In the five years since the FBI and ATF were merged under the Justice Department to coordinate the fight against terrorism, the rival law enforcement agencies have fought each other for control, wasting time and money and causing duplication of effort, according to law enforcement sources and internal documents. The Washington Posts reports that their new boss, the attorney general, ordered them to merge their national bomb databases, but the FBI has refused. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has long trained bomb-sniffing dogs; the FBI started a competing program.
At crime scenes, FBI and ATF agents have threatened to arrest one another and battled over jurisdiction and key evidence. The ATF inadvertently bought counterfeit cigarettes from the FBI — the government selling to the government — because the agencies are running parallel investigations of tobacco smuggling between Virginia and other states. The squabbling poses dangers, many in law enforcement say, in an era in which cooperation is needed more than ever to prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Michael A. Mason, a former head of the FBI’s Washington field office who retired in December from a senior post at FBI headquarters, said outside intervention might be needed.