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Gun used to kill prosecutor is focus of massive search
The Seattle Times ^ | Thursday, July 17, 2003 | Steve Miletich

Posted on 07/20/2003 2:34:28 PM PDT by archy

Gun used to kill prosecutor is focus of massive search

By Steve Miletich
Seattle Times staff reporter

FBI agents are conducting an unusually sweeping search for a customized gun used in the killing of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales, according to the owner of a Minnesota arms company and sources familiar with the investigation.

The gun, an Eastern European-made semiautomatic pistol called a Makarov, had been fitted with a replacement barrel that leaves telltale marks on bullets. The search, one of the most laborious gun sweeps in FBI history, is taking place in all 50 states, as agents track down more than 3,500 barrels sold to gun owners and dealers.

Agents hope to tie the gun barrel to the killer. A Bellevue airline pilot has emerged as the lead suspect, according to court records, but no charges have been filed.

Wales, 49, who worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle, was shot to death in his Queen Anne home late on Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat at a basement computer.

The Minnesota company, Federal Arms Corporation, received a federal grand-jury subpoena for the names of all customers who bought the custom gun barrels before Wales' death, company president and owner Tim Gow said yesterday.

Gow said his company got "a lot of flak from our customer base," people who were upset about invasions of privacy after FBI agents contacted them.

Gow said he complied with the subpoena because "we really had no choice" and because he felt a moral obligation "to cooperate and help in any way we can to catch this individual."

"I've never seen such a large net being cast in the 15 years I've been in the business," Gow said.

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have made the Wales case a top priority and are offering a $1 million reward for information.

Charles Mandigo, the FBI special agent in charge in Seattle, would not comment specifically on the ongoing search. "We are pursing many different avenues in this investigation and ... an avenue of this nature is one we would pursue," Mandigo said.

The gun search began after spent casings were recovered outside Wales' home. The casings contained distinctive marks identifying the weapon as a Makarov pistol, sources said.

Further, several bullet slugs removed from Wales' body and from the scene were traced to the type of replacement barrels made only by Federal Arms.

These recovered slugs displayed rifling marks, "lands and grooves" left as the bullet passes through the barrel. Those marks identified the barrel as a replacement instead of the original Makarov barrel.

The Makarov, a rare collector's item until after the fall of the Soviet Union, requires an unusual size of bullet. Many owners modify the weapon so they can use common, less-expensive ammunition.

Wales, however, was shot with .380-caliber bullets fired through the slightly larger 9-mm replacement barrel.

The killer might have believed that smaller bullets would not pick up the distinctive lands and grooves as they moved through the barrel.

But one source said that if the gun is recovered, the FBI will be able to match the weapon to the ballistic evidence.

"It's not that sloppy a fit," the source said.

A national firearms expert, Lucien Haag, of Carefree, Ariz., who has conducted tests on .380-caliber bullets fired in a 9-mm Makarov, said "the strong likelihood is you'd never be able to match" the mismatched rounds to the murder weapon, even if it were found.

But with the recovered casings, he said, "you should be able to match it."

FBI agents began the search last fall and have tracked down hundreds of people who bought the barrels directly from Federal Arms or from dealers.

Dealers have been asked to provide the names of customers from sales records.

But the task has been complicated because dealers are not required to keep sales records for gun parts. Under federal law, dealers are required only to keep records of gun sales.

Every pistol and barrel obtained by agents is being test-fired, and the bullets are sent to the FBI lab in Washington, D.C.

Owners of the barrels are being eliminated one by one in hopes of narrowing the pool to a small group that can be investigated in depth.

Agents hope the gun can be found but believe it has already been disposed of.

A more-likely result, sources say, is finding someone who sold the barrel or the customized gun to a person who turns out to be the killer.

Authorities liken this search to the sweeping FBI hunt in the Unabomber case, in which agents, after finding "Nathan R" on a piece of evidence, tried to locate every Nathan R in the country.

Before the search was exhausted, a suspect of different name, Theodore Kaczynski, was turned in by his brother.

In the current search, each FBI field office is participating. Agents tried to keep the project secret by not mentioning Wales' name when they questioned people, but Makarov owners began sharing information in Internet chat rooms on gun topics. Gun Week magazine published an article in its most-recent edition about the searches.

A Virginia man, John Grove, said he initially refused to turn over his pistol with a replacement barrel but did so when he was given a subpoena, the magazine reported.

"It's not right," Grove was quoted as saying. He said his pistol was returned but not its barrel. "It's not the right way to go about any investigation at all."

Most people have voluntarily surrendered their pistols, a source said, but a few have been brought before a grand jury in Seattle and required to surrender their weapons.

The grand jury is focusing on the Bellevue pilot, according to court documents filed in Seattle earlier this year. The pilot had been prosecuted by Wales in a fraud case involving a military-helicopter-rebuilding business.

The charges were dropped against the pilot, but a company with which he was associated pleaded guilty.

The pilot subsequently accused the government of wrongfully targeting him and sought more than $125,000 in legal fees. His request was denied by a federal judge in Seattle but is pending before an appeals court.

The Seattle Times is not naming the pilot because the newspaper's general policy is to not name a suspect until criminal charges are filed.

In the Seattle field office, eight FBI agents are working full time on the case, along with a Seattle police detective and support staff.

"I am confident we are going to turn the corner on this," said Mandigo, the FBI official in Seattle.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: District of Columbia; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: assassination; bang; banglist; bobrikov; cac22; ceasefire; cheka; fac; intendedconsequences; makarov; paradigm; pm; pochemu; rhodesia; soininen; tomwales; wales; wife

1 posted on 07/20/2003 2:34:28 PM PDT by archy
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To: archy; *bang_list
Bobrikov and Eliel Soisalon-Soininen: "Pochemu..? Pochemu..?" ("Why..? Why..?").


2 posted on 07/20/2003 2:40:05 PM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: archy
"I've never seen such a large net being cast in the 15 years I've been in the business," Gow said.

That's because employees of the federal goobermint are much, much more important than ordinary... sniff... citizens.

3 posted on 07/20/2003 2:43:23 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help support terrorism.)
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To: archy
Why, so they can melt down the gun and make sure it never shoots anyone again?
4 posted on 07/20/2003 2:52:28 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: archy
From the Thomas Wales Foundation website:

Uncle Tom also taught me that in life we must have passions. When I was elected to go the YMCA Youth and Government Conference on National Affairs in NC, I again called my Uncle. I told him that I needed to write a proposal regarding issues at the Federal level. He mentioned gun control. This did not surprise me because he was an ardent advocate of gun control. He was the president of Washington CeaseFire, a Seattle based group that lobbies for gun control.

From the Washington Ceasefire website:

ACTION ALERT!

The Bush Administration has told the US Supreme Court for the first time that it believes the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess firearms, reversing the government's longstanding interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Call the White House today to protest the Bush Administration's new interpretation of the 2nd Amendment: (202) 456-1414!

Washington CeaseFire is asking the State Legislature to address the following critical areas of concern:

Improving our background check system by closing the gun show loophole

Requiring ballistic imaging as a condition of sale for all new firearms

Implementing the Child Access Prevention law - also known as the Whitney Graves bill

On October 11th, 2001, Tom Wales, a federal prosecutor and the courageous president of CeaseFire was shot to death in his home in what law enforcement officials called an "assassination." In coordination with his family, CeaseFire established the Tom Wales Endowment Fund to serve as a lasting memorial to an outspoken gun safety advocate and community leader.

5 posted on 07/20/2003 3:02:31 PM PDT by AdamSelene235 (Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear....)
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To: archy
The way this article is written is somewhat confusing.

The .380 uses a bullet diameter of .355"

The 9mm makarow bullet is .364" diameter

The 9mm makarov case is approx 1mm longer than the .380 as it is a copy of the german 9mm ultra cartridge, which used the .355" bullet

6 posted on 07/20/2003 3:15:11 PM PDT by Ford Fairlane
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
That's because employees of the federal goobermint are much, much more important than ordinary... sniff... citizens.

Well, without the ruling class to guide and provide an example for us, society would quickly descend into chaos. So you can see why they get special service. Besides, they're just nicer!

7 posted on 07/20/2003 3:20:02 PM PDT by Grut
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To: archy
What would happen if everyone who was asked to turn in their Makarov's simply told the feds to piss up a rope unless they had a legal search warrant?
8 posted on 07/20/2003 3:22:14 PM PDT by Mulder (Live Free or die)
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To: archy
a customized gun

LOL...com block Walther rip off
cheap but durable
custom?....hardly...compared to what a Valtro worked over by John Jardine
Jardine Custom 1911

9 posted on 07/20/2003 3:23:32 PM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: archy
I wish they went to this much trouble when someones grandmother got shot. One standard for them another for us.
10 posted on 07/20/2003 3:24:56 PM PDT by Nov3
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To: archy
It's sad and bad for someone (anyone) to be murdered. But I have to believe that if you came sneaking up behind me - I'd shoot a hole in your belly big enough to drop a golf ball through. There is a lesson here.
11 posted on 07/20/2003 3:39:07 PM PDT by sandydipper (Never quit - never surrender!)
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To: Ford Fairlane
Because the 9mm Markov ammunition is more difficult to get than .380 ammo, there have been replacement barrels available for some time. No gunsmithing is required. Just strip down the gun like you were cleaning it and reassemble with the new barrel.

It is somewhat similar to the Russian 7.62 Nagant revolver. Since the ammunition is difficult and expensive for that, there are replacement cylinders available for them in .32ACP. There are also special dies available to use the existing cylinder, but to reform the brass from 32-20 brass (it is a little short, but works).

And no, I don't have one if any gubbiment agents are out there. However, I have formed several different types of brass that is no longer available from readily available brass.
12 posted on 07/20/2003 3:42:05 PM PDT by jim_trent
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To: archy
I was just going to purchase a .40 conversion barrel from Federal Arms for my 10mm Glock 29. Not any more considering how Federal Arms bent over and spread their cheeks, screwing their customer base in the process. They should have destroyed their customer list.

From this day forward, any firearms accessories I purchase will be paid for with an anonymous money order, and sent to a PO Box.

13 posted on 07/20/2003 3:43:09 PM PDT by 10mm
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To: jim_trent
Wales, however, was shot with .380-caliber bullets fired through the slightly larger 9-mm replacement barrel.

I understand that 9mm makarov used to be hard to get.

I dont understand the above statement, however, if they are looking for someone who bought a replacement .380 barrel, as the .380 is a smaller diameter

14 posted on 07/20/2003 3:51:08 PM PDT by Ford Fairlane
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To: Ford Fairlane
as far as i know, federal does not sell replacement barrels chambered for 9mm makarov (unless they started doing so recently)
15 posted on 07/20/2003 3:52:48 PM PDT by Ford Fairlane
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To: archy
Owners of the barrels are being eliminated one by one in hopes of narrowing the pool to a small group that can be investigated in depth.

Guilty until proven innocent. Registration leads to confiscation.

16 posted on 07/20/2003 3:55:21 PM PDT by mvpel (Michael Pelletier)
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To: archy
The murder of a grandmother who is a prosecutor would probably be pursued in like manner. A government worker who is an IRS tax examiner would not be pursued so vigorously. I perceive that the point here is that an alleged bad guy killed an individual charged with ensuring the progress of justice. We are mature enough to realize that one person’s justice is not necessarily that of another’s. What is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? Depends, does it not? Archy’s concern about the ease in which the government is identifying the owners of the modified weapons is most focused and important. Irrational gun control, outside the parameters of the 2nd Amendment, must be quashed. We must regain the legitimate process of the Courts.
17 posted on 07/20/2003 3:56:09 PM PDT by ASA.Ranger (Is it time to take our Governments back?)
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To: Nov3
I wish they went to this much trouble when someones grandmother got shot. One standard for them another for us.

Always been like that. If a police officer is shot, the entire police dept is on the case and looking. Can't say I blame them. It's the way it is.......

18 posted on 07/20/2003 4:02:27 PM PDT by Joe Hadenuf (Are these people for real?)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
I guess the new rule is if a girl is raped and the suspect is seen running into a suburban neighborhood to escape, all males from maybe 20 square block area should be hauled into jail and have their DNA taken to see if there is match with the rape suspect? OK, now I get it. Big brother is watching!
19 posted on 07/20/2003 4:03:29 PM PDT by Lockbar
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To: archy
Why don't they just announce this on the local news in every state so the perp can just dispose of the weapon, if it hasn't been disposed of already.....
20 posted on 07/20/2003 4:04:30 PM PDT by Joe Hadenuf (Are these people for real?)
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To: Ford Fairlane
Good point. I don't know what they are trying to say either, but I chalk it up to a reporter who have never fired a gun before and wouldn't have a clue about what they were saying during the briefing. If you check Shotgun News or any number of similar sources, you should be able to find the replacement barrels I was talking about.
21 posted on 07/20/2003 4:06:01 PM PDT by jim_trent
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To: jim_trent
I've seen the barrels

I have bought several from Federal for Walther PP's that had worn out barrels - they keep making them for more & more models every year

22 posted on 07/20/2003 4:09:04 PM PDT by Ford Fairlane
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To: Lockbar
I guess the new rule is if a girl is raped and the suspect is seen running into a suburban neighborhood to escape, all males from maybe 20 square block area should be hauled into jail and have their DNA taken to see if there is match with the rape suspect?

Already been done in Great Britain. They are ahead of the curve, I guess.

23 posted on 07/20/2003 4:13:29 PM PDT by Glenn (What were you thinking, Al?)
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To: archy
"But the task has been complicated because dealers are not required to keep sales records for gun parts."

I'm sure they would love to change THAT!
24 posted on 07/20/2003 4:16:55 PM PDT by Atlas Sneezed
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To: archy
"Most people have voluntarily surrendered their pistols, a source said, but a few have been brought before a grand jury in Seattle and required to surrender their weapons."

This is sickening. (Especially that most were compliant sheep.)

25 posted on 07/20/2003 4:18:40 PM PDT by Atlas Sneezed
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To: 10mm
Federal had no choice in the matter. A subpoena leaves no wiggle room. You damn sure don't destroy your customer list if you are trying to build your business through re-purchases.
26 posted on 07/20/2003 4:25:27 PM PDT by em2vn
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To: em2vn
Any one who buys anything from Federal has been warned.
Do so at your own peril.
Better yet don't buy from them at all.
27 posted on 07/20/2003 4:35:16 PM PDT by Crusader21stCentury
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To: Joe Hadenuf
"Why don't they just announce this on the local news in every state so the perp can just dispose of the weapon, if it hasn't been disposed of already....."

Ditto that thought. I would be that the Makarov barrel was long ago reduced to metal filings, and the firearm equipped with another barrel (or the whole gun reduced to a pile of melted metal).

28 posted on 07/20/2003 4:43:52 PM PDT by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel)
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To: archy
The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have made the Wales case a top priority and are offering a $1 million reward for information.

They never made this much of a fuss when Vince Foster was murdered committed zoo-ee-zyde! In fact, they were happy to let the Keystone Kops Park Police handle the job then wait a year or two before they got around to even try and find the bullet, much less postitively identify the gun or even find the missing photos.

I guess it depends where ones' priorities lie. After all, Wales is a gun-grabbing Federal Attorney, not a Federal Attorney getting cold feet from his complicity in high crimes and misdemeanors.

29 posted on 07/20/2003 5:24:17 PM PDT by Gritty
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To: Gritty
"zoo-ee-zyde"

LOL, I'm stealing this for my own use, I hope you don't mind!
30 posted on 07/20/2003 11:29:08 PM PDT by jocon307
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To: Wonder Warthog
Ditto that thought. I would be that the Makarov barrel was long ago reduced to metal filings, and the firearm equipped with another barrel (or the whole gun reduced to a pile of melted metal).

As are at least some of those the FBI has demanded be surrendered to them.


31 posted on 07/21/2003 9:41:27 AM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: Ford Fairlane
I've seen the barrels

I have bought several from Federal for Walther PP's that had worn out barrels - they keep making them for more & more models every year

And they're made of stainless steel, making them a natural choice for those planning to use corrosive-primed foreign military surplus ammo in their guns, or for those whose barrels have already suffered from the effects of the use of such ammunition without immediate and complete maintenance.

-archy-/-

32 posted on 07/21/2003 9:44:30 AM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: archy
Someone clue me in here. How would Federal Arms, or any barrel maker, know who bought the barrels? They aren't serialized, you don't have to register them and to my knowledge and experience, no form of ID is required to buy one. In fact, I've bought several barrels at gun shows for Glocks and 1911's and there is no way in hell they could be traced to me, so how is this happening?
33 posted on 07/21/2003 9:53:15 AM PDT by Double Tap
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To: Ford Fairlane
Wales, however, was shot with .380-caliber bullets fired through the slightly larger 9-mm replacement barrel.

I understand that 9mm makarov used to be hard to get.

Not at any time in the last 5 years, though Makarov ammo may not be locally as available in some areas. And it still isn't loaded by some ammunition manufacturers; if you want some specialty ammo, you may need to go to another caliber, and .380 is an easy rearrangement with a PM/ Makarov.

I dont understand the above statement, however, if they are looking for someone who bought a replacement .380 barrel, as the .380 is a smaller diameter

My bet is that the shooter used a .380 with his silencer in order to allow the use of a slim-diameter .22 or .32 silencer with its baffles bored out to allow the use of .355" diameter .380 bullets, but was concerned about the possibility of a baffle strike with a larger .363" diameter 9x18mm Makarov bullet. The use of the rebored smaller-diameter but longer .22suppressors with a PM is an old dodge, also used with Walther PP and PPK pistols, which like the Makarov have sights mounted fairly close to the pistol's bore centerline. Using a .22 suppressor with the baffles reamed or drilled as closely to the bullet's diameter as possible allows the pistol's factory sights to be used, and keeping the reboring as close to the bullet diameter as possible maintains as much of the silencer's efficiency as possible, already degraded somewhat by the larger-diameter opening for the bullet's passage. Thus it's also helpful that effective .22 silencers are also often a bit longer as well, offering multiple baffles to help reduce the sound.

Since the shooter managed multiple hits on Wales, shooting through a closed window, it's most probable that he was using sights. And unless he had a Soviet-issue suppressed weapon fitted with higher auxilliary sights [as pictured in post #2 above] it's probable that he found the availability of the FAC barrels already threaded for a .22 suppressor [typically ½"x28 or ½"x36-pitch threads] to be a helpful convenience. And the availability of a .380 hollowpoint load in the .380 chambering rather than the most common 9mm Makarov full metal jacketed bullet may have been an added benefit.

He could have ordered a FAC barrel in .380 had he so desired; that he did not suggests a reason other than expecting there'd be no markings left on the bullet.

-archy-/-


34 posted on 07/21/2003 10:04:28 AM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: Double Tap
Someone clue me in here. How would Federal Arms, or any barrel maker, know who bought the barrels? They aren't serialized, you don't have to register them and to my knowledge and experience, no form of ID is required to buy one. In fact, I've bought several barrels at gun shows for Glocks and 1911's and there is no way in hell they could be traced to me, so how is this happening?

UPS and postal or shipping records would be my guess, with bank traces of checks, postal money orders or credit card purchases another possibility. Probably both.

There've also been at least three secondary market sellers of FAC barrels; so far I've not heard of any indications of the FBI enquiring into their customer records, so it may well be that the FBI has just overlooked them...or is waiting to see what kind of percentage of compliance they get from their fishing expedition at FAC.

It's possible, too that they're useing the *donated* Makarovs with replacement barrels to develop a database of ballistic profiles from the modified weapons. That'd save them the expense and bother of doing so with purchased or confiscated weapons already on hand, and might allow them to determine the nation of manufacture of the Makarov used in the Wales hit, narrowing their search by around 25%, since the production of PM pistols has been undertaken primarily in Russia/the Soviet Union, China, the former East Germany and Bulgaria, with a few rare test sample lots possibly made in Czechoslovokia.<p. -archy-/-

35 posted on 07/21/2003 10:13:19 AM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: Beelzebubba
"Most people have voluntarily surrendered their pistols, a source said, but a few have been brought before a grand jury in Seattle and required to surrender their weapons."

This is sickening. (Especially that most were compliant sheep.)

Don't believe everything you read, especially when it comes by way of the FIBbers. And note that there most certainly have been those who've said *Hell, no* as per the pic in post #31.

36 posted on 07/21/2003 10:23:39 AM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: archy
That is probably right. My point was though, that most of these barrels are probably being sold through dealers to individuals on the internet or at gun shows. Now a sale on the internet would be tracable through email address and method of payment, plus shipping address. Guns shows however, would be a dead end, especially if the end user pays cash.

So in the end, the FBI is probably just harrassing innocent people with no real hope of hooking anything on this fishing expedition.

37 posted on 07/21/2003 11:09:39 AM PDT by Double Tap
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To: Double Tap
So in the end, the FBI is probably just harrassing innocent people with no real hope of hooking anything on this fishing expedition.

Or they're building a fallback plan: should the case they're trying to build against the pilot fail [sorta reminds you of Hatfill in the anthrax case and Richard Jewel in the Atlanta Olympic bombing, doesn't it?] they'll have a menu of other *persons of interest* to pick from until they find one with a background they can build a frame around, especially if they pick one with a minimal ability to obtain and support an effective legal defense.

From a public relations standpoint, framing such a scapegoat appears a lot better course for them than looking at other FBI agents maintaining a relationship with Wales wife before he was killed.... Don't embarass the Bureau!

-archy-/-

38 posted on 07/21/2003 2:00:13 PM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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