Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Friday, February 07, 2003
In his debate with Tapped over alleged corruption in BATF, Dave Kopel puts significant emphasis on the support for his position of something called the National Association of Treasury Agents. Kopel wrote:

As to whether BATF has reformed itself enough post-FOPA so much that it should get back the powers that were formerly abused, and receive new powers, my 1996 book No More Wacos: What's What with Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It, discusses a variety of post-1986 cases, including the Waco fiasco, and suggests that more reforms, rather than repeal of existing reforms, would be a good idea. The book had enough credibility with at the National Association of Treasury Agents (an independent, voluntary organization of some Treasury law enforcement employees) that the Spring 1997 issue of their magazine, The Agent, published some short excerpts. As the letters section from the summer 1997 issue explicates, NATA agrees with my argument in No More Wacos that the Waco tragedy was one example of the continuing, pervasive, and severe problems with BATF's management culture — rather then being primarily the fault of rank and file agents.

What is this association? It turns out it doesn't exist any more, at least not by that name, although it did in 1997. But it seems never to have been, as Kopel; wants you to think, a broad-based professional organization. The web site, last updated in 2000, shows that it was headquartered in Detroit and held its 2000 Annual Meeting, apparently the most recent one, at the Ramada Inn in Tupelo, Mississippi. ("Easy access to Elvis Presley museum, birthplace, and memorial chapel.") Doesn't really sound like a major national group. The general contents of the site is light on useful professional information about federal agencies and heavy on right wing politics. This doctored photo of the Elian Gonzales raid is a pretty fair sample of the contents.

No membership numbers are mentioned, and there is no indication that the group represents anything other than a small number of wing nuts pissed off at Bill Clinton and Janet Reno. Certainly the group seems to have no substantial grass roots support from the agents it purportedly represents. It's less than startling, and less than evidentiary, that this group was ready to embrace an attack on the ATF and affiliated agencies from a National Review writer.

When I called the number given on the site, I got a recording stating that the National Association of Treasury Agents is now the National Association of Federal Agents. If NATA has a fairly modest web presence, a small site and some mentions on other pages, the subsequent group seems to be literally invisible. I couldn't find a site through Google, the old group's site doesn't link to a new site, and I found no mention anywhere of the group being referenced or mentioned by any news article or other organizations. Looking for groups usind the NAFA acronym, I found among others North American Falconers Association, National Air Filtration Association, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, National Association of Forensics and Argumentation, Nordic Association for Andrology, Nordjysk Astronomisk Forening for Amatører, National Aboriginal Forestry Association, North American Fiddlers Association, but nothing about or from the National Association of Federal Agents. At the least it seems to be less of a going concern than the Nepal Australia Friendship Association.