If you thought Fast & Furious was bad…


As if letting AK-47s walk into Mexico only to be used to murder an American Border Patrol agent and dozens of Mexican nationals wasn’t bad enough, a new investigative report makes ATF’s infamous ‘Fast & Furious’ debacle seem almost tame.

The ‘watchdog’ report written by John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was published Saturday, chronicles ATF’s use of store front stings across the atfcountry.

The findings in the watchdog report are so egregious – so outside the norms of accepted law enforcement practices – they raise serious questions about the efficacy and future of the entire agency.

To be clear, this is not a story about a rogue agent, or a lone supervisor, making a bad call – an isolated incident. This report reveals systemic flaws in use by the embattled agency at field offices across the country.

Among the story’s findings:

■ “ATF agents befriended mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them in at least four cities in addition to Milwaukee. In Wichita, Kan., ATF agents referred to a man with a low IQ as “slow-headed” before deciding to secretly use him as a key cog in their sting. And agents in Albuquerque, N.M., gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a “tutorial” on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.”

■ “Agents in several cities opened undercover gun- and drug-buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.”

■ “As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes — no questions asked — spurring burglaries and theft. In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several ripped off from police cars.”

■ “Agents damaged buildings they rented for their operations, tearing out walls and rewiring electricity — then stuck landlords with the repair bills. A property owner in Portland said agents removed a parking lot spotlight,damaging her new $30,000 roof and causing leaks, before they shut down the operation and disappeared without a way for her to contact them.”

■ “Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court. They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back — and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.”

■ “In Pensacola, the ATF hired a felon to run its pawnshop. The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers.Even those trying to sell guns legally could be charged if they knowingly sold to a felon. The ATF’s pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar. Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail — and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.”

agentATF responded, minimally, to the report. An agency spokesman called it “biased.”

That’s almost laughable.  Maybe next time he should try “sorry.”

The folks I’m talking with say the newspaper’s watchdog report will lead to Congressional hearings.

It certainly should.

I hope the lawmakers realize that most of ATF’s traditional duties – with the exception of its experienced explosives experts – could easily be divvied up among other federal agencies.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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