ATF’s Nationwide Storefront Stings Exposed

Landlord David Salkin inspects property damage caused by undercover ATF sting, without compensation (courtesy tracesofreality.com)
John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the [Milwaukee] Journal Sentinel start their investigative report on the ATF’s storefront sting program with a story that had my blood boiling but good, fueling my borderline hatred for the entirely superfluous band of arrogant fascists manning the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Check it out . . .

Aaron Key wasn’t sure he wanted a tattoo on his neck. Especially one of a giant squid smoking a joint.

But the guys running Squid’s Smoke Shop in Portland, Ore., convinced him: It would be a perfect way to promote their store.

They would even pay him and a friend $150 apiece if they agreed to turn their bodies into walking billboards.

Key, who is mentally disabled, was swayed.

He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid’s. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, “Squid,” and the store clerks.

So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.

It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid’s were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.

The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.

The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.

What kind of monsters would entice innocent (or even not-so-innocent) youth into a government-sponsored criminal enterprise, convince them to permanently disfigure their bodies, expose them to danger and then destroy their lives in return?

The same bastards who blackmailed gun dealers into selling firearms to Mexican drug thugs, who used them to murder U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who had a Border Station named after him for his trouble.

OK, so, it gets worse. A lot worse.

Earlier this year when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed a botched ATF sting in Milwaukee — that included agents hiring a brain-damaged man to promote an undercover storefront and then arresting him forhis work — ATF officials told Congress the failed Milwaukee operation was an isolated case of inadequate supervision.

It wasn’t . . .

The Journal Sentinel reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports and other documents and interviewed dozens of people involved in six ATF operations nationwide that were publicly praised by the ATF in recent years for nabbing violent criminals and making cities safer.

Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employed rogue tactics similar to those used in Milwaukee in every operation, from Portland, Ore., to Pensacola, Fla.

The story goes on to detail other agents’ heinous tactics at other stings, also involving mentally challenged citizens. Damage to property without compensation (as above)? Check. Entrapment? Nothing but. Like convincing a rube to saw off a shotgun and then bring it back. The ATF also offered “sky-high” prices for gun, creating a black market for stolen guns. I repeat: they created crime so they could punish those involved. How many innocent people were victimized as a result?

The Journal’s report is comprehensive and damning in the extreme. The ATF is saying nothing about any of it. In fact, they’re refusing to release any information about their storefront operations.

The bottom line is clear: the ATF is a profoundly, fundamentally corrupt government agency that routinely breaks the law and endangers public safety. It should be disbanded immediately and its responsibilities reassigned to the FBI.

comments

  1. avatar Robert Seddon says:

    And I thought that AFT was a convenience store .. ????

    1. avatar John S. says:

      Only if you are a Mexican cartel looking for guns…

  2. avatar ST says:

    Correction.

    The ATF isnt a rogue agency, because their very mandate is criminal.

    As such they have no responsibilities to be delegated .Gun trafficking is an economic problem, not a criminal one.If anti gun states ceased their futile efforts at blocking gun sakes, there would be no black market to attract criminals to begin with.

    1. avatar Salty Bear says:

      This. If we disbanded the Italian Mafia we wouldn’t delegate their activities. Why the ATF?

    2. avatar 811B says:

      Actually, there is NO reason for an “ATF” -type organization, the oversight of weapons or energetic materials doesn’t take a great deal of man-power.
      The REASON it exists at all is that it had a top-grade lab at a time when the FBI was controlled by Hoover & THEIR lab (a very fine one also) was tough for both local & state LE agencies to use.
      NOW the US has several LE organizations it really doesn’t need (ATF and the DEA). The ATF has become an “extension lab” for the FBI & the DEA is a (rather small scale) intelligence agency that can get places where the D.O. of C.I. can’t get on the ground.
      But in the future SOMEONE will have to make some strong decisions because we really can’t afford all this Fed-LE crap. The FBI can take over ATF’s nice lab & record stuff & Homeland can do the DEA’s intel: it’s like firearms meant for real world use. You don’t need “tactical” this & that: you need something that goes “bang” & doesn’t break.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        I agree. Except the FBI lab has been mired in political BS for decades now, and is no longer a world-class crime lab, but a politically-motivated, world-class lousy lab.

  3. avatar Robert Seddon says:

    And what sir, makes you think that the FBI is any more honorable? Being lead and started by a guy in a trenchcoat and a bra and panties??

    1. avatar Jandrews says:

      Heh, good on you.

      Hoover was an entertaining, if unusual, character.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        Hoover was a monster, in bed completely with organized crime, which, of course, he denied the existence of for his entire career!

    2. avatar gloomhound says:

      What difference does it make what Hoover wore? If you want to discus the FBI’s track record fine, but a man’s private life should be private.

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        Because a man who clearly had secrets to keep based an entire organization and his HUGE power structure on finding out secrets about other people and then holding them over those people’s heads. If he wanted something out of a particular legislator, all he had to do was consult the files for pictures of that legislator running around with the maid.

        The next argument would be that the legislator shouldn’t have gone after the strange if he didn’t want to get caught. The problem is that Hoover used the instruments of state and the power of his federal agency to collect that information, and then used it for reasons both personal and political.

        1. avatar Jozan says:

          All of that nonsense comes from one source, Truman Capote. Do you really think Truman Capote trying to make people laugh at a party is that reputable?

      2. avatar William Burke says:

        A gay-baiting homosexual? There was no honor in Jedgar Hoover, who ruled the nation via political blackmail. He belonged in the MKVD, but they were too good for him!

    3. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Because they have adult leadership and a longer track record?

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Starting when? A coven of ivy league lawyers is just a bunch of slimy shysters..

    4. avatar William Burke says:

      Right, and anyway, it’s been the FBI that pioneered this setting-up of mentally-defective “terrorists”. Give credit where due, Robert.

    5. avatar Rick says:

      All that Hoover cross-dressing junk was simply a fabrication in a single book, by someone who wrote only about JFK conspiracies. Look it up. It was then pushed by the KGB (as shown by their own leaked archives) and it stuck. Have to hand it to the Russians, they play the game well..here you are repeating it many decades later.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        That’s the funniest shit I’ve read all week. Keep drinking the Kool-Ade.

  4. avatar RKBA says:

    There are many agencies that need immediate disbanding….

    1. avatar LongBeach says:

      Yes. At this point I think it would be easier to focus on the few agencies we should keep around.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        NOW you’re talking!

      2. avatar ShaunL says:

        Like the TSA right???? We GOTTA keep them…lol.

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          And DARPA, a coterie of madmen intent on world conquest via killer robots!

  5. avatar Chris Mallory says:

    Not much different than what the FeeBI does in it’s “terrorism” stings. Find some borderline retarded malcontents. Offer them money, weapons, gear that they couldn’t ever hope to get on their own. Have your snitch make incriminating comments and plan “terror” attacks. Swoop in and arrest the whole group on conspiracy charges. PROFIT!

    1. avatar Arthur Tilges says:

      If I remember correctly the FBI was doing the same thing back in the 70’s with counterfeiting. Selling people all the equipment they needed to print phony bills, then arresting them for having it. Some things never change.

    2. avatar Kyle says:

      There is a big difference between wanting to buy or sell a couple of guns and wanting to plan a terrorism attack. One is exercising your constitutional second amendment right. The other is treason. I have no pity for the people caught up in the FBIs stings. If you actually go along with accepting weapons, money, etc, then you are just as guilty as the person who goes all the way.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        Your “terrorists” have invariably been young retarded men, mostly black, who would have utterly incapable of launching ANY kind of terrorist act on their own. But the FBI, eager to demonstrate their own dubious worth, TALKS these young retards into the act, then supplies the explosives. It is at that point they are arrested and paraded in front of the world. They’re arrested then because they are incapable, mentally, of actually carrying out the act they were goaded into agreeing to.

        Is THAT what you’d call “catching terrorists”? Hmmmm?

        1. avatar kyle says:

          Some white boys with a pressure cooker managed to attack people.Thinking they are harmless retards is a naive view. Anybody with internet access can figure out how to make an extremely effective ied. James holmes was crazy, does that make him less of a domestic terrorist? If somebody is publicly expressing their desire to kill people in an attack, don’t you think the fbi should look into it?

        2. avatar William Burke says:

          Investigating a real threat and FRAMING some half-wits that had no original intention to commit a crime are two VERY different matters.

  6. avatar Viktyr Gehrig says:

    If the GOP candidate for President in 2016 runs on a platform of disbanding these lawless criminals, I’ll actually vote for him.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      I would vote for a Democrat – for the first time in my life – if one could credibly campaign against disbanding the multitude of federal alphabet soup agencies. Sadly, I don’t think we have many D’s or R’s or I’s who would either campaign in such a manner or have any hope of being elected.

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        Here’s the unfortunate thing about having a president that many people , especially Obama, seem to forget: He is not an all-powerful monarch/dictator/autocrat. He does not have the POWER to disband those agencies, that belongs to Congress. The president has a “bully pulpit” to advocate for those things and he has the power of Executive Orders to regulate those agencies, up to a point, but to disband them entirely rather than just regulate them to death requires Congress to either pass legislation to merge or disband them or to refuse to fund their budgets.

        If BATFE were to be merged with FBI I would support this if part of the legislation mandated that the BATFE agents so displaced were either indicted or forever forbidden to work in any capacity for the FBI.

        As for consolidating other government agencies this would have to be looked at on a case by case basis since the last thing we would want is to create any single agency with too much power.

        Oh, if we are going to allow any government agency to compile and maintain and supervise a list of American citizens who are prohibited from exercising their Second Amendment rights then every person who is now or has ever worked for BATFE should be placed on that list.

    2. The GOP is not interested in disbanding the ATF. The republicans and NRA, who recently voted to allow anti-gun legislation to continue don’t care about the second amendment or your rights.

  7. avatar Taylor Tx says:

    Pretty much come to the conclusion that all federal LE is more or less unnecessary.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Actually more like varying degrees of incompetent and borderline criminal. Although I have met many Federal agents in my career that I would not have any reservations at all about standing in front of in the field.

  8. avatar DamDoc says:

    What would Dan Baum say?

  9. avatar Skyler says:

    Robert Farago criticizes other journalists of using an inverted pyramid for their articles.

    In other news, the pot called the kettle black.

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      I don’t see anywhere in the article where Robert says anything negative or critical about the journalists or the inverted pyramid technique.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        He didn’t. Quite the opposite, actually. Somebody’s not reading with comprehension!

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      See, what I don’t understand is that I don’t find the article in question used the inverted pyramid. The inverted pyramid starts with the “lead,” the “who, what, when, where, why” of the story. Whether that lead is contained in a dry recitation of events, or by couching it in some sort of “hook,” the idea is the same.

      This story started out with an anecdote, and didn’t get to the point until a half-dozen (or more) sentences in. That’s the exact opposite of the inverted pyramid, and it’s called “burying the lead.”

      Writing this story in a inverted pyramid style would have started off like this: “Two men were cajoled by agents of the ATF into getting permanent tattooed advertisements inked onto their necks as part of a sting operation to get guns and drugs off the streets of Portland. The advertisements were for Squid’s Smoke Shop, a store that only existed due to its creation by ATF agents in furtherance of the sting.”

      1. avatar JohnO says:

        Correct.
        JohnO
        Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Journalism, 1978.

        1. avatar JohnO says:

          The idea of the inverted pyramid is to list information in descending order of importance so that stories can be crudely hacked off to make “all the news that prints to fit,” while losing as little of importance as possible.

    3. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Oops. You guys are right. It’s not an inverted pyramid. Text amended.

  10. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Sounds like a good way to nab the lowest hanging fruit and make a big show of it.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      I never got a clear idea of what the “crime” was supposed to be.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    You have to admit that the ATF is getting better. They’ve gone from killing babies to smuggling guns to Mexican murderers to tattooing mental defectives, all in just twenty years. That’s progress!

  12. avatar Rydak says:

    Agreed completely.

  13. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    I’m on board with the next president disbanding most of the federal government for being ineffective, overreaching, underhanded wastes of money and abusers of power.

    In the meantime, I choose not to be a slacker dope head hanging out all day, playing video games, getting tatted up and tangled up in ridiculous harebrained schemes.

    It’s funny how little crap comes your way once you resolve to get your stuff together.

    1. avatar BillF says:

      “Key, who is mentally disabled, was swayed.”
      Maybe Key wasn’t a typical “slacker dopehead hanging out all day”. Maybe the ATF purposely exploited someone who was mentally deficient, weak, and easily led because in Key’s case it was easier to create a criminal than to actually catch one.

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        “Maybe the ATF purposely exploited someone who was mentally deficient, weak, and easily led …”

        This sounds like the BATFE recruitment policy, for agents.

    2. avatar JoshuaS says:

      The president couldn’t do that. If he tried he would be lawfully deposed and imprisoned.

      You might mean, I am on board with Congress doing X and it being signed by the president…

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        After the Bay of Pigs, JFK told those close to him that he wanted to “tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind.”

        He also told them he was going to disband the Fed, and cool relations with Israel. That last one he could have definitely have done.

      2. avatar ShaunL says:

        “The president couldn’t do that. If he tried he would be lawfully deposed and imprisoned.”

        Would sombody PLEASE tell the current potus that? It seems like “executive order” should be tattooed on Barrys neck to advertise the fake storefront that is his administration.

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          BACKWARDS, so he can see it when he’s gazing loving at his reflection in his vanity mirror-mirror-on-the-wall. What a vain MF.

  14. avatar Shauna says:

    In an article from 2011 on Oregon Live’s website (http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/03/fake_smoke_shop_in_ne_portland.html) the law enforcement officials proudly describe some of the “dangerous criminals” that were apprehended through their stroke of brilliance: a former member of the peace corps, a Burger King manager, a 51-year-old woman who was convicted of identity theft years ago, and a 20-year-old high school student. Those sound like truly dangerous scum of the streets, very relieved that they took care of that! Aren’t you?! Thank you, ATF, thank you. Can’t have peace corp and Burger King management running rampant through our communities. *chuckle* Besides, it’s certainly these types and not the mentally ill or bullied teenagers who end up shooting up schools and movie theaters, so our focus in this “sting” operation appears to be right on target! (pun intended.) Ugh.

    Also, politicians and anti-gunners trying to preach about how certain weapons are of a “terrorist” nature is just becoming embarrassing.

  15. Note that it is only legally ‘entrapment’ if the government agents coerce the persons into commuting a crime that they would not have committed if it were not for the coercion. The most famous case I can think of involved a women arrested for selling drugs to an undercover agent basically due to the fact that the agent badgered her and harassed her so much she decided to get her the drugs just to get her off her back.

    1. avatar 505markf says:

      Yes. the ATF has for years used prior arrest records as validation that no coercion existed in many such stings, even though the prior arrests may have been for completely different crimes. Example is a man with a prior arrest from fraud or drug possession that the ATF then convinces to help rob a stash house; the ATF contends – and mostly wins – on the theory that if the person is a criminal, then it is not coercion to get them to do a different crime.

      1. The state has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was predisposed to commit the crime. I have no doubt that travesties happen, but merely giving a person the opportunity and encouragement to commit a crime is NOT entrapment.

        Here is another case that explains it: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0503_0540_ZO.html

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          We’re talking about DIMWITS here! RETARDS!

          And then there are the guys they framed.

    2. avatar DaveL says:

      I think what we’re seeing here is a gray area, if not an outright loophole, to the entrapment laws. It seems to me the ATF is deliberately targeting people who can most easily be pushed into criminal behavior, due to some combination of poverty, drug addiction, and borderline mental retardation.

  16. avatar jimmyjames says:

    Never understood why “we” need specialty law enforcement agencies like ATF and in my state ALE. Why arent firearm and alcohol laws enforced like any other laws by the local and state po po’s? Seems like these agencies have a higher incident rate of scandals and going rogue.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Because their jurisdiction ends at the city, county, or state line, as applicable. The FBI was created to act on interstate crimes. The rest are just copycats.

      1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

        The FBI should be the first on the chopping block. There is no authorization for the Feds to have police powers.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          Maybe you’d like DHS better? With their billions of hollow point rounds and armored crotch grabbers? And dogs that are better trained than their handlers?

  17. avatar Jus Bill says:

    Congresscritters spammed.

    Put up or shut up.

  18. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    The ATF has been useless since the day it was founded.
    To collect (steal back) taxes and put mostly poor folk who were just doing what they had to survive and put food on their tables for their families.
    Id like to see one good example of the ATF doing any good for anyone anywhere.
    The most corrupt and useless quasi govt agency ever formed.
    Put it back under the FBI in a small office where it belongs.

    1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

      We need to disband the FBI as well.

    2. avatar Jus Bill says:

      And don’t allow any of the former agents to have guns or sharp objects.

  19. avatar MacBeth51 says:

    “It should be disbanded immediately and its responsibilities reassigned to the FBI”
    Do away with it, yes. But also do away with it’s duties. Or do you know of anything it does that isn’t a violation of the Constitution? Does it ever build any case without entrapment? And where is the Constitutional Authority for it or the FBI’s existence?

    1. avatar ZM 1306 says:

      If just to save one child!

      Or in the case of the ATF if they had never existed and these unconstitutional gun laws were never passed, waco and ruby ridge would not have happened saving ~23 children (less than 18 years of age)

      Also the uni-bomber was influenced by the events of ruby ridge so that may not have happened as well.

  20. avatar Archon says:

    ATF make the regular hoodlums seems like decent folk.

  21. avatar niceguns says:

    The entire Democratic communist Party needs to be disbanded.
    AS FAR A THE COUNTRY IS CONCERNED THE TEA PARTY IS THE ONLY WAY OR WE PERISH, AS FAR AS ETERNITY, JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY OR WE PERISH, THAT’S IT. NO OTHER WAY…

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      Do you have an autographed first edition of the Bible?

    2. avatar ShaunL says:

      For the “tea party” to gain enough momentum as a self sufficient political party will take years if not decades all the while threatening to undermine what I see as the lesser of two evils in our current two(2) party system. Like it or not(I do not) the Tea party along with the libertarian party are dwarfed by the D and R parties and may do more damage short term IF they try to stand alone by splitting the conservative(principle not political) voting block while leaving the liberal voting block intact.

      As for Jesus….. I’ll stay the hell outta that one.

      Bottom line….This sucks and I don’t think anyone has all the answers.

  22. avatar Jim Jones says:

    I’m so proud of the Journal Sentinel on this one. This is definitely not a very conservative newspaper. They have received numerous awards for their investigative journalism, and they seem to turn out at least one award-winning investigation per year, if not more. They’ve done work on shady daycares in the city stealing money from the state, the Milwaukee City pension system, and now this. Old fashioned journalism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_Journal_Sentinel#Awards

  23. avatar Nimda0815 says:

    I scanned all the comments (well enough I think) and I don’t see it mentioned anywhere what the guys were arrested for? Ugly tattoos? Squids smoking hand rolled cigarettes is illegal?

  24. avatar Pat says:

    ATF is evil.

    1. avatar ShaunL says:

      “THE” ATF may be evil but I have no problem with alcohol, tobacco or firearms themselves. It actually sounds like a pretty cool store.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        Ditto. Fine America traditions, each and every one.

  25. avatar Brian says:

    I say if all these idiots had guns and were eventually prosecuted then good for the ATF for taking some guns out of the hands of people who should not have had them in the first place!

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