This past week, on This American Life, the first 20 minutes or so are the incredible story of just how screwed up the ATF continues to be (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Much of this has been reported on over the past year and a half by reporters in Milwaukee (and investigated by Congress), but it’s absolutely worth listening to the details — which you can do over on the This American Life page The story is all kinds of stunning, including the insane fact that most of the details came out, and the reporters only began their investigation, because some undercover ATF agents in Milwaukee had trashed the property they were renting, and refused to pay the rent or damages to the landlord — even threatening the landlord, claiming he was harassing federal agents by asking for the rent:
John Diedrich: I get a call. And it was from a landlord, a guy named Dave Salkin. And Dave Salkin owns this place that he, unbeknownst to him, rented to the ATF. Didn’t know who they were, they were undercover agents. And they had trashed his place, and they were behind on rent. They had threatened him. And I said, where are you, I’m coming right now.
Ira Glass: While they were undercover, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives basically ripped up his place. Salkin said at the time that they owed $15,000 in damages and back rent. Later he said it was more. When he tried to collect, they didn’t pay up. In fact, an ATF lawyer warned him that if he kept asking for the money, it could be seen as harassing federal agents.
The ATF’s M.O. was to open some sort of store, be it a pawn shop or a tattoo parlor, in a poor neighborhood and then try to bait the locals into committing drug or gun crimes. If some of those locals were handicapped, hey — that just makes reaching the monthly quota of guilty pleas and convictions easier.