It’s like a tragedy of errors over at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives these days. The agency’s supervision continues to be frightfully incompetent.
This is the agency whose history includes Ruby Ridge, Waco and Fast and Furious. This is the agency that will have a larger role in enforcement and regulation under President Obama’s new gun control push. This is the agency that’s been without a permanent director for six years, and which will be led, if Obama has his way, by acting director B. Todd Jones, a nomination U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa called a “slap in the face” to the family of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry because of his incompetence.
And now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported yet another ATF debacle called “Fearless Distributing” on Wednesday. In fact, the case was such a mess, members of Congress are demanding Jones give them a briefing on it.
The Journal Sentinel investigation detailed a 10-month “storefront sting” by the ATF’s Violent Crime Impact Team in Milwaukee, Wisc., that was “marred by a series of mistakes and failures.” During the case, guns were stolen out of an agent’s vehicle, a fictitious storefront ATF set up and called Fearless Distributing was robbed of $35,000 worth of merchandise, three people were wrongly charged, and ultimately, only low-level criminals were arrested on drug and gun possession charges. A document with undercover agents’ names and phone numbers was also left in the store, and the building’s owner said he is owed $15,000 in damages to his property. The newspaper published an eight-page, in-depth article on the operation Wednesday.
According to the Sentinel, both state and federal lawmakers were quick to call on ATF officials for an explanation of the botched operation. On Thursday, a letter to Jones demanding answers was signed by Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations; U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and U.S. Rep. Robert Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“Given its history over the past 20 years, ATF is not an agency that Congress can trust regarding out-of-the-box or novel investigative techniques,” the congressmen wrote. “Such management controls and rigorous oversight plans appear to have been absent during the botched Fearless Distributing case. Although not surprising, it is unacceptable.”
I agree the screw-up is not surprising given ATF’s history. But I’m alarmed that ATF will have greater responsibilities in enforcing any new gun laws the Obama administration is able to pass.
I also find it incredible that Obama nominated Jones to be ATF’s permanent director given his record of incompetence in Fast and Furious. In their letter, the four congressmen slammed Jones for his failed leadership and raised questions on whether he’ll ultimately be confirmed by the Senate:
In light of these reports, we remain extremely concerned about your ability to manage ATF. ATF needs strong leadership from its director and senior management. If these reports are accurate, your ability to provide this leadership is in serious doubt. You promised to ‘hit the reset button’ when you became acting director. Instead, it appears as though you have hit the ‘repeat’ button, as the Fearless Distributing sting was created and conducted entirely under your stewardship.
More than six years have passed since a DOJ OIG report indicated there was ‘ineffective oversight’ of the Violent Crime Impact Teams. You have had seventeen months to right the ship at ATF, yet reports about the Fearless Distributing operation indicate that this ‘ineffective oversight’ has continued during your tenure.
Read more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.