Scathing letter from Congress to BLM director cites Bundy Ranch debacle, Steinle murder

“BLM’ s apparent culture of impunity for law enforcement misconduct is a detriment to the public and those employees committed to ethical service. Both employees and supervisors have a duty to report any wrongdoing and misconduct to ensure a respectful, professional, and safe work environment.”

Comments by editor

On January 10, Rob Bishop and Bruce Westerman of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote a letter to the Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management, Brian Steed, citing flagrant ethical and legal violations by agents involved in a number of high profile and deadly incidents.

Foremost among the troubling activities recounted in the letter were the ‘serious and systematic’ acts of misconduct by BLM law-enforcement agents involved in the infamous Bundy Ranch raid of 2014. At the center of these controversies is Dan Love, the BLM Law Enforcement Director in charge of the raid, who is mentioned in the letter as having ‘abused his authority in multiple instances.’ Although the letter refers to Dan Love’s behavior only generally, his despicable history goes back several years, to the antiquities sting, Operation Cerberus, which resulted in the deaths of four men in the Four Corners region.

It was a detailed memo issued by a whistleblower from within the agency who confirmed what had been repeatedly claimed by both the victims of BLM brutality at the ranch, as well as the defendants arrested in its aftermath. Instances of ‘misconduct,’ ‘unprofessionalism,’ ‘incredible bias,’ and worse on the parts of BLM agents who raided the Bundy Ranch were so significant as to wholly undermined the prosecution’s case. The BLM debacle at the Bundy Ranch resulted in one of the most embarrassing and expensive black eyes to the federal government in recent memory.

Also cited in the letter is the tragic case of Kate Steinle, a young woman who was murdered by a criminal illegal who had in his possession a BLM-issued pistol. The pistol apparently belonged to a BLM agent who left the unsecured weapon in a backpack in his vehicle. The senseless murder of Kate Steinle has brought into question not only misconduct and incompetence on the part of BLM law enforcement agents, but also the dangerous ‘sanctuary city’ policies of progressive enclaves across the country.

The text of the letter reads:

Mr. Brian Steed Acting Director
Bureau of Land Management 1849 C Street, N.W., Room 5665
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Mr. Steed,

On January 8, 2018, a federal judge denied prosecutors’ request to retry Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters for their actions during a 2014 armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This ruling follows a December 20, 2017 decision by the court to declare a mistrial based on federal prosecutors improperly withholding evidence from the defense. The court’s decision follows numerous reports of serious and systemic misconduct by the BLM officials involved in the Bundy case. Of concern, a recent memo from a BLM whistleblower to the Department of Justice (DOJ) appears to show that information regarding extensive misconduct and unprofessional behavior by BLM officials involved in the Bundy case, as well as other relevant information, was knowingly withheld from prosecutors. In this report, the employee alleges a ” widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct” exists among senior and supervisory BLM law enforcement officers.

These allegations are alarming for several reasons. First, these  reports appear  to indicate that BLM officials purposefully withheld critical information  from the prosecution and subsequently retaliated  against  the BLM employee who attempted  to bring the withheld information  to the prosecution. In  addition, it is highly unusual  for a federal prosecution to end in  a mistrial  that bars retrying the case. Approximately 91 percent of people charged  with a crime in federal court are found guilty and 77 percent of defendants standing trial are convicted. The failure of prosecutors to achieve a conviction in the Bundy case raises questions about the conduct of BLM law enforcement and their ability to carry out effective, fair, and professional law  enforcement investigations.

The failures in the Bundy case and previous cases display serious misconduct by BLM law enforcement officials, and strongly suggest that there are systemic issues within BLM’s law enforcement operations. Previous Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports, as well as whistleblower accounts, detail a litany of law enforcement problems from poor evidence handling procedures due to a lack of professionalism, and even the deliberate withholding of information from Congress. While many of these reports revolve around a former single BLM law enforcement officer, Dan Love, who abused his authority in multiple instances, misconduct is not exclusive to this one individual. For example, in June 2015, a BLM law enforcement officer failed to adequately safeguard his loaded firearm. The pistol was stolen from a backpack and left in his personal vehicle. This stolen gun was subsequently used in the shooting death of San Francisco resident Kate Steinle. In spite of the incident, rather than facing disciplinary action, the BLM officer whose gun was stolen was promoted to a supervisory role. Just this month, a federal judge allowed a wrongful death lawsuit against the BLM on behalf of Ms. Steinle’s estate to move forward.

These types of examples continue to fuel the concerns of many Americans in the western United States, whose interactions with BLM are frequent and impactful. BLM’ s apparent culture of impunity for law enforcement misconduct is a detriment to the public and those employees committed to ethical service. Both employees and supervisors have a duty to report any wrongdoing and misconduct to ensure a respectful, professional, and safe work environment.

The Committee is encouraged by the work DOI has already initiated to address some of these issues at the agency level, including the emphasis on ensuring retaliation or reprisal for reports of misconduct is not tolerated. We are also hopeful that the new DOI leadership will take action to address the root cause of BLM’s past failures and help restore trust in the bureau’s ability to effectively and fairly enforce the law on federally owned land.

To assist the Committee in its oversight of BLM law enforcement operations and investigations, please provide  a  briefing  to Committee  staff concerning the outcome of  the Bundy case, as well as any updates to BLM policy or guidelines addressing the issues outlined in this letter no later than January 24,  2017.

Please contact the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee staff at (202) 225-7107 with any questions about this request.  Thank you for  your attention to this matter.


Committee on Natural Resources

Rob Bishop
Chairman on Natural Resources

Bruce Westerman Chairman
Subcommittee,  Oversight & Investigations

You can see the full letter, including footnotes here

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  1. Yet it does miss one important fact, side stepped in this letter.
    The Federal Prosecutors had the Damning, embarrassing information of BLM (and Love) but Knowingly failed to make this information available to the Defense. And that spells Collusion by multiple Government Agencies to cover their asses and try to get a conviction at all costs. It shows just how our Just-US System Works, it works for the Government and fails miserably to protect the rights of the American citizenry. Congress even cites the high conviction rate against those suspected of crimes. If you read between the lines of that letter from congress, you can clearly see they ((our representatives?) are embarrassed that they did not get (yet again) their Conviction of “The People” charged in the Bundy Ranch case. Will congress follow up and see equal justice be handed out by bringing charges against (Their) Government Agents that broke the law? No! Because They are all part of the same enemy of a free people. I actually find this letter offensive that they (congress) want to make us think this is a lower echelon problem when it comes to how Justice is dolled out in These United States.
    The Government (and the authors of this letter) are not really concerned that laws in place to protect The People were broken, They are trying to pass blame to cover their asses because they got caught…..This Time.

  2. The BLM is required by law to hire local law enforcement—–for law enforcement!, PERIOD! This is what happens when a culture of service changes to a culture of authoritarianism and we wind up with something akin to communism. There is no reason for the federal government to be acquiring more land at the cost of liberty for Americans and destruction of ranchers and farmers that are so needed today. Look in the supermarket and see if you can find a can of Tuna Fish produced by American fishermen. Now NOAA has virtually run American fisheries out of business because of over fishing but it is somehow OK for Taiwan, China and other countries to provide what we can for ourselves and keep industry alive but we are talking about an out of touch and globally disconnected congress. Few sea food products come from the US, just check next time you are in the sea food section. Now government is working on the cattle industry and soon we will not be able to find steak from the USA or at least affordable foods. We have to change this, disarm all the federal agencies who have no business in law enforcement and we need to prosecute those who have been abusing citizens.

    1. Really since when is a land management agency suddenly become a law enforcement agency? And if you ever hear the Hostage ResueTeam is coming you better run

    2. I agree completely. Sounds like the LETTER was merely a slap on the wrist and not any truly disciplinary action was or will be taken against those who way overstepped their authority. Sounds more and more like we are turning into a communist country where the citizens are NO LONGER protected from the government. A truly SAD DAY in America

    3. Ed, you are exactly right on local law enforcement. The county sheriffs department is responsible for law enforcement and years ago the BLM use to contract with county sheriff department for law enforcement. In some BLM districts they contracted with the county sheriffs office and hired a full time deputy to handle BLM problems. It appears now the BLM is also in the law enforcement business and is no longer being held accountable by local sheriffs department! What could go wrong??? The BLM enforcement division has become a political pond And is being used as a bully to intimidate anyone who has a conflict with BLM decisions. The BLM enforcement division needs to be disbanded and law enforcement needs to return to the county sheriffs department. I think the Bundy and Hammonds issue are good examples of what could go wrong when federal agencies go rogue or are used as politicial ponds to achieve political goals. I believe what we are witnessing is the misuse of power by environmentalists employees and politicians to achieve their long term goals of removing cattle from public lands. This all fits in with United Nations agenda 21.

  3. In the letter it states. (We are also hopeful that the new DOI leadership will take action to address the root cause of BLM’s past failures and help restore trust in the bureau’s ability to effectively and fairly enforce the law on federally owned land.) The problem I have with that is the federal government is not allowed to own land like they do in Nevada. It specifically states how much land they can use in any instance and what can be put on that land only after the state allows for the feds to purchase such land. There were over fifty ranches in the Bunkerville area where the Bundys have their ranch. Now the Bundys are the last ranch still there. all other ranchers were forced out of business their land stolen by the federal government to sell to foreign countries so these countries can mine the gold or put in solar power plants. The most famous land grab by the feds is uranium one where the money received for 20% of u.s. uranium goes into the Clinton Foundation.

  4. It seems not even Congress can get it through their heads that the government can’t OWN land other than for a military base, a post office or a court house. And even then they have to purchase it from the state, not just take it. And I agree with Ed Sunderland we need to disarm all the federal agencies who have no business in law enforcement and we need to prosecute those who have been abusing and destroying citizens lives.

  5. OK,
    Today Klayman, Cliven & Ryan Bundy again declare their legal property rights that the BLM & other noted concerted gov’t agencies have tried to violently take out of existence in Clark County NV for years.

    However, they are not yet aware of WHY Harry Reid’s appointed BLM Director NEIL KORNZE ordered their “Gold Butte Impoundment Operation” (GBIO), days after Harry Reid had Kornze appointed as his BLM Director, in 2014.

    In 2013, Harry Reid & his son Rory FAILED to acquire that 9,000 acres of Public Land in Laughlin NV, to build their tax subsidized $5 Billion Solar Energy Plant farm there for ENN Solar Corp from China. So, they targeted Gold Butte for ENN, in 2014.
    In 2013, WHY did they FAIL in Laughlin NV?
    1. In 1990, I had the BLM invalid mining claims & their Mineral Patent Application(s) on 1,280 acres, “reversed” by their boss, the Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals (“IBLA”):…/Ibladecisi…/116IBLA/116IBLA029.pdf
    2. In 1992, I was issued all Effluent Water Right permits, 600,000 gallons a day, from the NV Water Engineer, in Laughlin NV:…/1uDsEQShTqXiTFHbwrEEpeuxhhJ…/view

    The Reids, nor their BLM, nor their ENN could ever get their Solar Energy Permits from NV Power, without any valid BLM mining claim rights; and, without my effluent Water Rights in Laughlin NV.

  6. Bishop does not represent the People, which is obvious from the letter above that he and his committee wrote. He does not get that the federal government cannot own land and that government goons can’t be walking around our public lands carrying weapons. This is why we have unlawful BLM agents carrying guns who have not been deputized by the sheriff of each county that BLM are housed in. Our sheriffs become the aiders and abetters to the federal government. This letter shows the ignorance or might I say the stupidity of our supposed elected officials. Ignorance is one that doesn’t have the knowledge, stupidity, on the other hand, is one that won’t gain the knowledge in front of them. Thus, we have a lot of stupid people representing us both in our states and in D.C. Unfortunately, the People keep voting them in expecting different outcomes.

  7. Rob Bishop and others of his ilk make me sick to my stomach. What a gutless excuse for an elected official. The words at the end of his letter like, please, and, if you have any questions, and, thank you for your attention to this matter, I’m sure have the B.L.M. powers that be quaking in their boots. Mr. Bishop should be ashamed of himself for the timing and content of his disgusting and impotent letter.

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