Drain the Swamp!
Nelson Pryor, Guest Columnist
The cowboys are out of control, again. The government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) has not learned a thing.
Remember the 2011 Fast and Furious operation of BATF in which agents set up a sting program of “gun traffickers” buying weapons and shipping them to Mexico? In their effort to replecate the underground sale of illegal weapons, BATF botched their gun-tracking operation, and got an agent killed.
In a major investigative report, the February 23, 2017 New York Times, page one ran: “Shadowy Cigarette Sales Put Millions Into a Secret A.T.F. Bank Account.”
The Swiss psychiatist Hermann Rorschach, acclaimed for his study of inkblots, might have enjoyed doing some field work at the BATF. Just how grave the problem is depends, as with inkblots, on one’s perspective.
The racket worked this way: The BATF gave agents an off-the-books way to finance undercover investigations and pay informants without the usual cumbersome paperwork and close oversight.
2011 was a busy year
Working from an office suite behind a fast food store in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Their 2011 job: Catch cigarette smugglers, so ingratiate yourself to know exactly how it’s done!
So BATF got caught, in 2011, in gun running. And now the New York Times says, in 2011, BATF started smuggling cigarettes.
Mr. Moore, manager of the warehouse, the scene of the shell corporation being used by the government as the holding company, saw stuff, “with my own eyes.” Even knowing that this was a BATF operation, he became troubled as he learned more. “It shouldn’t be going on, even if it is the BATF.”
A farmer’s tobacco cooperative, sold their legal products, unknowingly, through a company with secret ties to the BATF. Mr. Moore, the warehouse manager, said agents often told him what to buy on the company’s credit card. For instance, he recalled, spending tens of thousands of dollars at Best Buy on ipads, TVs and other gifts to curry favor and set up criminal targets.
The basics of cigarette smuggling are simple. Each State sets its tobacco taxes. Buying cigarettes in low-tax States, like Virginia, and secretly transporting and selling them in higher-tax States, like New York, generates large profits.
BATF agents try to discover and disrupt those who are working the tax angle. Often, that means working with informants to buy and sell tobacco on the black market; much the way agents pose as drug dealers to investigate cartels. The slush fund is used as bait, as well as a bottomless resource for off the books funding for the home projects of individual agents.
Controversy Consumes BATF
Is it any wonder that citizen’s question who the government works for? Trust? It’s broken! The bureaucrat’s dream is turning out to be an American nightmare!