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Tag: tom brandon

Emails Disclose Angst, Handwringing at ATF After Vegas Shooting and Bump Stock Controversy

Acting head of ATF Thomas Brandon.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Emails show the controversial rapid-fire bump stock device used in the Las Vegas massacre last year caused a lot of angst and handwringing inside ATF, a report in USA Today shows. It also shows why the devices are still legal in many states.

Nick Penzenstadler of USA Today reports:

Within hours of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history a year ago in Las Vegas, the federal agency in charge of regulating guns found itself under pressure to ban a rapid-fire device and penned in by legal boundaries that officials said prevented them from acting quickly, according to newly disclosed emails from inside the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Blame rained down on the ATF after gunfire showered concertgoers from a 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay hotel Oct. 1, leaving 58 dead and more than 800 injured. Critics popped up everywhere – cable news anchors and politicians on both sides of the aisle, the National Rifle Association and Gabrielle Giffords’ anti-gun-violence group, and even from the ATF’s own ranks of current and former agents.

The focus was Slide Fire, a plastic add-on known as a “bump stock” that allowed Stephen Paddock to run through more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition in 10 minutes. Bump stocks were affixed to half of Paddock’s guns. Since 2010, up to 520,000 of the devices have been purchased in the USA, the Department of Justice reported.

Thomas Brandon, the acting head of ATF, writes in on email after the shooting to technology chief Earl Griffith:

“Are these ‘ATF approved’ as advertised?”

Griffith responds by saying they are.

Later, Brandon testified to Congress that in the interest of public safety, a law should ban them.

22 State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies Getting ATF Ballistic Imaging Equipment

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department and ATF  announced Thursday that it will provide ballistic imaging equipment used by ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to 22 state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice is prosecuting more firearm offenders than ever before,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement. “Ballistics technology has given law enforcement an unprecedented ability to make connections between cases and track down dangerous criminals. Today this Department of Justice is once again investing in the 85 percent of law enforcement officers who serve at the state and local levels and we are equipping them with cutting edge technology that will lead to smarter, targeted prosecutions of the most dangerous people in their communities. I have no doubt that this equipment will help to reduce crime in America.”

NIBIN compares images of cartridge casings recovered at crime scenes and firearms recovered by law enforcement to connect shooting incidents and identify shooters.

Acting head of ATF Thomas Brandon.

“Crime Gun Intelligence, including the timely use of the NIBIN network, is the cornerstone of ATF’s violent crime reduction strategy,” said ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon in a statement. “By deploying equipment to these 22 law enforcement agencies, investigators will now receive investigative leads within 48 hours. They will have new opportunities to disrupt the shooting cycle and make our communities safer.”

There are 16 agencies receiving NIBIN equipment for the first time:

  • Anchorage, AK PD
    Aurora, IL PD
    Berks County, PA
    Charleston, WV PD
    Cheney, WA State Patrol
    Des Moines, IA PD
    Frederick County, MD Sheriff’s Office
    Ft. Myers, FL PD
    Glendale, AZ PD
    Nassau County, NY Public Safety Center
    Lexington, KY PD
    Miami Gardens, FL PD
    Orange County, NY Intelligence Center
    Pensacola, FL Escambia Co Sheriff
    Richmond, VA PD
    San Bernardino, CA PD
  • Six agencies are receiving additional equipment to enhance their successful crime gun intelligence programs:
  • Baton Rouge, LA State Crime Lab
    Cincinnati, OH PD
    Denver, CO PD
    Detroit, MI PD
    Jacksonville, FL PD
    Philadelphia, PA PD

National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence Urges Obama to Give ATF Resources, Appoint Permanent Director

president obama- white house photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence is urging President Barack Obama to provide  ATF with adequate  resources to battle gun violence and appoint a permanent director for the agency.

In a letter dated Nov. 4, Jim Johnson, the Baltimore County Police chief, who is chair of the anti-gun violence organization, wrote to the President:

As you know, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has lacked a permanent Director since March 31, 2015. Given the critical role ATF plays — through investigation and enforcement — in mitigating the harm caused by armed criminals and illegal firearms, it is vital that ATF be publicly recognized as the critically important law enforcement entity it is, and supported through proper resourcing. That includes, ensuring that ATF has the necessary operating funds and that it has a permanent leader.

Just as the White House could not function effectively without a President, no local, state or federal law enforcement agency can do without leadership. ATF’s hard working agents and staff are adversely impacted and the agency is forced to operate at a deficit when the position of ATF Director is left vacant and without a nominee — regardless of the talent, professionalism or commitment of those who serve in the organization.

We implore you to nominate a permanent Director of ATF, and ask that you do so without delay. The law enforcement community has the utmost respect for and confidence in ATF’s Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, a career ATF special agent who has served with distinction and honor as the agency’s Acting Director since March 2015 and as the ATF Deputy Director since October 2011.

Brandon, who heads the agency, was serving as acting director since April. However, law requires that if he is not nominated for the permanent post after a certain number of days, his title revert back to deputy director. That change in title happened last week.

 

A Brief Chat With Tom Brandon, Head of ATF, on Gun Violence and the Need For More Staffing

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

CHICAGO — Tom Brandon, head of ATF, wonders at time when gun violence is such a pressing issue in America,  why the agency isn’t getting more funding for additional agents.

He says with an additional 200 agents “we could really make a huge difference.”

Brandon became an ATF agent in 1989. In 2011, he was named deputy director and on April 1, he became the acting director. Because the White House has decided not to name him the permanent director, his title, by law, changed this week to deputy director, even though he’ll still be the top agent and carry out the duties of the director.  Why?

It’s called Washington politics. Politico reports that the White House doesn’t want to expend political capital trying to get an ATF director confirmed on the Hill — something that has always been a battle. That being said, a law states that Brandon can’t hold the title of interim director for more than 210 days.

Brandon, who attended the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago this past week, sat down with Allan Lengel of ticklethewire.com for a brief chat about gun violence and the agency’s mission.

ATF Acting Director Tom Brandon to the Troops: ‘My Title is Changing, My Duties Are Not’

Thomas Brandon

Thomas Brandon

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Tom Brandon, will no longer be the acting director of ATF as of Wednesday.  He’ll be deputy director.

But Brandon wants the troops to know: “My title is changing, my duties are not.”

By law, Brandon can’t hold that interim title of acting director for longer than 210 days. It runs out on midnight Oct. 27. That means on Wednesday,  Brandon will still run the agency, but ATF will not officially have a director. He’ll be the deputy director.

Politico explained recently that the Obama administration, which is coming an end, has no plans to name Brandon or anyone else as a permanent director for the agency. It doesn’t want to expend political capital on what would be a tough battle.  Getting a confirmation on the Hill for any director for ATF is always very challenging, with the NRA often leading the opposition.

Going without a director for extended periods of time can lessen the stature of an agency in the eyes of Congress, and it can also be demoralizing to workers, who may feel that the White House doesn’t consider them a high priority.

Of course, that all comes at a time President Barack Obama is pushing to crack down on guns. ATF’s area of expertise is guns and enforcing the nation’s gun laws. He’s expected to deliver a speech and touch on guns Tuesday afternoon at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, where Brandon has been for the past several days.

On Monday, Brandon fired off an email to ATF workers, entitled: “My title is changing; my authorities aren’t.”

Here what Brandon wrote:

Since April 1 of this year, I’ve had the honor of serving as your “acting director.” During this time, no one was nominated to be the ATF Director.  Consequently, under a law called the Vacancies Act, I revert back to being your Deputy Director on Wednesday, 10/28/15. Moreover, fromWednesday forward, there can be no ATF Director or Acting ATF Director until a new president enters office (1/20/17). Therefore, until that time, the deputy director position is the top (head) position within our Bureau.
So what does that mean for you and me?  Well for now, I remain the head of ATF, and I promise to do my best to represent you well. You men and women, coupled with our vital public safety mission, are why I haven’t retired. I have had a lifetime of good time on this job. Sure there are moments when I have my professional challenges, just like all of you, and I want to punch out. But after I collect myself and take time to reflect, I realize that I am one of the luckiest guys in the world. I have a job I love. I work with people I love. And I have been able to “produce and provide” for my family . . . who I love beyond words. So, regardless of official title, Brigadier General Ron Turk (who will remain my partner and the # 2 person in charge of ATF) and I, along with the executive team, will continue to make sure we lead our Bureau down the right path with sufficient resources.
You fine men and women should continue to do what you do: focus on your specific mission, step on the gas, and go home safe to your loved ones at the end of the day. And after you do that, take time to count your blessings. And I hope working at ATF is one of them.

Politico: White House Thinks Head of ATF Is Doing Such a Good Job They Plan to Demote Him

Tom Brandon/atf photo

Tom Brandon/atf photo

By Sarah Wheaton
Politico
WASHINGTON — The White House thinks the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is doing such a great job, they’re planning to demote him.

The unusual move allows the administration, which has said fighting gun violence is a top priority, to avoid a nasty confirmation hearing for a troubled agency.

The Obama administration has no plans to name a permanent director for the agency, and career agent Thomas Brandon has been serving as the acting chief since April. But by law, he can’t hold that interim title for longer than 120 days, and that clock runs out on Oct. 27.

Brandon confirmed to POLITICO on Wednesday that he has agreed to stay on while re-assuming his previous title of deputy director – but still serving as the agency’s highest-ranking official.

“We’re not going to nominate you, but we have full confidence in you if you stay at the ATF,” said Brandon, recounting the explanation he received from the White House.

To read more click here.

 

ATF Director B. Todd Jones Calling it Quits; Tom Brandon Will Step Up

US Attorney B. Todd Jones

Todd Jones

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

B. Todd Jones, the head of ATF, who first stepped in as acting director in 2011, and later became the first ATF directory in history to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is stepping down, effective March 31.

The announcement from ATF came in a press release, which said he’s departing to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Jone’s number two person, Thomas Brandon, will step in as acting director.

“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” said Jones in a statement. “I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to combatting violent crime, ridding the streets of criminals, and leveraging all available resources to keep our communities safe.”

“I will truly miss leading and working side-by-side with these men and women in their pursuit of ATF’s unique law enforcement and regulatory mission,” Jones added.

Jones initially held two jobs in 2011: He was named acting director of ATF while still serving as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota. President Obama nominated him for the permanent post on Jan. 24, 2013, and he ended his job as U.S. Attorney after being confirmed as ATF director.

Tom Brandon/atf photo

ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon will serve as Acting Director. Brandon was appointed Deputy Director of ATF in October 2011.

 

 

ATF Whistleblower Says New Leadership Unfairly Accused of Trying to Stifle or Intimidate Whistleblowers

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ATF whistleblower Peter Forcelli told ticklethewire.com on Thursday that the current leadership at ATF is being unfairly attacked and wrongly accused of trying to silence whistleblowers like himself.

“It’s not fair, these guys are trying to do the right thing,” he says about the new leadership at ATF.

The comments by Forcelli, who has testified before Congress as a whistleblower about Operation Fast and Furious, comes a day after Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa questioned a video message ATF Director B. Todd Jones delivered to ATF agents. The two lawmakers said they feared the statement may have been meant to put a chill on whistleblowers.

Jones statement said:

“… if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences. …”

Forcelli, who was in the Phoenix Office as a group supervisor and who is now at headquarters as program manager for criminal groups and gangs, says: “The chain of command has been broken for a long time. They ‘re trying to get people to follow chain of command . I don’t think their intention is to disuade people from blowing the whistle.”

Forcelli says disgruntled ATF agents may be fueling Capitol Hill with allegations that the current regime is trying to put a chill on whistle blowing, but that’s not true, he said. For one, he said, he’s a whistleblower and he’s been treated very fairly.

“Whistle blower cases were mishandled. That was in prior administrations. These guys are paying for their sins,” he says of Jones and second in command, Tom Brandon.

He says that Brandon was nothing but supportive when he was blowing the whistle on Fast and Furious.

He said Brandon told him: “This is a big deal, if you need to go, you need to tell the truth. Don’t minimize. Don’t embellish. Run to the truth. He said they’re going to throw fast balls. Hit them out of the park.”

“Where ATF has screwed up, I’m not going to apologize,” Forcelli said. But he repeated that the attack on the new leadership is unfair.

Forcelli says that as a whistleblower, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix retaliated against him and blackballed him. He said people in that office were directed to report any contact with him, even at a coffee shop over the weekend.

He went on to say that “I totally support Sen. Grassley and Rep. Issa’s inquiry into what happened with Fast and Furious. I appreciate what they did for me when I was retaliated against” by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“But I feel that some people have cried wolf with respect to this video” with the message from Director Jones by suggesting it’s putting a chill on whistle blowing.