Too Fast, Too Furious

Congress demands answers on Operation Fearless Distributing

April 4, 2013

Several congressmen sent another letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Wednesday, months after first requesting information about a failed undercover operation with similarities to Operation Fast and Furious.

"Not only have you yet to provide us with any information or documents about this operation, but, months after ATF shut down the operation, you have refused to respond at all," the letter states.

House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R., Va.), and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) signed the letter.

Operation Fearless, named after an undercover store that ATF officials called "Fearless Distributing," attempted to use the store as a front to buy and possibly sell firearms and to target criminals in undercover sting operations.

The store attracted consumers by "selling clothes, shoes, and drug paraphernalia" while making it known that they were interested in buying firearms, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which broke the story in January.

The operation had numerous problems from the start, according to the Sentinel.

Auto parts and other objects were stolen from the store in October 2012. The store did not have a security system in place, resulting in criminals stealing $35,000 in merchandise, including a machine gun and handgun that have yet to be found.

The landlord of the property, who unknowingly rented the store to ATF, requested more than $15,000 in damages from the ATF. The ATF has thus far refused to pay.

The operation is part of ATF’s Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT), which targets hot spots in certain cities to deter gun crime. The division has been criticized for being ineffective.

The situation in Milwaukee "raise[s] significant management issues relating to the oversight and management of the ATF field office and ATF headquarters," according to a letter by Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz.

Officials are not only questioning the robberies that derailed Operation Fearless, but also the methods used by ATF officials.

The January letter asked 22 questions, including "were the weapons reportedly stolen from the unattached vehicle secured with any type of safety device/trigger lock?" and "if weapons were sold, who approved the plan to conduct these sales?"

"Congressional oversight of a clearly botched operation in necessary," the letter states.

"Instead of welcoming the opportunity to get to the bottom of this matter and solve the problems within the bureau the led to it, you have instead chosen to ignore our oversight request and attempt to handle the matter internally without any openness or transparency."

"The ATF’s failure to respond to our initial inquiry is unacceptable," Sensenbrenner said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "The agency has a lengthening history of inexplicable investigations. They need to answer for this failed sting operation and soon."

ATF has received the letter and it is "with officials being reviewed," an ATF official told the Free Beacon.

Published under: ATF , Congress