The BATFE’s Other Operation: Slow & Stupid

When U.S. Attorney James Santelle defended a recent BATFE “sting” operation, he told the reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they had put away some people who were “a threat to the community.” As far as I can tell, he did so without any sense of irony.

But the actual community where the BATFE “sting” operation took place, feel differently:

“The ATF has run storefront stings in other cities, holding news conferences trumpeting results and showing off the guns and drugs seized. In Milwaukee, the operation has been kept quiet. Residents of the area, tucked between N. Humboldt Blvd. and the Milwaukee River, are angry the ATF secretly drew drug dealers and gun-toting felons to their neighborhood, which is rallying to improve.”

This sounds similar in a way to “sting operations” we read about the FBI executing. Instead of catching real terrorists, they find people to make into terrorist. Here, the BATFE goes into a community to clean it up and manages to import criminals into the area who wouldn’t otherwise be there.

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The BATFE posed as a company, Fearless Distributing (I suppose “Furious Distributing” would have been too obvious), in order to offer to buy guns and drugs and then eventually arrest the people who sold to them. They didn’t just pretend to the bad guys. They also pretended to a landlord who selected them over a church group because they said they could pay well. But that’s not what happened. The agency “remains locked in a battle with the building’s owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet.”

Of course, being “locked in a battle” with the BATFE is not a pleasant situation since they have resources that you and I would not have available if we trashed a rental.

“The ATF has balked, saying there was less than $3,200 in damage and telling Salkin [the landlord] to return the security deposit. They told him to file a claim with the federal government and warned him to stop contacting them. In an email to Salkin, ATF attorney Patricia Cangemi wrote, ‘If you continue to contact the Agents after being so advised your contacts may be construed as harassment under the law. Threats or harassment of a Federal Agent is of grave concern. Utilizing the telephone or a computer to perpetrate threats or harassment is also a serious matter.’”

I don’t have space to list the operations failures or describe its anemic successes, but I have to mention one thing that will remind us of Fast And Furious. Even though there was nothing in the mission statement about giving criminals guns, somehow the BATFE managed to put a machine gun into the hands of criminals.

“As the gun and drug buys continued, the operation went awry. In September, an agent parked his Ford Explorer at the Alterra on N. Humboldt Blvd., about a half mile away, with three ATF guns stored in a metal box in the back. About 3 p.m. Sept. 13, an Alterra employee spotted three men breaking into the Explorer. They stole three guns: a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun, a Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistol and an M-4 .223-caliber fully automatic rifle. They also made off with ammunition and an ATF radio, according to a police report. It does not appear from the reports that the agent was at Alterra at the time of the break-in.”

The Sig was “recovered” because it was actually sold back to the fake company. But the fully-automatic M-4 is still at large.

Let’s hope they don’t recover it at the scene of a homicide.

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