Smoking Gun Shows The ATF Dishonesty In Responding to FOIA Request
Article first appeared on Ammoland.com
WASHINGTON D.C. –-(Ammoland.com)- New evidence shows that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is lying to journalists, lawyers, the public, and their own Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) department.
Earlier in the year, AmmoLand News obtained inside information from a source and a copy of the notes of a Director of Industry Operations (DIO) conference call that ATF employees on temporary detail to the NFA (National Firearms Act) division were not hitting target metrics. The NFA division is responsible for processing and approving tax stamps, processing NFA transfers, and adding new NFA items to the NFA registry. The exact metrics were not revealed on the call.
On my behalf, on March 1, 2021, my attorney, Stephen Stamboulieh, filed an FOIA request to get the exact metrics that the ATF uses for the NFA division. At the same time, another attorney, Robert Olson, filed an FOIA request to get the DIO notes from the call in question. AmmoLand News had a leaked version of the notes, so this request would show what the ATF would redact from the document.
The FOIA department responded to the FOIA request stating that the NFA division reported that it did not have metrics.
Stamboulieh responded back to the FOIA department that we actually already knew that these metrics existed because we had inside ATF information from the DIO conference call. He quoted directly from the notes and asked the FOIA department to go back to the NFA division and ask for the metrics again. The request to double was granted.
A few days later, The ATF’s FOIA Department returned the request that Mr. Olson submitted for the DIO conference call notes. The ATF must not have been aware of Mr. Olson’s connection to me or the AmmoLand New article about the leaked conference call because they provided a redacted version of the DIO conference call notes. Someone at the ATF redacted the portion of the notes regarding the NFA division’s metrics. This redaction was only days after my other FOIA request was returned, with no results found.
The ATF exempted the portion of the FOIA request dealing with the failure to hit targets of the employees on the temporary detail to the NFA division. Someone at the ATF redacted that section of the DIO conference call. The ATF said they redacted the information because revealing it “would disclose techniques and procedures for enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.”
The redacted information does not deal with “enforcement investigations or prosecutions.” There is no risk that disclosing metrics of processing tax stamps could be used to circumvent the law. It seems like the ATF does not want the public to know the NFA division’s metrics and chose to mislead FOIA requestors about the existence of the metrics in question.
Furthermore, we believe that the ATF’s FOIA department was not involved in the coverup of the existence of the metrics. The FOIA department requests the information from the department in question on behalf of the requester and then relays it back to the requester. The department’s job is to act as a single point of contact for the public. They do not get to decide what the department hands over.
It isn’t clear why the ATF chose to be dishonest about the existence of the NFA department’s metrics, but it does call into question the honesty of other redactions in FOIA requests.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.