A new report has found clear evidence that ATF agents singled out blacks and Hispanics for drug stings in the Chicago area.
In early September, the University of Chicago and Columbia Law School filed a report on three drug sting cases hoping to dismiss federal charges based on evidence that agents targeted minorities. The report relates to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) use of controversial reverse drug stings. The U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to keep the report from the public, but the records were unsealed after an open records request by USA TODAY.
ATF agents operating around Chicago have arrested 94 people in the undercover stings since 2006; 91% were either black or Hispanic.
The new report, prepared by Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan, found only a 0.1% chance that agents could have selected so many minorities by chance, even if they were targeting only people with criminal records that suggested they were likely to be part of a robbery crew, as ATF policies require. Those results, Fagan wrote, show that “the ATF is discriminating on the basis of race” in choosing targets for the stings.
USA TODAY reports that defense lawyers in at least seven other cases are expected to file similar requests to drop charges against victims of the ATF’s reverse drug stings. So what exactly is a reverse drug sting?
In the never ending War on Terror, federal agencies have invented new tools for catching, or creating bad guys. The ATF has taken advantage of a tactic known as “reverse-stings.” The tactic involves undercover ATF agents working with CIs to find individuals willing to participate in committing robbery on stash houses loaded with drugs and weapons. But these drugs and weapons do not exist, and neither do the houses. In fabricating these details, the ATF hopes to catch what it believes to be dangerous criminals.
Critics say the agents are walking a thin-line between catching legitimate criminals and creating the crimes themselves. Brad Heath, a journalist with USA TODAY, has done extensive reporting toward shining a light on the use of reverse-stings by the ATF. Heath reported in June 2013 that the ATF had locked up more than 1,000 people through reverse-stings, and it’s “more than quadrupled its use of such drug house operations since 2003.”
The ATF exclusively looks to lock suspects up for both drug and weapons charges that will guarantee they receive mandatory minimum sentences, starting at 15 years. Weapons charges alone do not guarantee long sentences, but a weapons-gun charge combination can significantly extend sentences.
USA TODAY examined court records and found that at least 484 people have been been convicted as a result of reverse-stings, with more than two-thirds receiving at least ten years in prison. Although the drugs are not real, the higher the amount the suspects agree to steal from the imaginary stash house, the higher their sentence.
The problems with reverse-stings extend beyond the creation of crimes. Records reviewed by USA TODAY show that 91 percent of people locked up under these stings were racial or ethnic minorities. The large majority were black or Hispanic. Melvin King, ATF’s deputy assistant director for field operations, denies the agency is profiling individuals. He says they target “the worst of the worst,” specifically looking for violent criminals using firearms to conduct illegal activities.
The unsealed report from the University of Chicago and Columbia Law School makes it quite clear that Chicago cops are focusing on minorities and locking them up for fictional crimes in order to justify the continue mass incarceration of Americans and militarization of the police. There will not be justice until every person who has been locked up behind bars due to “reverse drug stings” is finally set free.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact [email protected]
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