have such in-depth pre-deployment handouts” (ATF Agents). From my experience before each warrant every person involved from the ASAC to the TFO’s are given specific duties and authorities. Everyone knows exactly what to do when a certain even happens. There are even ‘what-if’ scenarios at the end of the document. Regrettably for the ATF, the Wako incident resulted in the firing of many high-ranking officials, including the director himself.
Policies were re-written, procedures were redefined, and rules and regulations were changed all in spite of the Wako incident. It is unfortunate the events of February 28th, 1993 prompted the revamping of the ATF. However, the management of the ATF is now better prepared than ever before because of the lessons learned in regards to the Wako incident. These lessons have help create a superior procedural approach to the dangerous matters pertaining to the ATF, such as the mass quantity of undercover (UC) operations the agency works. The ATF has been tied to deep UC operations for decades.
One of the most notorious missions of the ATF is the outlaw motorcycle gangs that have plagued this country since the 1%er’s were established in 1947. “Over the Independence Day weekend of 1947, following the arrest of a POBOB’s member (Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington), a reported 750 motorcyclists descended on the small community and demanded his release” (Abadinsky, 2007, p. 249). The riot that ensued caused significant damage to the small town of Hollister. The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) held a public press conference apologizing for the behavior of those cyclists called them “1%er’s” (Adadinsky, 2007).
This term lead to the creation of the Hell’s Angels and countless other motorcycle gangs that represent everything the ATF enforces. These motorcycle gangs have been linked to violent crime from day one. Because of this the ATF stepped in early and often, implementing countless undercover operations to take down these felons. 1%er’s use violent crime, illegal drugs, and the illegal sale and distribution of weapons to fund their organizations (Adadinsky, 2007). Even with the experience the ATF has with UC operations pertaining to 1%er’s, they still see a large amount of operations fail. When you begin to talk about UC operations that deal with organized crime, you start talking about smart people” (ATF Agent). There are so many working parts to a UC operation many of them don’t last. The groups are organized, sophisticated, and many times family oriented; it’s tough to fit in. The ATF cannot rely on UC operations alone to meet their goals of crime reduction in the realm of illegal drugs and firearms. This is why a number of joint operations have been created to help suppress illegal activity in these areas. One national program implemented that the ATF has supported is HIDTA, or the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.
The ATF Atlanta has one SA dedicated to HIDTA. HIDTA is a multi-organizational program using the abilities of the ATF, FBI, GBI, and many other government agencies to complete its stated mission: “The mission of the Atlanta HIDTA Program is to achieve measurable success in improving public safety and well-being by disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking and money laundering organizations through intelligence-driven multi-jurisdictional operations…” (HIDTA, 2005, p. 1). HIDTA takes on most high profile cases. Many of these cases cross state and federal boundaries.
HIDTA’s stated mission required an entirely separate program dedicated to the communication of federal agencies (HIDTA, 2005). LEAD, or Law Enforcement Assistance and Deconfliction, “is an intelligence sharing system that promotes the highest level of public safety and prevents law enforcement officers from confronting blue-on-blue situations in the field” (HIDTA, 2005, p. 2). LEAD promotes fluid communications between all federal and local agencies involved in HIDTA as well as increased communications and awareness to the general public about ways to help and report information to HIDTA.
The LEAD program has its roots in the Investigative analysts of the ATF, and other agencies, who facilitate the program. Without the help of the investigative analysts and the other vital positions available at the ATF Atlanta, the agency would not function. Besides the criminal investigators, the ATF has investigative analysts who have been described earlier. Intelligence officers are also a vital aspect of the ATF team compiling all the information for cases ready for trial. They are also the contact personnel when special agents need information as they work their cases.
Each group has a secretary that is in charge of all administrative duties associated with communications between the Special agent in charge, and other group special agents. There are also many managerial positions at the ATF such as a public relations specialist, internship coordinator, supervisor 1811 positions, and of course the ASAC and SAC. None of these jobs are entry-level jobs and usually require many years of experience to apply. ATF Internship Summary It’s hard to comprehend the complexity of our criminal justice (CJ) system sitting in a classroom learning about one aspect at a time.
Through my bachelors degree here at Kennesaw State I have been given a strong basis of knowledge of our CJ system. I quickly found that putting all the pieces together was a different story. I was talking to an agent my first day at the ATF about a case he was working on. I don’t remember the specifics but I do remember sitting there thinking to myself, in this conversation I just applied information for a dozen different CJ classes. It is a good feeling to know you have been prepared to enter the field. The ATF internship itself was a positive experience. It was also quite different than I was expecting.
I did get to be a part of any field operations that were going on when I was there. I also spent a good deal of time behind a desk. It is understandable that the agents spend the majority of their time working on cases from a computer screen. What they didn’t take into consideration many times was the lack of work they had for me. I would imagine this will change from group to group, but many days I was not given any orders and thus had to find things to do on my own. This was definitely a draw back to the internship. There was work that I could have been helping the agents with.
I am not sure if they did not trust me or just felt more comfortable completing it on their own. I made several attempts to help but they seemed to be pretty adamant at the office to complete their work on their own. I spoke with an intern from another group and he had experienced the same problem. When assessing this internship sit for future interns I would highly recommend it. From what I have gathered from the new ATF intern coordinator is that there is a large amount of applicants for the internship each semester, even being selected is an honor.
Future interns need to be highly motivated, and ready to work. Everything at the ATF is earned. I found myself on several occasions reminding the agents I was there. However, at the end of the internship I found myself integrated into my group. I always had something to do, at least something to be working on, and the agents felt comfortable allowing me to be a part of their cases. This was a great internship. I have enjoyed being a part of the ATF and recommend future Kennesaw State interns to apply. References: Abadinsky, H. (2007). Organized crime.
Belmont: Wadsworth. Ammerman, N. (2003, September 3). Report to the justice and treasury departments. Retrieved from http://dcommon. bu. edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2144/14/ReportOnBranchDavidians. html? sequence=1 CNN. (2005, April 13). Transcript: US Attorney in Eric Rudolph Case Explains Deal. Retrieved from http://archives. cnn. com/TRANSCRIPTS/0504/13/se. 01. html DEA. (2009). Daily Operations; OCEDTF. Retrieved from http://www. justice. gov/dea/programs/ocdetf. htm Gostin, L. (2010). The Right to Bear Arms: A Uniquely American Entitlement.
JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 304(13), 1485-1486. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Hemmens, C. , Worrall J. (2005). Criminal Evidence: An Introduction. Roxbury Publishing. Los Angeles, California. HIDTA. (2005). Atlanta HIDTA. Retrieved from: http://www. atlantahidta. org/%28S%28xmvntzinmxhnzbidafucbr55%29%29/default. aspx/MenuItemID/101/MenuGroup/Home. htm TTB. (2006). History of the Bureau of TTB. Retrieved from http://www. ttb. gov/about/history. shtml Kurian, George. (2008, March).
About the ATF – History. Retrieved from http://www. atf. gov/about/history/atf-from-1789-1998. html Melson, K. (2010, October 1). History of ATF from Oxford University Press, Inc. 1789–1998. Retrieved from: http://www. atf. gov/publications/general/strategic-plan/ 2010-2016 ATF Goals Trac Journals. (2007, January). Trac ATF. Retrieved from http://trac. syr. edu/tracatf/atwork/current/atfHistory. html Petherick, Wayne. (2003, May). Serial crime: theoretical and practical issues in behavioral profiling. Retrieved from: http://books. google. om/books? id=U3-zunZ5eF4C&pg=PA183&lpg=PA183&dq=linkage+blindness&source=bl&ots=k4bgobAIu3&sig=JER1puopELbdQ6BFP2YzdN0Qijg&hl=en&ei=albHTKu8BsL_lge18ZSFAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=linkage%20blindness&f=false Scruggs, R. (1993). Report to the deputy attorney general on the events at Waco, Texas Retrieved from: http://www. justice. gov/05publications/waco/wacoeight. html ———————–  Special agents asked not to be stated by name. All agents are therefore regarded as ‘ATF Agent. ’