"And I require the ATF to pay for the removal"
December 8, 2013 7:40 PM   Subscribe

28 year old Chauncey Wright, brain damaged, with an IQ in the 50s, had trouble holding a job. Seeing some men handing out flyers at a Walmart parking lot, Wright asked if they needed a helper. Soon, Wright found himself handing out flyers on his bike, eventually procuring drugs and firearms for his employers. And inidicted on several drug and gun charges after finding out his employers were undercover ATF officers running a sting operation in a curious Milwaukee storefront. During which the storefront was burgled, damaged, the owner stiffed on repair costs, and several guns stolen from ATF vehicles, including a machine gun that has yet to be recovered. This wasn't an isolated incident.

From Portland to Pensacola, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finds that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives repeated several sting operations across the country with very similar tactics: recruit suggestible, mentally disabled people in the pursuit of their law enforcement mission, opening dodgy storefronts in safe zones near churches and schools, lure underage kids with video games, alcohol and marijuana, letting felons walk away with firearms, dealing in stolen goods, shoddy law enforcement, and overall ethically questionable behavior.
posted by 2N2222 (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Between this and the Fast & Furious fiasco, how are they still an agency?
posted by indubitable at 7:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Jesus, ATF, it's like you're planning your missions in order to provide FOX with months of programming options.
posted by dhartung at 8:02 PM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

Ugh, when did 'anything goes' become this century's motto?
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:05 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by oneswellfoop at 8:11 PM on December 8, 2013 [19 favorites]

"Between this and the Fast & Furious fiasco, how are they still an agency?"

Beats the shit out of me. It seems like they're trying hard to be as incompetent as they can possibly be... but as a federal agency it's pretty certain that no matter how incompetent they are, nothing is going to be done - and the head will probably get a promotion.
posted by JB71 at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

What an unbelievable waste of time and money.
posted by snarfles at 8:17 PM on December 8, 2013

Also I've been very impressed with JS's investigative journalism recently. Thanks for posting.
posted by snarfles at 8:19 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

They sound a bit like a criminal organisation. Do they have a gang colour or patch?
posted by awfurby at 8:19 PM on December 8, 2013

Tough on crime!
posted by bleep at 8:31 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd like to say that I'm shocked. However, shameless behaviour by the ATF does seem to be in their SOP.
posted by arcticseal at 8:47 PM on December 8, 2013

Have the ATF ever been successful and anything, or is cack-handedness their MO?
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 9:06 PM on December 8, 2013

Given that the ATF has its origins in the Bureau of Prohibition, I think it's fair to say that, no, success is really not their strong suit.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:45 PM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think they should narrow their scope because Whiskey Tobacco and Firearms would make for a more appropriate acronym.
posted by aubilenon at 9:48 PM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

I wasn't sure just what a 50 IQ meant, so I went and looked that up. Many people with Down's have IQ's higher than that. I can't believe that the ATF wasn't well aware of his disability. Even if the ATF is assumed to be utterly amoral, what possible sense can his prosecution make?
posted by tyllwin at 9:48 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Season six of The Wire just seems to write itself every day.
posted by buzzman at 10:36 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

This isn't the Nth time the ATF has made the news for being really dumb -- before the Waco siege ATF agents tried to stake out the Branch Davidian compound by pretending to be college students...

"Their cover was noticeably poor (the "college students" were in their 30s, had new cars, were not registered at the local schools, and did not keep a schedule which would have fit any legitimate employment or classes)."

You might think it's a bad feature of the federal government that it collects such reckless, violent morons, but I think a lot of these guys will be reckless, violent morons no matter where they work. But if these assholes work for the federal government, at least in theory there's an adult in charge. In theory.
posted by serif at 10:40 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

So creating criminals is preferable to catching existing ones? Sigh.
posted by luckynerd at 10:51 PM on December 8, 2013

Gotta make the numbers.
posted by Artw at 10:56 PM on December 8, 2013

Aren't all the FBI's terrorism convictions pretty similar? Albeit not actually with 50 IQs.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:24 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Law enforcement is America's new Black Hand. Unopposable humiliating thuggery. Oh, wait: they're heroes.
posted by umberto at 11:25 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Taking advantage of the brain damaged to prop up their seeming need to exist and then turning on the disabled and indicting them??!?!?

I swear to shit, if I didn't believe in karma coming for people like this, I'd never be able to remain a US citizen. I mean, what the literal fuck. Am I reading this wrong?
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:24 AM on December 9, 2013

"...and overall ethically questionable behavior."

Point of Order!
There is nothing about this or a great many other ATF actions that is "ethically questionable;" the words you're probably searching for are "ethically contemptuous" or perhaps "ethically bankrupt."
posted by mystyk at 3:26 AM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Fast and Furious is fine. This is just dumb.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:25 AM on December 9, 2013

I think we can all agree on the fact that the ATF is outdated and out of control. However, it's important to note that the ATF is a branch of the DOJ, and as such requires what is essentially an act of Congress to change direction.

Using very rough estimates, about 50% of Congress is more than happy to let the DOJ screw themselves because it's great campaign fodder when it comes time for reelection. And nobody on the other side of the aisle wants to limit the DOJ for fear of being labeled "weak on crime".

So people begin to distrust the government, and don't show up at the polls because why bother, it's not like your elected official is going to do anything anyway.

This is some seventh level spiral shit right here.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:25 AM on December 9, 2013

I read an article a while back that claimed that the ATF's ineptitude is by design. Basically, the fear of doing anything that might piss off the gun lobby (for example, tracking guns and gun purchases) has resulted in bizarre rules that have hamstrung them and made it nearly impossible to actually perform their job. As with most government agencies the right wing hates, the tactic seems to be to saddle them with onerous rules, prevent them from having a workable budget, block appointments to key positions within the organization, and then point out how inefficient they are and push for their removal.
posted by Legomancer at 6:51 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

The ATF has other jobs besides regulating firearms, which aren't especially controversial, and it also seems to be remarkably bad at. I'm not sure this can be blamed on LOLREPUBLICANS.

There seems to be some very serious institutional dysfunction coupled with a gaping disrespect for the lives of bystanders or others who just happen to blunder into their "investigations", which seems indefensible.

As an agency, it should probably just be liquidated and its duties rolled into the FBI.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:09 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure this can be blamed on LOLREPUBLICANS.

If only it were as simple as that. But you have to admit that being in bed with the organization that the ATF is responsible for regulating should bear some additional scrutiny.

I mean, both branches own some responsibility and I'm not about to let anybody off the hook, but the GOPs strategies and history regarding EXACTLY what Legomancer stated are a pretty good indicator of why the ATF is failing at the organizational level.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:20 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is the article to which I referred in my previous comment.
posted by Legomancer at 8:03 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Police Arrest Multiple Special Needs High School Students in Highly Unethical Drug Sting
posted by jeffburdges at 2:03 PM on December 9, 2013

Kadin2048 I'm not sure this can be blamed on LOLREPUBLICANS.

Senate confirms ATF director for first time since 2006
"The ATF has been without a full-time director since 2006, when the NRA lobbied Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis), then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to insert a provision into the Patriot Act reauthoization to changed the position of ATF director from one appointed by the administration to one confirmed by the Senate."

ATF nominee is trapped in D.C. crossfire
Sullivan, a U.S. attorney from Massachusetts, was appointed by Bush to head the ATF nearly a year ago, making him one of the president's longer-serving stalled nominees. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination in November, but the next month three Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver to put his confirmation on ice.

The opposition, led by gun-rights champions including Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), is part of a long dispute between the ATF and gun dealers. The lawmakers think the agency has been overzealous in enforcing requirements that dealers keep detailed gun-sale records.

This is also interesting reading:

ATF's oversight limited in face of gun lobby
"The ATF is supposed to regulate the gun industry, but many within the bureau say it is the industry that dominates the agency. Unlike the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service or the U.S. Marshals, the ATF must contend with a powerful lobby that watches its every move and fights its attempts to gain resources and regulatory power. "
posted by mlis at 9:29 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

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