On second thought, maybe Fast & Furious isn’t the most egregious ATF operation of the last 10 years

posted at 1:51 pm on December 9, 2013 by Allahpundit

Twitter went crazy last night after an NYT editor teased a story they were working on for the a.m. as “very unusual” and “groundbreaking.” The result didn’t live up to the hype — it’s good, but not the world-rocking expose you’d expect when the Times braintrust is buzzing. This, on the other hand, is world-rocking. Not because it’s surprising to find the ATF engaged in dubious tactics, but because the tactics they used were so dubious even though the stakes were so, so small. If you strain very hard, you can semi-defend Fast & Furious as an idiotic response borne of desperation in trying to solve a serious problem. What’s the defense, though, when desperate and idiotic methods are used to catch penny-ante criminals, some of them profoundly mentally disabled?

I don’t often tell you to read the whole thing, especially when it’s as long as this, but I’m telling you now. The ATF’s M.O. was to open some sort of store, be it a pawn shop or a tattoo parlor, in a poor neighborhood and then try to bait the locals into committing drug or gun crimes. If some of those locals were handicapped, hey — that just makes reaching the monthly quota of guilty pleas and convictions easier. There’s no way to do it justice via excerpt, but here’s a taste of one instance where they recruited a guy with an IQ in the mid-50s to buy guns for them in the community:

Agents could see Bruner was intellectually disabled. On a video of one of their first meetings in November 2010, agents referred to him as “slow-headed,” according to Griffith, Bruner’s attorney.

“It was essential to have someone like Tony or your low-IQ guy in Milwaukee for this operation,” Griffith said. “These 30-something bearded and tattooed white guys aren’t going to knock on doors in the hood and say ‘Do you have guns?’ They had to get someone to do it for them.”

Agent Jason Fuller hired Bruner to hand out cards in the neighborhood; do odd jobs, such as clean up the parking lot; and watch out for police. The agents paid him in cigarettes, clothing from the store and cash — $20 to $50 in commission to find them electronics and other goods. And they took him to McDonald’s when he was hungry.

Eventually they asked him to find guns.

Bruner said he didn’t have any but he would try to find some. He ended up brokering dozens of gun sales.

And then, they arrested him on more than 100 counts of being a felon in possession of a weapon.

They did something similar to another man with a low IQ, who placed an ad in the paper to sell some of his guns. The ATF responded and sent a convicted felon, who identified himself as such, to make the purchase. That’s illegal, of course, and enough for an arrest. But then they did it again and again to the same guy, paying high prices for the guns each time, to the point where the gun-seller was buying guns from gun shops and then re-selling them to the ATF’s felon/purchaser on the same day to make a quick buck. That phenomenon, of the ATF’s targets implicitly being encouraged to commit crimes, is characteristic of the whole operation. Allegedly they accepted stolen goods at their fake pawn shops, which of course created an incentive for burglary in the neighborhoods. In another case, they were so desperate for a bust and so worried about being found out that they encouraged a pair of teens who hung around their fake smoke shop to get tattoos of the shop’s logo on their necks — and just to sweeten the deal, they paid for the kids’ tattoos with your tax money. The agency claimed it had to do something to allay the teens’ suspicions that they were cops. It paid off for them in the end: Ultimately, one of the teens was busted for trading an ounce of marijuana for clothes at the store. He was also charged with selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school because, you see, the feds’ shop was located right across the street from one.

That’s not all, but I’ll leave you to read about the ATF teaching people how to make sawed-off shotguns and fire machine guns. At least one machine gun went missing during these operations; in other cases, convicted felons were allowed to leave the store with guns they had just bought. But then, losing track of dangerous armed men is par for the course in ATF stings these days. Two exit questions for you. One: How soon before Darrell Issa holds hearings? And two, for legal eagles: How is there no entrapment in any of this? They might not have explicitly suggested the crime in each case but they clearly created incentives for committing the crime. The point of an entrapment defense, I thought, is to discourage overzealous cops from encouraging otherwise law-abiding people into wrongdoing. “Encouraging” can mean a lot of things, especially with a defendant who’s disabled.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Whatever you do, don’t mention Waco…

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Or obama.

VegasRick on December 9, 2013 at 1:58 PM

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

shut up troll person…..

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Who’s been here longer than me.

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Dang. In the South, we consider ATF the minimum ingredients for a fun party.

Tsar of Earth on December 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

And a hell of a lot of others

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

You’re killing me, 44Mag!!

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Whatever you do, don’t mention Waco…

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

When compared to Fast & Furious an unimpressed Janet Reno scoffed:

“I killed over ten times that many in a afternoon.”

viking01 on December 9, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Another non scandal under holder and Obama. No one will be fired or reprimanded. Absolutely disgusting what this governments gets away with. Guess everything is going so well they have nothing better to than entrap intellectually challenged kids. A pox on all the agents in on this.

jaywemm on December 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM

I think if shut down the federal government we’d have a lot less crime.

rbj on December 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM

You’re killing me, 44Mag!!

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

If ya can’t kill the ones you love honey, Kill the one you’re with!
(sung to the tune of some old fart 60′sish song thingy)

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM

When there’s not enough crime to justify your budget, I guess you just have to go out there and make some of your own. Helluva system we’ve got here.

Socratease on December 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

When there’s not enough crime to justify your budget, I guess you just have to go out there and make some of your own. Helluva system we’ve got here.

Socratease on December 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

I suspect the planning stages of these ops sounded incredibly like a segment of Bevis and Butthead….

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Don’t make your comment too snarky – the FBI is watching you from your laptop camera.

BJ* on December 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM

(sung to the tune of some old fart 60′sish song thingy)

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM

David Crosby at least one recreational substance-abused liver replacement ago….

viking01 on December 9, 2013 at 2:07 PM

There’s no way to do it justice via excerpt, but here’s a taste of one instance where they recruited a guy with an IQ in the mid-50s to buy guns for them in the community:

It worked for the Democrats in 2008.

portlandon on December 9, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Don’t make your comment too snarky – the FBI is watching you from your laptop camera.

BJ* on December 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM

My sis thought I was silly for purposely not having a camera option.

MontanaMmmm on December 9, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Whatever you do, don’t mention Waco…

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Waco happened within the last ten years?

RINO in Name Only on December 9, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Don’t make your comment too snarky – the FBI is watching you from your laptop camera.

BJ* on December 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM

You mean the Federal Bureau of Instigation?

44Magnum on December 9, 2013 at 2:10 PM

This has Ruby Ridge written all over it.

jya lai on December 9, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Ah…the ATF. Turning conservatives into libertarians since 1968.

Nessuno on December 9, 2013 at 2:14 PM

A new twist on the term “organized crime”.

Bitter Clinger on December 9, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Waco happened within the last ten years?

RINO in Name Only on December 9, 2013 at 2:10 PM

You missed out on an earlier ATF thread where opinions, uh, varied on the quality of my snark — which I maintain was “weapons-grade” — in the comments.

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

The ATF is archaic, outdated, get rid of it. I don’t want to sound like a libertarian, but can the DEA too. That’s money not well spent.

What’s with a bureau starting with the word “alcohol,” obviously coined in prohibition? From wikipedia:

The history of ATF can be subsequently traced to the time of the revenuers or “revenoors”[7] and the Bureau of Prohibition, which was formed as a unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 1920, was made an independent agency within the Treasury Department in 1927, was transferred to the Justice Department in 1930.

And “tobacco?”

Do we need gun toting SWAT teams to go after people’s smokes? Maybe in New York city or San Fran. And firearms? Try New York city again.

anotherJoe on December 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Agents could see Bruner was intellectually disabled. On a video of one of their first meetings in November 2010, agents referred to him as “slow-headed,” according to Griffith, Bruner’s attorney.

So what? Anyone with a brain could see that Barky was intellectually disabled and, yet, he was still elected Precedent. In 2010, the Mayor of Las Vegas referred to Barky, saying, “He’s a real slow learner.”

But, this all fits. The 84 IQ third world, America-hater occupooping the White House ran Fast+Furious – a totally retarded criminal action deserving impeachment and criminal prosecution, while the ATF is using a low-IQ stooge to fun their new Slow+Sedated sting on Americans from the other end.

This junta never fails to live down to expectations.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on December 9, 2013 at 2:23 PM

I don’t want to sound like a libertarian,

Yeah, that’d be awful.

Jeddite on December 9, 2013 at 2:24 PM

The ATF exists solely to make sure the government gets it cut on taxes from the sale of spirits and tobacco. Just like any other part of government, it grew from there.

Johnnyreb on December 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Dang. In the South, we consider ATF the minimum ingredients for a fun party.

Tsar of Earth on December 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Or an awesome idea for a convenience store.

Happy Nomad on December 9, 2013 at 2:29 PM

How soon before Darrell Issa holds hearings?

ITYM “How soon before Darrell Issa holds totally nonproductive hearings that allow him to grandstand a little, and then taper off into invisibility?”

Response to self: “There’s another kind? Who knew?”

bofh on December 9, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Do we need gun toting SWAT teams to go after people’s smokes? Maybe in New York city or San Fran. And firearms? Try New York city again.

anotherJoe on December 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Yup – the gun confiscations have started in NY.
Notices sent to hundreds of people to turn in, remove from NY, or modify any rifle or shotgun capable of holding 5 or more rounds.

Townhall had a thread on it last week – HA completely missed the boat on that one.

dentarthurdent on December 9, 2013 at 2:36 PM

FTATF.

Viper1 on December 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Dang. In the South, we consider ATF the minimum ingredients for a fun party.

Tsar of Earth on December 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Hey Bubba – hold my beer and watch this….

dentarthurdent on December 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM

If it weren’t for Revenuers there wouldn’t be NASCAR.

…. and that is said respectfully towards NASCAR

viking01 on December 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM

How soon before Darrell Issa holds hearings?

ITYM “How soon before Darrell Issa holds totally nonproductive hearings that allow him to grandstand a little, and then taper off into invisibility?”
Response to self: “There’s another kind? Who knew?”
bofh on December 9, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Yeah, I remember a time I had hopes for Issa and his hearings. Those hopes are gone now.
I figure someone got real dirt on Issa and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Marcola on December 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Maybe the jackets should say WTF.

ironked on December 9, 2013 at 2:54 PM

I figure someone got real dirt on Issa and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Marcola on December 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

The NSA must have mentioned some wiretaps.

Ain’t our police state grand?

viking01 on December 9, 2013 at 2:56 PM

You can tell budget time’s near when ATF suddenly launches a string of stings against “soft targets”. Not to be confused with low-hanging fruit, which defines most gang-bangers; they’re some of the few people on the street who are actually dumber than the average ATF agent. (I have experience with both.)

What matters is the “case clearance” number, i.e., how many cases they’ve taken to court and gotten a conviction in. They hate going after serious bad actors; they show up at arraignment already lawyered up, and between continuances, delays, discovery, etc., a single case can drag on for two or three FYs. That doesn’t sit well with either the official boss, or the real ones; namely, the anti-gun groups.

Up to now, their usual gambit has been to troll gun shows trying to get someone to buy a rifle or shotgun with a barrel carefully cut 1/16″ shorter than legal- then yell “GOTCHA!”, haul the victim into court, get them to plead guilty to a lesser offense, and then confiscate any guns they own and ensure that their right to keep and bear arms is permanently rescinded. (Convicted felon, you know.)

Trouble is, various groups like NRA-ILA, etc., have been taking them to court for such stunts, and costing them money defending themselves.

So it’s not surprising that they’ve begun taking a page from DEA’s book and setting up storefront stings. Although preying on the mentally challenged is lower than DEA ever stooped. (And DEA can get pretty low, at times.)

If we get a non-progressive majority in both houses and a non-progressive POTUS, the first thing on the agenda should be ATFE’s abolishment. Send its “Alcohol” and “Tobacco” functions to the Food and Drug Administration, and hand the “Firearms” function to the FBI, since they do the background checks anyway. As for the “Explosives” part, give it to the Interstate Commerce Commission and OSHA; they’re the ones who make the rules for moving and using HE, last time I looked.

ATFE mainly duplicates the functions of other agencies, but overlays it with an almost psychotic hatred of civilians who own firearms legally. They have no legitimate place in the government for that reason.

They are a waste of taxpayers’ money, and a threat to law-abiding citizens.

The one thing they are not, is an agency that actually worries actual criminals.

Anymore than they care about actually catching any. It’s just too much work, in their estimation, when there are so many juicy “tidbits” that can be obtained with much less effort. And which get them a pat on the head from like-minded “progressives”, in Congress and elsewhere.

clear ether

eon

eon on December 9, 2013 at 2:57 PM

If we get a non-progressive majority in both houses and a non-progressive POTUS, the first thing on the agenda should be ATFE’s abolishment. Send its “Alcohol” and “Tobacco” functions to the Food and Drug Administration

eon on December 9, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Yes! Funny that it seems to be the liberals now that are big fans of the ATF.

The libs probably love the “tobacco” aspect (and firearms part), as they got it in mind to forcibly ban tobacco. That of course would be a disaster worse that the inane drug war. Look what’s happened in Australia as the self-righteous know-it-alls over there decided to mandate extremely graphic pukesome tobacco packaging and sky high taxes ($16 a pack). Now counterfeit brands (as “Marlbolo”) with undisgusting packaging are being smuggled in by the boatload, and despite the revolting tactics tobacco use has not dropped: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/plain-brown-package_769625.html?nopager=1#r.

anotherJoe on December 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Another out-of-control part of the OBOZO regime….
…BIG GOVERNMENT, like a fish, ROTS from the head down.

TeaPartyNation on December 9, 2013 at 3:17 PM

When compared to Fast & Furious an unimpressed Janet Reno scoffed:

“I killed over ten times that many in a afternoon.”

viking01 on December 9, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Hardly.

F&F was directly responsible for over 300 deaths of Mexican nationals and a US Border Patrolman and an ICE agent.

Waco only took down 80-some.

Solaratov on December 9, 2013 at 3:26 PM

ATF Should be a STORE.

It also should be eliminated as a federal enforcement agency. Its unnecessary, bloated and serves no purpose.

TX-96 on December 9, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Whatever you do, don’t mention Waco…

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

(Much better done! No sarc tag necessary. ;) )

portlandon on December 9, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Hah! True.

GWB on December 9, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Keep in mind that this is how a lot of “terrorism” cases are built, too. The FBI or whomever gets a CI or undercover agent to befriend some sad-sack loser or dull-witted oaf and spends the next year or two convincing and cajoling them into signing onboard with some crazy scheme to buy guided missiles or whatever.

CTD on December 9, 2013 at 3:40 PM

It seems the ATF is an agency looking for a mission: Alcohol is legal, Tobacco is legal, Firearms are legal, and embedded into the Constitution.

The ATF? No real mission except to cause mischief.

Maybe the ATF should be investigating those evil eCigarettes.

Dasher on December 9, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Johnnyreb on December 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

You forgot the Excise Taxes on firearms and ammunition, which is a considerable amount with today’s sales.

Another Drew on December 9, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Dasher on December 9, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Maybe the ATF should be investigating their navels….
but they would have to up their game.

Another Drew on December 9, 2013 at 3:48 PM

Unfortunately for the defendants, while the NSA had been eavesdropping on all the communications of the ATF’s sting operations, the NSA analysts were laughing so hard they spilled coffee and soda on the keyboard and computer and ruined the data. That’s just a rumor, of course.

STL_Vet on December 9, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Can we get rid of ATF now?

Dusty on December 9, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Whatever you do, don’t mention Waco…

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

(Much better done! No sarc tag necessary. ;) )

GWB on December 9, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Not bad for a sub-50 IQ anyway.

jdpaz on December 9, 2013 at 4:25 PM

The BATFE is slowly turning into the convenience store it should have been in the first place.

ajacksonian on December 9, 2013 at 4:45 PM

And two, for legal eagles: How is there no entrapment in any of this?

Although I find it highly unlikely that the Feds will succeed with their argument given the diminished capacity of these individuals, I guess the argument is that these individuals were predisposed to commit the alleged crimes without the ATF’s inducement. If that subjective test is satisfied, entrapment cannot be used as a defense.

blammm on December 9, 2013 at 4:57 PM

The story on the Milwaukee sting op that went off the rails broke late last year, and the J-S smelled rats when the BATFE wouldn’t give them any straight answers. So they did some actual investigation and reporting, all to rare in modern “journalism”. Turned out the Milwaukee clusterf*ck was just the tip of the iceberg.

I have some personal experience with BATFE agents at gun shows. Trust me, dealers at shows know these tools are out there, and I have never known a dealer who was willing to risk his livelihood by making an illegal sale. A typical example: Old guy I knew sold black powder guns and unregulated antiques. He did a lot of shows. A particular agent tried repeatedly to get him to sell the only regulated firearm on his table, which he steadfastly refused to do without running the transaction through a dealer. This guy wasn’t even an FFL, he was a 70-something old guy whose antiques and black powder guns weren’t regulated. What would be the point of getting him, except to generate an arrest? His guns weren’t being used to rob 7-11s.

In fairness, I do know an FFL who I know has bought guns he had to know were likely to have been stolen. But he wouldn’t knowingly make an illegal sale, because that was too dangerous. And I knew one guy who posed as an FFL, but it turned out he was a convicted felon, and his wife held the FFL. But he dealt in very expensive English double-rifles and shotguns, not exactly the weapons used in street crimes. They did get him.

The BATFE is providing a lot of evidence to suggest it is the worst managed and most dangerous law enforcement agency in the federal government. Given the record of the DEA and yes the FBI, that is saying something.

We now have police and semi-military SWAT teams spread across many federal agencies. The Dept of Education has a SWAT team. It is an absolutely insane state of affairs, and it exemplifies how federal bureaucracies will metastasize far beyond their missions if they are permitted to do so. It is the inherent nature of bureaucracy, but this behavior is made massively worse by a political class intent on expanding their power by expanding the government.

All of these separate police agencies and police units need to be reviewed and either eliminated or rolled into a single federal police agency. There is simply no coherent reason for the DEA and the BATFE exist except as bureaus within the FBI. There is absolutely no reason for the Dept. of Education to have police, period, let alone a SWAT team. Aside from the National Parks Service, I don’t see why a single federal police agency is not sufficient.

And don’t get me started on DHS, the agency Obama is turning into the domestic army he said he intended to create.

We don’t have the money for this dangerous nonsense, in any case. Enough.

novaculus on December 9, 2013 at 5:02 PM

Of all the government activities I’ve read about recently this has to be the most despicable. What’s even worse is that I don’t believe anyone will be held accountable. We are becoming a third world lawless country.

scalleywag on December 9, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Yeah, I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out wtf the Dept of Education, The Social Security Admin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin and the Federal Reserve needs with ARMED units.

Hell, the TSA put a order in for 700lbs of High Explosive Grade Ammonium Nitrate and 700lbs of RDX Plastic Explosives. Wanna hazard a guess what that’s for? Not to mention what does the Department of Homeland Security intend to do with 176,000 rounds of
M852 .308 Boat-Tail Hollow-Point (BTHP) Sniper Ammunition??? 176K rounds?

Renee on December 9, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Renee on December 9, 2013 at 5:38 PM

See you got a lot of responses to your query. You’ll get few real answers on uncomfortable questions like that. Folks like to feel safe and above the fray.

I’ll tell you what all that stuff is for. It’s for any U.S. Citizen that tries to get cute with the Federal government and doesn’t want to live the rest of their lives as slaves in a Fascist Corporatist/Marxist state.

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 9, 2013 at 8:58 PM

Allah,

I agree that entrapment seems highly likely in most of the arrests, which is why the article says that about 1/3 of the arrests led to no jail time or dismissed cases.

Our system is designed to force plea bargains, even if you are innocent or have a valid defense such as entrapment. The judge and defense lawyer will tell the defendant that they are taking an awful risk going to trial, in case the jury doesn’t like them (and the truth is that juries often decide based on how they feel about the defendant instead of strictly looking at the evidence), so the message is: as long as you can live with the deal being offered, just take it and avoid the time, expense, and risk of trial. Most people will cave to the pressure and take a deal even in circumstances like these.

Remember many of these defendants were poor. They probably didn’t have good lawyers. The US Public Defender has very good attorneys, but they are overworked and don’t have the time to take every case to trial. Poor people don’t think the system is fair anyway, so they are a lot less likely to feel offended by these tactics, and instead they usually think this kind of operation confirms how they already felt about the government. They think the system is crooked, and rigged against them, so they take what they can get.

kaltes on December 9, 2013 at 10:24 PM

Poor people don’t think the system is fair anyway, so they are a lot less likely to feel offended by these tactics, and instead they usually think this kind of operation confirms how they already felt about the government. They think the system is crooked, and rigged against them, so they take what they can get.

The problem is, the way poor people think about the system is now correct. We have come to the point where our government has become so large and corrupt that from now on there will only be two types of people, those that are abusing the system and those that are being abused by the system.

Wallythedog on December 10, 2013 at 2:29 PM