The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been heavily criticized over the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation in Arizona, has also been troubled in neighboring Nevada, where ATF agents have clashed with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Reno.
In the past year, federal prosecutors in Reno have refused to take gun-related cases submitted to them by ATF agents, according to an investigation by the Reno Gazette-Journal, which said the rift has prompted several ATF agents to transfer to other states.
The newspaper said a turf battle between ATF agents and local law enforcement people seems to have created the rift. The paper said the prosecutors became angry when ATF agents declined to participate in a task force focusing on cases generated by the locals, preferring instead to work on more complicated cases involving undercover work aimed at guns and drug-trafficking.
Reports of the schism have prompted Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to complain to Nevada U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden and Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones about the “breakdown” in Reno. The senator, a frequent critic of the Department of Justice in general and the Fast and Furious operation in particular, has demanded that the agencies brief him on the situation by Wednesday.
“Crimes may be going unpunished because of personality conflicts or bureaucratic squabbling between prosecutors and ATF,” Grassley said, according to the Reno newspaper.
A long investigation by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz recounted numerous failures of management and judgment in Fast and Furious, as Main Justice has reported, and has spurred some Republicans to intensify their criticism of the DOJ. Given that background, the Nevada situation is likely to fan the flames.
The Reno Gazette-Journal investigation found that the dispute has been percolating for many months, boiling over when the U.S. Attorney’s office refused to pursue a case against Ronald Jackson of Sparks, Nev. Last year, ATF agents found a cache of weapons and ammunition in Jackson’s home. Since he pleaded guilty to domestic violence in 2010 and was not allowed to possess firearms, the case against him appeared to be strong.
But in a letter to a Reno ATF agent dated Sept. 29, 2011, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sue Fahami said, “At this time, we are not accepting any cases submitted by your office,” the newspaper reported.
The Reno Gazette-Journal said the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office and the DOJ have so far declined comment on the controversy. The DOJ did say it was reviewing Grassley’s letter.