Jose Luis Magana/AP
ATF Director Michael Sullivan

ATF Snafu Recalls Recent Air Force Carelessness

September 18, 2008 11:34 AM
by Josh Katz
A Justice Department audit revealed that the ATF has lost 418 laptops and 76 weapons over the last five years, making it the latest agency embarassed by sloppiness.

ATF Reports Missing Weapons and Laptops

A Justice Department audit released Wednesday revealed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “was unable to account for 76 weapons and 418 laptops over the past five years,” CNN reports. Fifty of the 418 laptops were stolen, according to the report, and the inspector general cited carelessness as the reason for the disappearance of 53 percent of the lost weapons.

The Department of Treasury conducted the last audit of the ATF in 2002. The rate of loss from the recent audit is about triple that of the one before it, Fox News writes, and is also almost double that of the FBI and DEA.

Two of the ATF’s missing guns were later used to commit crimes.

In a statement, ATF Assistant Director W. Larry Ford said, “ATF is revising procedures for reporting losses and will issue a memorandum to all employees as a reminder of their responsibility to account for losses in a timely manner.”

Related Topic: Air Force blunders

Key Player: The ATF

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can trace its history to 1789, when Congress sought to pay for some of the costs of the Revolutionary War by levying a tax on imported spirits, according to the ATF’s Web site. The organization began to take shape throughout American history, and in 1934 the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) would take over some of the responsibilities left over from the Prohibition era. The ATU merged with the Federal Alcohol Administration in 1940, and in 1952, a reorganization of the Internal Revenue structure gave firearms and tobacco tax duties to the ATU. Then in 1968, with the passage of the Gun Control Act, the organization began to be called the ATF.

The Homeland Security bill had the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms moved from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice on Jan. 24, 2003, and “Explosives” was added to the title. The newly formed Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the Treasury Department adopted the tax and trade functions of the ATF, leaving the law enforcement capabilities in the hands of the Department of Justice ATF. 

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