Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I never had any respect for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and now Politico has a report about yet another scandal. This one involves cigarettes and you guessed it, money.
WASHINGTON — Government agents acting without authorization conducted dozens of undercover investigations of illegal tobacco sales, misused some of $162 million in profits from the stings and lost track of at least 420 million cigarettes, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Wednesday.
In one case, ATF agents sold $15 million in cigarettes and later turned over $4.9 million in profits from the sales to a confidential informant — even though the agency did not properly account for the transaction.
Seems like just yesterday that ATF was caught in a huge gun-running scandal.
“Gunwalking”, or “letting guns walk”, was a tactic of the Arizona Field Office of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ran a series of sting operations between 2006 and 2011 in the Tucson and Phoenix area where the ATF “purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders.” These operations were done under the umbrella of Project Gunrunner, a project intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico by interdicting straw purchasers and gun traffickers within the United States.
The stated goal of allowing these purchases was to continue to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels, with the expectation that this would lead to their arrests and the dismantling of the cartels. The tactic was questioned during the operations by a number of people, including ATF field agents and cooperating licensed gun dealers. During Operation Fast and Furious, by far the largest “gunwalking” probe, the ATF monitored the sale of about 2,000:203 firearms, of which only 710 were recovered as of February 2012.:203 A number of straw purchasers have been arrested and indicted; however, as of October 2011, none of the targeted high-level cartel figures have been arrested.
Guns tracked by the ATF have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the Mexico–United States border, and the scene where United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed. The “gunwalking” operations became public in the aftermath of Terry’s murder. Dissenting ATF agents came forward to Congress in response. According to Humberto Benítez Treviño, former Mexican Attorney General and chair of the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, related firearms have been found at numerous crime scenes in Mexico where at least 150 Mexican civilians were maimed and killed. Revelations of “gunwalking” led to controversy in both countries, and diplomatic relations were damaged.
As a result of a dispute over the release of Justice Department documents related to the scandal, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress on June 28, 2012. Earlier that month, President Barack Obama had invoked executive privilege for the first time in his presidency over the same documents.
Can the situation with ATF get any worse than that, you ask?
Well, as a matter of fact, you betcha it can.
Remember the siege of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas?
The Waco siege was a siege of a compound belonging to the religious group Branch Davidians by American federal and Texas state law enforcement and military between February 28 and April 19, 1993.
The Branch Davidians, a Christian sect led by David Koresh, lived at Mount Carmel Center ranch in the community of Elk, Texas, nine miles (14 kilometers) east-northeast of Waco. The group was suspected of weapons violations and a search and arrest warrant was obtained.
The incident began when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) attempted to raid the ranch. An intense gun battle erupted, resulting in the deaths of four agents and six Branch Davidians. Upon the ATF’s failure to raid the compound, a siege was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the standoff lasting 51 days. Eventually, the FBI launched an assault and initiated a tear gas attack in an attempt to force the Branch Davidians out. During the attack, a fire engulfed Mount Carmel Center and 76 men, women, and children, including David Koresh, died.
Controversy ensued over the origin of the fire; a government investigation concluded in 2000 that sect members themselves had started the fire at the time of the attack. Timothy McVeigh cited the Waco incident as a primary motivation for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
As if that were not enough, remember Ruby Ridge?
Ruby Ridge was the site of a deadly confrontation and siege in northern Idaho in 1992 against Randy Weaver, his family and Weaver’s friend Kevin Harris by agents of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It resulted in the death of Weaver’s son Sammy, his wife Vicki, and Deputy U.S. Marshal William Francis Degan.
At the subsequent federal criminal trial of Weaver and Harris, Weaver’s attorney Gerry Spence made accusations of “criminal wrongdoing” against every agency involved in the incident: the FBI, USMS, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for Idaho. At the completion of the trial, the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility formed a Ruby Ridge Task Force to investigate Spence’s charges. The 1994 Task Force report was released in redacted form by Lexis Counsel Connect and raised questions about the conduct and policy of all the agencies.
Public outcry over Ruby Ridge and the subsequent Waco siege involving many of the same agencies and even the same personnel fueled the widening of the militia movement. To answer public questions about Ruby Ridge, the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information held a total of 14 days of hearings between September 6 and October 19, 1995, and subsequently issued a report calling for reforms in federal law enforcement to prevent a repeat of Ruby Ridge and to restore public confidence in federal law enforcement.
Here’s a link to the television documentary titled Siege at Ruby Ridge, starring Randy Quaid, Laura Dern and Kirsten Dunst.
Here’s a list of awards won by the documentary.
I think we the people have had quite enough of this corrupt and out-of-control so called “law enforcement agency.”
I say eliminate ATF and, if necessary, reassign its duties to other law enforcement agencies.
Frankly, I think we can do better with less law enforcement rather than more law enforcement.
What do you think?
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Fred and Crane