Friday, January 22, 2010

ATF: solving crimes by committing them

Undercover ATF agents in Virginia have funneled more than 250 million cigarettes onto the nation's streets in the past three years through black market sales targeting smugglers, an Associated Press review has found.

Authorities say the flood of government-provided smokes - a pack and a half for every man, woman and child in New York City, the smugglers' main destination - leads them to organized crime rings and can even cut off financing for terrorists. The stings by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have yielded about five dozen federal arrests, albeit none on terror charges.

Many of those cigarettes undoubtedly wind up in the mouths of minors, since black market vendors have no reason to turn away teenage purchasers.

Despite that, government auditors and anti-tobacco groups want the ATF to do even more.