The last time the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was caught up in scandal, its director faced accusations of lavish spending on his new office. Congress decided the Senate would confirm all future agency chiefs. That was five years ago, and nobody has been confirmed. Now, ATF is again under scrutiny, says the New York Times, this time over a gun-trafficking probe in which agents knowingly let weapons slip across the Mexican border.
The fracas over the operation, called Fast and Furious, has renewed long-simmering questions about whether the bureau — hobbled by the volatile gun politics of Washington, a lack of permanent leadership and its own missteps — should even continue to exist. “There are those in Congress and outside of Congress that would like for the A.T.F. to just go away, but I'm not one of them,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who, just back from a fact-finding trip to Mexico, plans to introduce legislation this week to strengthen the bureau's powers. “They catch hell inside and out.”