Thursday, February 3, 2011

Of whistleblowers, watchdogs and ATF

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee appears keenly interested in probing whether Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stings and gun-running investigations ran amok along the U.S. border, and may have actually helped facilitate assault rifles moving to Mexico. According to reports, the weapons in question may include a couple of guns used in a December shootout in Arizona that killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Fox News and the Los Angeles Times have two of the most recent tellings of the story. It's a story also reported on the February 1st front page of The Arizona Republic.

But a lot of legwork was done before this story hit mainstream media. And that's a sidebar as compelling as the need to investigate the gun-to-Mexico allegations.

It appears ATF inside sources first opened up on a whistleblower website critical of ATF, and before long, disclosure expanded through a couple of gun rights bloggers who have since spent much time and effort moving the story forward.

One of those bloggers is David Codrea of's Gun Rights Examiner.

The other is Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars. You may recall Vanderboegh. He's the guy who last year suggested  throwing a brick or two through Democrat Party office windows as a means of getting politicians' attention.

Say what you want about Vanderboegh's politics. He's a long time and consistent critic of ATF upper management. But despite his criticism, or perhaps because of it, he appears to have attracted and courted capable inside sources. And his sources have proven accurate on stories beyond what's currently playing out.

If Codrea and Vanderboegh are where ATF insiders go to leak a story, it suggests some ATF insiders have extreme distrust of their own agency and the bureaucracy surrounding it. It strikes me they wanted to get as far from "the system" as they could while still disclosing alleged improprieties.

This does not speak well of the government, or its chief agency charged with firearms regulation.

I'm glad to see Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and at least a few others on Capitol Hill have taken notice, and through the Senate Judiciary Committee, now actively work to probe the allegations raised in blogs over the past month or so.

And I'm glad to see independent bloggers willing to stand in the gap fulfilling a watchdog role once held by the mainstream media.

Where was big media while Codrea and Vanderboegh were blogging?

If the Washington Post is an example, it appears to take most its reporting cues from ATF management (and perhaps others in the Obama administration), often painting a picture of ATF as an agency with dire needs to be bigger and better funded.

The Post has finally put the judiciary committee's inquiry on the record. But more is needed.

It's time the Post, and others in the media, wake up; and show they take their watchdog status as seriously as some of the independent bloggers out there. There's more to reporting than trying to curry favor with government bureaucracies.

Update: A related post.

1 comment:

  1. In any agency involving national security, police work, or guns it is inevitable that many of the people who join it at the soldier or officer levels have an interest in patriotism and guns that preceded their entry into the agency. As long as the agency operates according to the rules of the constitution and its legitimate function everything is fine. But when the agency becomes politicized, as has the ATF, the patriotic and loyal to American and the constitution see the politicization as corruption.

    People tend to associate the word 'corruption' with money but it can be political corruption when the proper role of the agency is apolitical.