ATF image problem? Bring back Eliot Ness, as building name, at least

WASHINGTON -- With the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reeling from its botched gun-tracking operation, who better to help boost the agency’s image than perhaps the most famous G-man, Eliot Ness?

Congressional legislation has been introduced to name the bureau’s D.C. headquarters the “Eliot Ness ATF Building’’ after the agent whose battles with bootleggers and mobsters in Prohibition-era Chicago inspired the book, movie and TV series “The Untouchables.’’

The naming really had nothing to do with the Fast and Furious operation, which has become the subject of a congressional investigation. It’s included in a broader bill, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate committee that oversees federal buildings.

The bill also would name Environment Protection Agency headquarters the “William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building” and the federal building and courthouse in Midland, Texas, as the “George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush United States Courthouse and George Mahon Federal Building.” Mahon, whose name is now on the building, was a congressman from the area.


The EPA occupies the Ariel Rios Federal Building, a former ATF headquarters named after an agent killed in the line of duty in 1982. The building that became current ATF headquarters in 2007 is not now named after anyone.

Ness and his team of “untouchables” -- so called because of their incorruptibility -- “not only wreaked havoc on Al Capone’s criminal empire, but also went on to successfully apprehend many of Chicago’s notorious gangsters and bootleggers,” according to the ATF. Ness, who later became Cleveland’s public safety director, died in 1957 at age 53.

ATF spokesman Drew J. Wade called the proposed namewholly appropriate and fitting.”

The agency’s acting director, B. Todd Jones, came to the ATF with a “keen understanding of the bureau’s rich history and contributions to public safety and federal law enforcement,” he said. “As such, Mr. Jones determined to see the ATF headquarters building named after one of its own.”


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