The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives posed as a warehouse landlord to get the electric power restored at the site of a sting in Milwaukee after the bill wasn’t paid, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reports. “Account statements were improperly taken and information contained in one of those statements was improperly used to impersonate the landlord in a telephone conversation with the electric power provider,” said a report by the ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations.
Fred Cate, a privacy expert and law professor at Indiana University, said such behavior erodes public trust in the federal government and that the agents involved violated the law. “Clearly this is rogue activity,” Cate said. “No question about it.” The ATF internal investigation stemmed from a series of foul-ups reported by the Journal Sentinel last year in which a Milwaukee storefront was burglarized, agents arrested the wrong suspects, armed felons were allowed to leave the store and weapons — including a machine gun — were stolen from an agent’s car, among other failures. The internal report was discussed yesterday at a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where members hammered ATF Director B. Todd Jones over problems with storefront stings nationwide.