Jay Dobyns

Editor's note: This is a Townhall exclusive.

The public and political debate surrounding law enforcement's use of undercover techniques and tradecraft has become very heated as of late, most especially those employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). My commentary is primarily focused within the universe of ATF because that is where my experience is based.

I write with no agenda other than to provide some balance and a voice to those without one - good and honest undercover agents who risk their lives so others can be safe. My thoughts are not conservative or liberal. They are not anti-gun, or pro-gun. They are not Republican, Democrat, race or ethnicity driven. My viewpoints are not based in academic study. I do not have an advanced degree in law or criminal justice. What I do have is a Ph.D. in undercover work derived from twenty-seven years of having lived it.

Criticisms are being waged from judges, lawyers, academics and reporters. There is an important voice that has been left out; the undercover operatives themselves. By "left out" I do not mean excluded. Reporters seeking balance try to obtain the views of the "undercovers." So why do we not hear from them? If they are not "storming the gates" to defend themselves they must be guilty of the allegations?

Frankly, they get stonewalled and replaced for comment and testimony by executives who don't understand the process, believing an elevated title makes them the expert. The next time an ATF manager voices a strong public opinion on anything will be the first time. When the undercovers are allowed to speak on the record, which is rare, their responses are "coached" and "scrubbed" by the public relations division. Further, being "undercover" they risk compromising current or future assignments. As a result one side of the story is publicly told - the attacking side - with the subjects of the attacks bound and gagged from defending themselves. Who has their backs? No one does.

With ATF's management unwilling to come out and defend their street agents, I will try to take advantage of this brief platform to explain what is not being said and provide a real-world explanation of the decisions made behind the tradecraft.


Jay Dobyns

Jay Dobyns is a retired ATF agent and author of No Angel, My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels. He has received two ATF Gold Star awards for injuries received in the line of duty and the Attorney General's Medal of Valor.