ATF Under Investigation For Undercover Storefront Stings

AKA watching the watchers….

Just as America’s premier gun-policing agency began to crawl out from under the embarrassment of Operation Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is again under fire — this time for tactical mistakes tied to a separate program designed to get crime guns off the street.

“To say the operation was extremely flawed would be a vast understatement,” Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner told a House Judiciary subcommittee last week.

Operation Fearless, as it was called, was a multi-city program through which ATF opened roughly 37 pawn shops and storefronts around the country, often in or near gang areas, with the purpose of attracting felons and criminals to unknowingly sell their crime guns to the government. Agents would then trace the weapons to determine their source and use forensics to tie the guns to homicides.

Problem is, some storefronts opened across from schools and churches, against policy. Agents attracted juveniles with free video games and alcohol. In one case, the agency paid two informants, one mentally deficient, to get tattoos on their neck of a squid smoking a joint to promote the store. Taxpayers later paid to remove the tattoos.

“It certainly was the Keystone Cops in operation,” Sensenbrenner said. “It was an abysmal failure that put on the street a stolen, fully automatic M-4 rifle as well as other stolen firearms.”

The program is now being investigated by two House subcommittees and the Justice Department inspector general’s office. But ATF agents defend the program, saying lawmakers overstate the problem and have no idea what goes into an undercover sting operation.

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