(March 03, 2014)
Just as America's premier gun-policing agency began to crawl out from under the embarrassment of Operation Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is again under fire -- this time for tactical mistakes tied to a separate program designed to get crime guns off the street.The thing is, they set up 'stores' near schools, including one 'store' located across the street from a Middle School in Portland, Oregon.
Operation Fearless, as it was called, was a multi-city program through which ATF opened roughly 37 pawn shops and storefronts around the country, often in or near gang areas, with the purpose of attracting felons and criminals to unknowingly sell their crime guns to the government. Agents would then trace the weapons to determine their source and use forensics to tie the guns to homicides.
Critics of the program say that in the siting of the sting operations, the bureau showed bad judgement.
ATF judgement calls were also criticized in the way the agents used "incentives" to encourage customers. For example, on at least a few occassions they paid for teens to have tattoos to advertise the 'stores' .. and then later had to pay to have the tattoos removed.
Proponents of the program respond by pointing out that the program did produce the
But ... not all of the transactions led to their goal. Sometimes, the agents were unable to purchase the guns they so desperately wanted, as in the case of Bobby Ball, as described by the Milwaukee (Wisconson) Journal Sentinel (May 16, 2013):
(See the August 20, 2013 follow-up by the Journal Sentinel here.)
The "gun-walking" incident is the latest failure to be revealed in the flawed "Operation Fearless" sting, run out of a fake storefront in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. The sting, aimed at catching criminals selling guns and drugs, was run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with help from Milwaukee police.
A congressional letter obtained Thursday by the Journal Sentinel shows the FBI was initially part of the operation but backed out after seeing problems with the way it was being run.
The FBI withdrew from the case in March 2012, after about two months, "due to concerns about the operation's proposed uses of intelligence, operational security and
staffing," according to the May 10 letter to ATF acting director B. Todd Jones criticizing the Milwaukee operation.
A spokesman at the FBI's Milwaukee office declined to comment Thursday.
While the FBI apparently did not tell the ATF why it was leaving, "the problems the FBI identified underscore ATF's inadequate policies and procedures for undercover storefront operations," the letter says.
It was written after a congressional staff briefing with ATF officials last month and signed by U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.); Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The letter declares Operation Fearless "a spectacular failure."
Pity the poor employees of the BATFE ... it seems as if lately they can not perform their job without catching heat from the damned Fifth Estate! EVERY time they try out a new strategy to regulate (and tax!) Bad Things (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) their tactics are called into question.
And it's not just the press; even Congress is all over them like stink on stools. Maybe the Politicians are just trying to grab some good press for themselves. God and John Browning know that Pols need to look like they're doing something positive. Well, "constructive" would be a better word, but that might be too much to ask of those to aspire to prominence in The Legislature.
In the private sector, when SHTF (Sewage Hits The Fools), it's usually the executives who have to scamper; they have stockholders to placate. In the public sector, though, they need to answer to the general public, their bosses. At least, that's what us common people who voted for them think is suppose to happen.
The employees in BATF probably are just doing the best they can to keep their jobs. They're working, as are we all, to meet the goals assigned to them, using the tools provided by their bosses.
Maybe it's time to think about finding a new boss (or an entirely new Executive Staff) for the BATF.
And maybe HIS boss ... you know, the guy at the Justice Department? .. maybe he needs for somebody to pay attention to his Annual review.
And maybe the boss's boss needs to have HIS performance reviewed more frequently than every four years.