The Syracuse Post Standard
August 16, 1999

John O'Brien covers the operations of the federal agencies, prosecutors and courts in northern New York. While examining TRACFED data about the district in the spring of 1999, O'Brien noticed that the local office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for the last few years ranked at or near the bottom in the entire nation when it came to the federal weapons cases. The obvious question was why. But when O'Brien started asking questions he uncovered an answer that was far from obvious: ATF enforcement had fallen apart after a secret feud had developed between the agency and local police several years before. The cause of this mysterious feud was a number of discrepancies that local police had uncovered when they tried to investigate a suspicious ATF shooting incident. O'Brien's front-page articles -- deftly mixing the bizarre details of the long festering feud, once secret government memos and the agency's damaging performance statistics -- resulted in an insightful front-page article on August 16, 1999.


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