October 3, 2016

Federal drug agents overwhelmingly target minorities

Activist Post - 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 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.

The new report found “strong, consistent and statistically significant” evidence that ATF agents targeted minorities for reverse drug stings in Chicago. USA TODAY reports:

ATF agents operating around Chicago have arrested 94 people in the undercover stings since 2006; 91% were either black or Hispanic.

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.

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