ATF Humor: Whistleblowers Facing A Firing Squad

from the it's-not-funny-if-it-might-happen dept

Here at Techdirt, I like to think that we have a pretty decent concept of humor. While each writer may differ somewhat, I generally have a fairly liberal view of what's fair game for humor and how edgy something can be and still be funny. You want to joke about the government building a planet-killing machine? Cool. Jokes about low-level government employees twisting your giblets? Niiiice. Jokes about drugs? How could you not joke about drugs? Jokes about shooting whistleblowers inserted into government law enforcement training manuals? Somehow that seems to stretch away from funny to frightening.

Yet that's exactly what the ATF saw fit to do, according to (wait for it) leaks from a concerned ATF employee who was not full of bullet-holes at the time of this writing.

After months of anguished debate over mass shootings, gun control and Second Amendment rights, the Justice Department finds itself on the defensive after a training manual surfaced that suggests federal agents could face a firing squad for leaking government secrets. The online manual for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — complete with a photo of a turn-of-the-century firing squad — was obtained by The Washington Times from a concerned federal law enforcement official, and it immediately drew protests from watchdogs who said it showed a lack of sensitivity to gun violence and the continuing hostile environment toward whistleblowers.

Yes, the same federal government that has essentially declared war on whistleblowers, and from the very bureau in charge of helping to regulate firearms in this country, decided it was a-okay to joke about gunning down the very people who would make the country a better place out of a sense of duty. That's not funny. Why? Because I'm not all that clear exactly how many people in government wouldn't like to see that very kind of justice applied to some whistleblowers who already have come forward, namely Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. We've already heard from former members of the NSA who enjoy joking(?) about killing Snowden and the fervor around Manning wasn't absent requests for his death. In other words, the joke isn't funny if we aren't sure it isn't going to happen.

Not to mention the potential for chilling speech from future whistleblowers.

Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said the DOJ has forgotten about the protections of the First Amendment, which covers leaks to the media, and that the photo could scare its employees into self-censorship. The photo “would have a chilling affect on legitimate speech. And some of the rhetoric used against whistleblowers could be construed as inciting to violence because they’ve turned up the rhetoric,” Mr. Kohn said.
In the words of fellow writer Tim Cushing, a government with this one's terrible history on protecting whistleblowers doesn't get to make the "don't talk or we'll shoot you in the face, LOL" joke. The image is reportedly being removed now that its use has surfaced, but whoever thought it was funny in the first place sucks at humor. Leave that to us idiots on the internet.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2013 @ 11:53pm

    It wasn't a joke, it was a fantasy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 1:49am

    Obviously the correct thing to do if you uncover corruption would be shut your hole and forget you ever saw it.

    Or if you feel like doing the right thing that will most likely destroy your job, reputation, and put you in firing range of some seriously butthurt officials, send it to the news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    gab4moi (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 2:12am

    DoJrogueorg.com

    Yes you obnoxious, brainwashed, bureauclown, leave the bad humour to us, oh, and by the way, hightail out of the DoJ while you are about it, you never know what subversive commie implant might leak your details to the real world, and then real world and dog might have a few jolly japester pics for you...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Disgusted, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 3:09am

    It's Typical

    I'm not quite sure why this is such a surprise. The first words out of any criminal's mouth to his victim is usually something like "If you tell on me I'll find you and kill you". Why would we expect anything different from the criminals in our government. I don't.
    .

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 3:27am

    Kidding about killing people is so funny lol. I wonder if I kid about executing people on Facebook the police state in US will also think it's funny, or if I kid about bombs at the airport.

    I bet they'll think it's hilarious, too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    beech, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 4:06am

    double standards

    When an agency makes a joke about killing people, its ok. Layperson dares to utter a joke featuring the word "bomb"within 100 miles of an airport, it's terrorism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 4:14am

    correction: Chelsea Manning

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    Re:

    "send it to the news"

    .... anonymously

    I know, it gets more difficult every day.
    Certainly there remains ways of doing this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Jim Anderson, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 6:19am

    It Wasn't A joke

    It wasn't A joke. It was an online training manual.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    musterion (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 6:24am

    No Firing Squad--Send in the IRS

    A more cruel punishment--an audit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    aiming4thevoid (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    This is not OK!

    Please kindly correct your article.

    Her name is Chelsea Manning

    The lack of respect you keep showing her is completely unacceptable!
    She has shown more moral fortitude than most on this planet with her actions and the way she has handled her incarceration in solitary confinement, the least you can do is respect her choice of identity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    Re: This is not OK!

    Lighten up, Francis.

    At the the time of the cable leaks his name was Bradley Manning. The article is correct as is, IMHO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    Re: DoJrogueorg.com

    The fifties are calling... they want their rhetoric back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    Re: This is not OK!

    And why aren't the demands of a person trying to require everyone else to call them something different completely unacceptable? Especially when it just serves to confuse everyone else as to who we are talking about?

    And no, I never called him "Metaworld Peace" either. And I never called Prince "The Artist" or that weird symbol either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:36am

    Turn-of-the-century, you say?

    Firing squads still dressed like that 15 years ago? Wow.

    (That's some fine reporting, Lou...)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    oh, i thought it was something serious...

    ... like a kid having a cartoon of a bomb, or a deadly pop tart, or fingers that went *pew*pew* 'i got you'...

    now *THAT* would be some dangerous shit we should get right on ! ! !

    armed gummint goons who already have a policy of shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later ?
    not a problem...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    Re: It's Typical

    I think those would be the last words, but it has been quite a while since I have watched any movies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Cloudsplitter, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 10:25am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 18th, 2013 @ 1:49am

    No you send it to Wikileaks. By the way the book store that Manning used to send off his great leak is right near me, I wonder if they know they are an historic site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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