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Washington Times Editorial: ATF Breaks Law to Enforce It

By Washington Times
Editorial Board

When President Obama rewrote inconvenient parts of his very own Obamacare law, he undermined more than health care. The attitude of “we can do what we want” trickles down to the lowliest federal agencies. That’s what several federal judges are saying about the schemes of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The ATF is the Rodney Dangerfield of law enforcement; among its peers it “don’t get no respect.” So the agency devises creative ways of proving itself, if only to itself. For example, ATF agents posing as cocaine couriers in poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Los Angeles boasted of big plans to steal the narcotics they were supposed to deliver. They did this to goad “small-time crooks” into joining a high stakes fake “stash house” raid to obtain fake cocaine. The hoods would then be arrested.

Agents are allowed to infiltrate a criminal enterprise, but this sting constituted what a federal judge called an outrageous fishing expedition. “In these stash-house cases,” said U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, “the Government’s ‘participation in the offense conduct’ is what makes them particularly repugnant to the Constitution. Everything about the scheme — and therefore almost everything bearing upon a defendant’s ultimate sentence — hinges solely on the Government’s whim.”

Threatened with stiff drug penalties, few perps challenge the charges, and federal prosecutors add easy convictions to their trophies. No drugs were taken off the street. “That’s the problem with creating crime,” observed Judge Wright, “the Government is not making the country any safer or reducing the actual flow of drugs.” The judge dismissed all charges against defendants, saying: “The time has come to remind the Executive Branch that the Constitution charges it with law enforcement — not crime creation.”

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