How the ATF Manufactures Crime



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By Charles C. W. Cooke, December 10th 2013
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Since the president was reelected in November of last year, a good deal of poison has been poured into Washington's grimy alphabet soup. Among the departments that have become embroiled in scandal are the IRS, the DOJ, the DOE, the EPA, the NSA, the USDA, and, of course, the ATF. This week, the lattermost is back in the news — and for good reason.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is probably best known these days for the failure of its disastrous Fast and Furious scheme — a botched initiative that aimed to give American guns to Mexican cartels first and to ask questions later. Under pressure, the administration was quick to imply that the mistake was an aberration. But a watchdog report, published last week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, suggests that the caprice, carelessness, and downright incompetence that marked the disaster was no accident. In fact, that it is endemic in the ATF.

After a bungled sting attracted the suspicion of the Milwaukee press earlier this year, reporters started to examine similar enterprises in the rest of the country. What they found astonished them. Among the tactics they discovered ATF agents employing were using mentally disabled Americans to help run unnecessary sting operations; establishing agency-run "fronts" in "safe zones" such as schools and churches; providing alcohol, drugs, and sexual invitations to minors; destroying property and then expecting the owners to pick up the tab; and hiring felons to sell guns to legal purchasers. Worse, perhaps, in a wide range of cases, undercover agents specifically instructed individuals to behave in a certain manner — and then arrested and imprisoned them for doing so. This is government at its worst. And it appears to be standard operating procedure.

As with Fast and Furious, the primary objective of the ATF's stings seems not to be to fight a known threat but instead to manufacture crime. Across the country, the agency has set up shops in which it attempts to facilitate or to encourage illegal behavior, and it has drafted citizens into the scheme without telling them that they were involved. It is fishing — nonchalantly, haphazardly, even illegally. And the consequences can go hang.

Some of the stories are heartrending. Tony Bruner, a convicted felon with an IQ of 50, was hired in Wichita to work at "Bandit Trading," a fake store that agents had established as a front. Bruner didn't realize that he was working for the ATF — he thought he had finally found a steady job. But the agents knew how valuable Bruner could be to them, recognizing immediately that he was disabled (or "slow-headed," in one agent's unlovely phrase) and that he would therefore be easy to manipulate. Having established his trust, agents asked Bruner to find guns for them, which he agreed to do. Eventually, Bruner got rather good at it and ended up arranging dozens of gun sales.

"I was just doing my job. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong," Bruner said in court. "They tricked me into believing I was doing a good job. And they'd tell me I was doing a good job, pat me on the back, telling me, 'You're doing a good job.' We'd hug each other and stuff like that, and they treated me like they cared about me. I told 'em I had a felony, I'm trying to stay out of trouble."


Now, a letter sent to a Maine Senator dealing with ATF abuses comprising 'bullying' tactics in order to harvest information from 4473 forms. Another apparent example of the agency's subjugation of the law and invention of powers not legally available. Thanks to Ryan for sending this along to us to share with you.
The full letter is available as a PDF file.

Ryan wrote: I was recently given permission to release this letter for general circulation. This was sent to Senator Collins in Maine and has been reviewed by a local attorney. This is a long letter and I apologize but I will give a quick summary, the details are in the letter. It's long but important to our Freedom and security.

Over the past several months at least, certain ATF agents have been illegally mass copying FFL records of individual form 4473's (the form you fill out when buying a gun). They are bullying FFL's into complying with letting them 'scan' everyone's forms, and lists of people who have purchased firearms. Certain records they are allowed by law to copy (such as in an investigation) and they are allowed to look (but not copy) all the records going back so far during an audit. Many FFL's are complying either out of fear, not knowing the law or just don't want the hassle. Many have stated, 'oh I just let them do their thing and they thank me and go on their way'. (Note the reference at the end of the letter of the Alaska incident and ATF's acknowledgement of the wrong doing).

An attorney specializing in Constitutional law is handling this, that's all the detail I have or will share. This is just to let people know what's going on, first in Alaska now in New England and probably everywhere else. This FFL cares about his customers enough to challenge vague and illegal acts to obtain their records.

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