I've blogged before about Aaron Malin at the great Show-MeCannabis site's adventures in trying to get the truth out of local Missouri drug task forces—who previously have denied to him they existed when he used the wrong lingo (said lingo he got from a government web site).
This week Malin has some fresh shenanigans to report from NITRO–the EXTREME!! named "Northwest Missouri Interagency Team Response Operation." Malin was curious that it "accounted to for half of all denied task force search warrants in 2012″ in an atmosphere where thousands of such warrants were rubberstamped by courts.
Malin called up NITRO to try to find out some things about those denied warrants, as a citizen and a journalist. He found their number again on a government website. The person who answered denied that Malin had reached the task force, in a rather stumbling manner, merely giving up that Malin had reached "a government building."
He called back, and the person who answered denied that any state government open record law applied to them, denying that they were a state agency, or a federal agency, but simply :
a task force, that its basically under ATF I guess I would say. We are under them. We go under their guidelines. We go by their policies. We're all commissioned federally. So we basically work for ATF, even though we're not paid by them.
AARON MALIN: Ok. So who pays you then? The state?
NITRO OFFICER #2: It's a grant situation. –
Because they are indeed funded by both the state and federal government, Malin sees them as falling under Missouri state's sunshine law, though NITRO denies it.
contacted the Sunshine Complaint Unit within the Office of the Attorney General of Missouri. They recommended trying to file the request with the Grundy County Sheriff's Office directly, which I proceeded to do. The sheriff's office also claimed to not have access to the records. Despite my firm belief that the NITRO Task Force is required to respond to Sunshine Law requests, I did submit two FOIA requests through ATF, the first on April 30th, 2014 and another on June 21st, 2014. Both have been ignored entirely.
Meanwhile, NITRO has continued to have problems getting their search warrants authorized. In 2013, NITRO was denied three of 17 warrants for which they applied. All 27 task forces were denied a combined seven search warrants in 2013, and NITRO accounted for three of them. If they ever realize that they are subject to state or federal open records laws, and end up providing me copies of the denied search warrants, I will certainly post them as part of an update.
Malin also reports that an ATF public info officer said he'd try to get some info for him from NITRO, but failed.
Guys, government is like a parachute: it works best when open! To the minds of NITRO of course, government is like a trap: it works best when closed.