January 24, 2010
Back during the days of the Bush neocon effort to create mass hysteria over manufactured terrorism, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attempted to link illicit cigarette smuggling and sales to terrorism.
|Linking terrorism to illegal cigarette sales is part of the ATF budgetary process.|
“Smugglers with ties to terrorist groups are acquiring millions of dollars from illegal cigarette sales and funneling the cash to organizations such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah, federal law enforcement officials say, prompting a nationwide crackdown on black market tobacco,” the CIA’s favorite newspaper, The Washington Post, reported on June 8, 2004.
At the time, the ATF had 300 open cases of illicit cigarette trafficking. “The deeper we dig into these cases, the more ties to terrorism we’re discovering,” said Michael Bouchard, assistant director of the ATF.
As it turns out, the ATF is responsible for much of this illegal smuggling.
“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,” the Associated Press reported on January 22.
[efoods]“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.”
The AP found undercover sales of more than 250 million cigarettes in the last few years. In other words, it looks like the ATF is responsible for a large part of illegal cigarette sales.
In recent years, the ATF has used such tactics to boost their budget and rationalize their existence. Linking terrorism to illegal cigarette sales is part of the process. “Unfortunately, terrorism has become a sort of a buzzword,” said John W. Colledge III, a Nevada-based consultant who once ran large-scale cigarette smuggling investigations for the U.S. Customs Service. “That’s what gets you funding.”
The most notorious example of this showboating occurred in Waco, Texas, when the ATF raided the Branch Davidians. “The ATF blasted into the Branch Davidian compound like bulldogs with their eyes on the bone of federal funding and that the FBI colluded in covering up both ATF and FBI blunders,” writes Paul Brenner in a review of Waco: The Rules of Engagement.