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Lawmakers finally subpoena ATF for documents in misconduct probe

by: jim kouri | published: 03 30, 2014

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U.S. House of Representatives' lawmakers on Wednesday evening subpoenaed the scandal-prone Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for "any and all documents" related to that agency's alleged misconduct in a national undercover operation including its activities in Operation Fearless Distributing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the current chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent ATF's director the committee's subpoena because of the ATF’s lack of transparency in its nationwide storefront sting operations and its alleged stonewalling of a probe into accusations of misconduct and abuse by the agency responsible for enforcing federal gun laws.

According to the subpoena's cover letter and news reports, agents with the ATF carried out storefront sting operations throughout the country and allegedly "utilized deplorable tactics including exploiting mentally disabled individuals to generate business and later arresting them, setting up storefronts near schools, and even losing high-powered firearms.

“After more than a year of promised cooperation, multiple letters to you, and several unfulfilled document requests, I have no choice today but to issue the enclosed subpoena to compel the production of documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation,” Chairman Issa wrote in his cover letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones.

According to Rep. Issa and GOP members of his committee, the congressmen first heard about Operation Fearless Distributing, a storefront operation in Milwaukee, Wisc., from media reports in January 2013.

The operation is believed to be a result of President Barack Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's desire to control ownership of firearms and ammunition by American citizens, according to an Examiner news story.

News reports shed a bright light on the accusation that the far-reaching Operation Fearless was poorly managed. For example, there is evidence that close to $40,000 in merchandise and three guns were stolen from ATF agents during the operation. The stolen items shockingly included a fully-automatic rifle.

ATF officials, after stonewalling a House probe for months, finally briefed congressional staffers claiming that storefront operations were limited to only the city of Milwaukee. But it was soon discovered that the ATF officials were being deceptive and in fact used storefront stings in other U.S. cities.

According to Issa, the ATF agents even manipulated a mentally disabled man to work at their storefront.

The Oversight Committee's subpoena orders ATF officials to provide videos, audiotapes, written reports, emails and other communications regarding Operation Fearless Distributing, as well as the Monitored Case Program. It also requires that ATF to provide operational plans and investigative reports for the undercover storefronts throughout the U.S. Issa also required the ATF to turnover the agency's policies for undercover storefront operations.

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