ATF criticized in explosives industry oversight
Justice Department inspector general cites danger to public
From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal agency
monitoring the explosives industry has failed to provide adequate
background checks on workers and job applicants, the U.S. Justice
Additionally, the Justice Department's inspector general called
for immediate federal action to boost regulation of the explosives
industry, citing a "significant risk to public safety" from what it
said were more than 600 "possible prohibited persons" who have
access to explosives in the United States.
The report, released Monday by Justice Department Inspector
General Glenn Fine, is sharply critical of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.
"We believe that immediate action is required to correct the
critical deficiencies in the ATF's implementation of the [Safe
Explosives Act] to ensure that prohibited persons do not have access
to explosives," Fine said.
The 2002 Safe Explosives Act was part of the government's effort
to prevent terrorist acts. The ATF was named chief enforcer of the
law and implemented new rules for licensing and regulating
explosives manufacturers, importers, dealers and users.
In a statement, the ATF acknowledged the report's findings but
pointed to accomplishments in enforcing the act.
"ATF's implementation of the Safe Explosives Act was an
extraordinary effort, and we are proud of it," the statement
"ATF recognizes that there are discrepancies resulting from this
review that need to be immediately and appropriately addressed. We
are committed to doing so."
The inspector general's report said investigators found no record
that ATF had requested FBI background checks on 59 of 683 employees
of explosive licensees that had been examined.
"We also found the ATF had failed to complete the background
check process for over half [655 of 1,157] of the individuals
identified by the FBI as possible prohibited persons," the report
"Through additional research, we found that several of these
individuals had serious criminal records," the report said, noting
that one of them had been convicted of felony theft.
The inspector general issued a series of recommendations,
including a call for the agency to complete plans for establishing
an explosives licensing center and to implement a process for
collecting and cataloging explosives at the ATF National
That information is needed to assist national and local law
enforcement agencies during investigations of the illegal use of
explosives, the report said.
The report acknowledged the scope of the task the ATF faces. More
than 5 billion pounds of explosives are used each year in the United
States. While most are designed for mining, construction and
demolition projects, some also are used for fireworks, inflation of
auto airbags and medical purposes, the report noted.