Fast and Furious: DoJ Inspector General looking into missing third gun

January 23, 2014
Brian Terry

Brian Terry

When Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by Mexican drug smugglers near Arizona’s border with Mexico in late 2010, two firearms were recovered that, while traceable to weapons bought through the felony-stupid Operation Fast and Furious, were unable to be identified as the murder weapon. (Neither were they wholly ruled out.) Months after that, strong suspicions arose regarding a possible third weapon, which vanished mysteriously. Audio recordings and emails from that time attest to its existence. Since then, though, the question of “the third gun” has lain fallow.

Until now, that is. CBS’ Sharyl Attkisson breaks the news of a preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General:

In a new development in the Fast and Furious gunwalking case, the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) is making inquiries into the possible existence of a missing third weapon in the 2010 murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, CBS News has learned. According to sources close to the investigation, the IG is questioning the Border Patrol’s evidence collection team this week in Tucson, Ariz.

(…)

But references to a missing third weapon, a Soviet-made SKS rifle of the same caliber as the WASR’s, have persisted since the crime. CBS News previously obtained and reported on secretly recorded conversations referencing such a gun. The tapes were recorded approximately mid-March 2011 by the primary gun dealer cooperating with ATF in Fast and Furious: Andre Howard, owner of Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Ariz.

In the audiotapes, ATF’s lead agent on Fast and Furious, Hope MacAllister, tells Howard that a third weapon recovered at the Terry murder scene is an SKS rifle. It’s unclear why a weapon would be absent from the evidence disclosed at the crime scene under FBI jurisdiction. If it’s proven to exist, sources familiar with the investigation say it would imply possible evidence-tampering for unknown reasons.

Based on investigations since then, for example the report of the House Oversight Committee and Katie Pavlich’s book, Fast and Furious, and assuming the firearm exists (1), one can speculate on several possible reasons why someone would make this weapon disappear, most of them centering around the Arizona ATF and US Attorney’s offices covering up a massive screw up that now had the potential for serious criminal liabilities. (2)

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what the Inspector General’s investigation turns up, and I’m sure the House Oversight and Judiciary committees will be watching closely, too.

Footnote:
(1) I think the winning bet is that it does.
(2) From what I’ve read so far, I don’t think it likely that the DoJ in D.C. was involved in hiding the weapon, if it exists. That smells more like a local CYA effort. Main Justice’s interests in Fast and Furious looks more like piggybacking on an already-running ATF operation, seeing in it the opportunity to gain public support for further restrictions on long guns. Hence the strong support they gave it. Whatever the whole truth is, though, I don’t think we’re going to know it for a long time.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Fast and Furious: “walked” grenade used in firefight that killed three Mexican cops

October 17, 2013

More murderous fruit of a “felony stupid” operation:

CBS News has learned of a shocking link between a deadly drug cartel shootout with Mexican police last week and a controversial case in the U.S. The link is one of the grenades used in the violent fight, which killed three policemen and four cartel members and was captured on video by residents in the area.

According to a Justice Department “Significant Incident Report” filed Tuesday and obtained by CBS News, evidence connects one of the grenades to Jean Baptiste Kingery, an alleged firearms trafficker U.S. officials allowed to operate for years without arresting despite significant evidence that he was moving massive amounts of grenade parts and ammunition to Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels.

(…)

In 2009, ATF also learned Kingery was dealing in grenades; weapons of choice for Mexico’s killer cartels. Documents show they developed a secret plan to let him smuggle parts to Mexico in early 2010 and follow him to his factory. Some ATF agents vehemently objected, worried that Kingery would disappear once he crossed the border into Mexico. That’s exactly what happened.

Kingery resurfaced several months later in 2010, trying to smuggle a stash of grenade bodies and ammunition into Mexico, but was again let go when prosecutors allegedly said they couldn’t build a good case. In 2011, Mexican authorities finally raided Kingery’s factory and arrested him — they say he confessed to teaching cartel members how to build grenades and convert semi-automatic weapons to automatic.

This is a variant on the “Gunwalker” plot we’ve all come to know and love: instead of allowing a straw buyer to illegally purchase firearms in the US to smuggle to psycho drug cartels in Mexico, the ATF let Kingery buy parts here and assemble them in his workshop in Mexico. And, just like the thousands of arms they let walk across the border, the boobs at ATF and Justice lost Kingery, too.

And now three more Mexican police are dead, and the Obama-Holder Department of Justice has more blood on its hands.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Operation Fast and Furious. And here’s why Eric Holder could not have known what was going on — OCDETF.

UPDATE: Fixed the headline to more accurately reflect the CBS story.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#FastAndFurious Oh my. ATF agent’s personal firearm found at site of beauty queen’s killing

December 19, 2012

Updating this item. Two guns linked to the Obama administration’s gunwalking operation were found at the site of a gun battle in Mexico that took the life of model and beauty queen Susana Flores Maria Gamez. Only one of the weapons was purchased by a federal agent:

Mexican beauty queen Susana Flores Maria Gamez and four others died in the brutal gun battle between Sinaloa cartel members and the Mexican military in November. CBS News has learned that an FN Herstal pistol recovered near the crime scene in November was originally purchased by an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) manager who was faulted by the Inspector General in Operation Fast and Furious: George Gillett. Gillett was the Asst. Special Agent in Charge of ATF Phoenix when Fast and Furious began.

The Herstal pistol is nicknamed a “cop-killer” because of its designation as a “weapon of choice” for Mexican drug cartels. CBS News has learned the Inspector General planned to question Gillett today after a hastily-opened inquiry to determine how this agent’s personal weapon got into the hands of suspected cartel members.

CBS News spoke to Gillett, who is still employed at ATF. Gillett acknowledged he once owned the weapon in question, but says he sold it in Phoenix sometime last year after advertising it on the Internet. He declined to provide the name of the man who bought it, but says he went “above and beyond” what was required by law to complete the firearms transaction. That included asking the purchaser to fill out a form giving personal information and stating that he was in the U.S. legally; and checking his driver’s license, which Gillett said was issued in the U.S.

According to Senator Grassley, however, the aforementioned Form 4473s contained multiple errors and falsifications, which, if true, may cost Agent Gillett up to five years in the penitentiary. And –irony alert– these are the same forms straw buyers for the cartels had to fill out and lie on.

So, in at least this case and with at least this weapon, was an ATF agent himself acting as a straw buyer? Or is he just dumber than a box of rocks? How many other transactions was Agent Gillett involved in, and how many straw purchases did he oversee as part of his work on Fast and Furious?

It seems Senator Grassley and Congressman Issa’s work isn’t done yet.

via Instapundit

RELATED: Earlier posts on Fast and Furious.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#FastAndFurious : Inspector General releases report, not enough heads roll

September 20, 2012

The Department of Justice’s Inspector General released his report (500 pages, PDF) on Operation Fast and Furious, the mindbogglingly stupid “sting” operation that fed thousands of high-powered guns to Mexican gun cartels with fatal results. The report savages the DoJ, the Arizona US Attorney’s Office, and the ATF. The traditional falling on swords has begun:

The report says Attorney General Eric Holder was not made aware of potential flaws in the program until February of last year. But the report cites 14 other department employees — including Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer — for potential wrongdoing, recommending the department consider disciplinary action against them.

One congressional source told Fox News the report was “more brutal than was expected.”

The report marked Jason Weinstein, the deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, as the highest-ranking DOJ employee in a position to stop the program. Weinstein, who disputes the findings, is resigning in the wake of the report.

Another official criticized for not asking enough questions about the Furious operation, former ATF acting director Kenneth Melson, retired after the report came down.

Also:

The report slams both the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for not taking action. The program caught the attention of Congress and the rest of the country after weapons from Fast and Furious were found at the crime scene of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. 

“Indeed, no one responsible for the case at either ATF Phoenix Field Division or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona raised a serious question or concern about the government not taking earlier measures to disrupt a trafficking operation that continued to purchase firearms with impunity for many months,” the report said. “Similarly, we did not find persuasive evidence that any supervisor in Phoenix, at either the U.S. Attorney’s Office or ATF, raised serious questions or concerns about the risk to public safety posed by the continuing firearms purchases or by the delay in arresting individuals who were engaging in the trafficking. 

“This failure reflected a significant lack of oversight and urgency by both ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, and a disregard by both for the safety of individuals in the United States and Mexico,” the report said. 

The office said it “identified serious failures” by ATF leaders in supervising the operation.

Gee, ya think?

Naturally, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darell Issa (R-CA) has said questions remain, but that the report confirms the committee’s findings of a “felony stupid” operation allowed to run wild. And, also naturally, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the committee, asserts that, while the report shows problems, it exonerates Attorney General Holder.

Eh… Not so fast, congressman.  While skimming the report, I kept seeing statements to the effect that warnings and hints of problems about Fast and Furious would reach to Holder’s inner circle, they somehow never reached Eric “Spinning In My Chair” Holder, himself.

Say what? A major firearms trafficking investigation that allows untrackable weapons to cross international borders, said weapons only being recoverable after the deadly fact at crime scenes, and no one told the Attorney General? Really?

Cue Sergeant Schultz.

Like me, Jim Geraghty asks of Eric Holder, which is it, incompetence or lying?

The initial headlines shouted that the IG report had exonerated Holder. That’s one interpretation. But the portrait the report paints of Holder’s management is deeply disturbing. Time and again, information and warnings about the operation’s enormous risks flow from Arizona to Washington … and suddenly, mysteriously, stop just short of Holder.

The inspector general’s report concludes that they can find no evidence Holder knew about Fast and Furious until well after Terry’s death, but … well, the circumstances of Holder being so out of the loop, so in the dark about a major operation certainly appear unusual, perhaps to the point of straining credulity.

(…)

A suspicious mind could look at this strange pattern of underling, after deputy, after staffer not mentioning critical information, and information getting all the way to Holder’s office but not being seen by the AG himself, and conclude Holder’s staffers were keeping him in the dark. Would that be to preserve his “plausible deniability”? Another conclusion might be that someone just wasn’t honest with the inspector general.

We now know that the best that can be said about Holder is that he was oblivious to a major, exceptionally dangerous operation going on within his organization. And the most generous interpretation of that is that he had staffed his office with professionals who had epically flawed judgment in deciding what the nation’s top law-enforcement officer needed to know.

He’s just much more genteel about it than I.

This should be nowhere near the end of the investigation; just the end of the beginning. We now have proof from the DoJ’s own Inspector General that Eric Holder and his top deputies are at the minimum intellectually incurious incompetents. They are dunderheads whose at best negligent “oversight” allowed this investigation to continue with no due regard for public safety. Holder, Breuer, and all the rest who had any duty to oversee this operation should resign. The Arizona US Attorney’s Office and the ATF there should be cleaned out and staffed with people who actually have oxygen going to their brains.

But, let’s not forget something that overrides all else in importance: people died because of Operation Fast and Furious. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. ICE Agent Jaime Zapata. Over 300 Mexican civilians, police, and military. All dead, murdered by guns the US government knowingly allowed to slip into cartel hands. Aren’t they and their loved ones owed more than a report from a Washington bureaucrat?

No, this investigation should not end. If Romney becomes president, then his AG should pursue this wherever it leads, including filing criminal charges against “former high officials.” Now that the IG’s report is out, the families of agents Terry and Zapata have every reason to file suit, not only seeking damages but forcing the revelation of more information via discovery.  And, while I don’t know Mexican law, their government should file charges for the equivalent of  “accessory” or “criminal negligence” against everyone from Holder down to the field operatives and then seek extradition. They owe their people no less.

I’ve seen government scandals before, both petty and large. But never, ever, have I witnessed a scandal that cost lives. This report cannot be the end.

Justice demands it.

RELATED: Other posts on Operation Fast and Furious.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#FastAndFurious : gun used in plot to kill police chief supplied by ATF?

August 8, 2012

Someone has got a helluva lot to answer for:

A weapon tied to “Operation Fast and Furious” was seized in Tijuana in connection with a drug cartel’s conspiracy to kill the police chief of Tijuana, Baja California, who later became the Juárez police chief, according to a U.S. government report.

The firearm was found Feb. 25, 2010, during an arrest of a criminal cell associated with Teodoro “El Teo” García Simental and Raydel “El Muletas” López Uriarte, allies of the Sinaloa cartel.

Tijuana police said they arrested four suspects in March 2010 in connection with a failed attempt to take out Julián Leyzaola, and that the suspects allegedly confessed to conspiring to assassinate the police chief on orders from Tijuana cartel leaders.

The suspects had an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, and one of the firearms traced back to the operation that the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) was monitoring from its field office in Phoenix.

Adrian Sanchez, spokesman for Leyzaola, said Leyzaola was unavailable for comment.

So far, the House Oversight Committee has laid blame for the operation on the Phoenix ATF and US Attorney’s Office for the fiasco known as “Operation Fast and Furious,” in which more than 300 Mexican citizens and at least one, perhaps two US federal officers were killed by weapons supplied by the ATF to Mexican drug cartels. However, that was only part one of the committee’s report. Parts two and three will deal with the Department of Justice’s failures and its obstruction of the committee’s investigations.

In the meantime, the thousands of firearms let loose by our government are going to be the source of a lot of misery on both sides of the border for years to come.

via Bob Owens

RELATED: Earlier posts on Operation Fast and Furious.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Operation Fast and Furious: it looks like I was wrong

December 8, 2011

Several bloggers and writers have speculated that advancing a left-wing gun-control agenda was the reason behind the mind-bogglingly idiotic operation to allow and encourage gun dealers in the American Southwest to sell firearms to “straw buyers” — people operating as agents for the Mexican drug cartels who would then smuggle the weapons back to their murderous bosses in Mexico. I’ve been resistant, thinking to myself that, whatever the reason behind the operation also known as “Gunwalker,” it couldn’t be something this asinine, this stupid.

My friends, I’m here to admit I may very well have been wrong. CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who’s been almost the sole MSM voice following this story, has the details:

Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discussed using their covert operation “Fast and Furious” to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales.
PICTURES: ATF “Gunwalking” scandal timeline

In Fast and Furious, ATF secretly encouraged gun dealers to sell to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels to go after the “big fish.” But ATF whistleblowers told CBS News and Congress it was a dangerous practice called “gunwalking,” and it put thousands of weapons on the street. Many were used in violent crimes in Mexico. Two were found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

ATF officials didn’t intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called “Demand Letter 3″. That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or “long guns.” Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.

On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF’s Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:

“Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks.”

In other words, the ATF wanted to link gun violence in Mexico to firearms sold in the United States in order to justify a further regulatory burden on Americans’ rights under the 2nd Amendment. The only problem here is that the government created this “crisis” by pressing gun dealers into selling the weapons to suspected straw buyers… when it wasn’t selling them to the cartels directly.

Pretty slick, isn’t it? The government wants a new regulation that’s been resisted by gun dealers and 2nd Amendment advocates, so it feeds guns to the murderous cartels, inciting the violence and giving it a reason to say “Hey, there’s a real problem here” and argue for more restrictions on firearms. Circle closed, astroturf laid.

Meanwhile, legitimate gun dealers are made to look like idiots who’d sell any amount of weaponry to anyone with enough cash without batting  an eye. Far from it: some dealers did see a big looming problem and wanted to make sure they weren’t left to hang for it. Attkisson quotes an email from one to the ATF:

“I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys. I guess I am looking for a bit of reassurance that the guns are not getting south or in the wrong hands…I want to help ATF with its investigation but not at the risk of agents (sic) safety because I have some very close friends that are US Border Patrol agents in southern AZ as well as my concern for all the agents (sic) safety that protect our country.”

That was from spring, 2010. US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot dead the following December by cartel operatives using guns obtained through Operation Fast and Furious.

I don’t know whether “Demand Letter 3″ was the reason for Operation Fast and Furious, or if the operation was already underway and someone saw an opportunity to advance the gun-control agenda, but it really doesn’t matter. In addition to Agent Terry, two other US agents were shot in Mexico, perhaps with “walked” guns. One, Jaime Zapata, died. Over two hundred Mexican soldiers, marines, federal agents, and civilians have died thanks to Operation Fast and Furious.

Someone, meaning several people, up to and including the Attorney General of the United States and even his boss, needs to be held to account for this fiasco.

And that includes jail time.

RELATED: AG Holder is scheduled to testify today before Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House committee. In the wake of this news, it should be interesting, to say the least. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who’s been spearheading the investigation in the upper chamber, has called for the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer for deceiving Congress. Breuer has admitted to knowing about Fast and Furious, but tried to pass the blame to an earlier Bush-era program. Earlier posts dealing with Operation Fast and Furious.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Gunwalker: top Holder aide going under the bus? And no, Bush didn’t “do it, too.”

November 1, 2011

It looks like a close ally of Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, has decided (1) to throw himself under the fabled bus in order to protect his boss from the unfolding fiasco of Operation Fast and Furious:

The Obama administration appears to be attempting to defend Attorney General Eric Holder as the Justice Department dumped more than 650 pages worth of Operation Fast and Furious documents on congressional investigators late Monday.

There are two reasons why the timing of this release is significant: first, 28 members of Congress are currently calling on Holder to resign immediately. Second, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday — and this appears to be an attempt to divert pressure for Fast and Furious away from Holder.

The new documents, according to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, “indicate that contrary to previous denials by the Justice Department, the criminal division has a great deal of culpability in sweeping the previous Wide Receiver strategy under the rug and then allowing the subsequent Operation Fast and Furious to continue without asking key questions.”

“Most importantly, officials raised very appropriate questions related to Operation Wide Receiver at the same time that many of these same officials were receiving briefings on Operation Fast and Furious,” Grassley said in a statement. “It begs the question why they didn’t ask the same important policy questions about an ongoing case being run out of the same field division.”

Operation Wide Receiver was a Bush administration program similar in nature to Operation Fast and Furious. In a statement he gave after the release of the new documents, Breuer took responsibility for not having learned from the mistakes made during Wide Receiver and implementing the failed tactics again under Fast and Furious.

“When the allegations related to Operation Fast and Furious became public earlier this year, the leadership of ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona repeatedly assured individuals in the Criminal Division and the leadership of the Department of Justice that those allegations were not true,” Breuer said. “As a result, I did not draw a connection between the unacceptable tactics used by the ATF years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver and the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious, and therefore did not, at that time, alert others within Department leadership of any similarities between the two. That was a mistake, and I regret not having done so.”

That reads like a political suicide note to me, how about you? Even if he is pulling the “I accept responsibility but no blame” scam.

Before we go any further, let’s set the record straight, since it looks like Team Hopenchange is setting up a “Bush did it too!” excuse and Grassley may be buying into it. The referenced Bush-era program, Operation Wide Receiver, was a stupid idea that, when it went wrong, was stopped by responsible adults in DC. Per Bob Owens at PJMedia:

In Operation Wide Receiver, Tucson agents allowed the sales of more than 500 firearms to known straw purchasers. Like Gunrunner/Fast and Furious, the operation apparently backfired.

Some firearms in Wide Receiver were equipped with RFID tracking devices. In Wide Receiver, it seems the illegal purchasers seemed more than slightly knowledgeable of the ATF and how to take their aerial and electronic tracking procedures down.

Knowing the time aloft numbers for virtually all planes used in government surveillance, the buyers had a simple method of getting their purchases across the border undetected. They simply drove four-hour loops around the area.

As surveillance planes were forced to return to base for refueling, the smugglers simply turned and sprinted their cargo across the border.

The RFID tags also turned out to be problematic.

Rather than making large enough holes for the tags to be laid out inside weapons, agents force-fit them into the rifles.

That cramming caused the antennae to be folded, reducing the effective range of the tags. And an already short battery life (36-48 hours maximum) meant that should purchasers allow the firearms to sit, the tracking devices eliminated themselves.

Once it was realized that Wide Receiver was having the unintended result of letting guns slip across the border and that the plans to track them had failed, the operation was stopped.

In the case of Fast and Furious, however, there was no plan or capability to track the guns, and the US government deliberately facilitated their transit to Mexico — including possibly selling guns directly to cartel buyers. See the difference? The Bush administration stopped Wide Receiver after it realized the operation was a failure and around 450 guns had reached Mexico. That’s bad enough, but Operation Fast and Furious represents a quantum leap in boneheadedness, because getting guns to Mexico was the objective. And it succeeded, to the tune of at least 2,000 weapons and maybe as many as 12,000. (2)

So let’s not fall for this latest variation on “It’s Bush’s fault!”, shall we?

Meanwhile, Lanny Breuer is scheduled to testify today. This is no low-level, coffee-fetching flunky we’re talking about; as head of the Criminal Division, Breuer is an appointee of the President and reports directly to Eric Holder’s chief deputy and, you can bet, often briefs Holder, himself. If he’s being set up to take the fall, it means they’re worried the trail leads straight to Holder — and perhaps to his boss.

The timing of the document dump and Breuer’s mea culpa is interesting (in that Washington way), because it was recently announced that AG Holder himself would testify before the House Judiciary Committee on December 8th. This latest development could be a show born of panic, meant to build a firebreak between Holder and the Gunwalker scandal: Breuer confesses “mistakes were made” and resigns.

Then Holder can testify that he was “shocked, shocked” to learn what was going on and that “lessons will be learned” and “steps taken” — and then he’ll breathe a sigh of relief over his narrow escape when he gets back to his limo.

All nice and neat and clean.

And no one will have answered for two dead US federal agents and over 200 Mexicans.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Gunwalker. More at Hot Air. Bob’s just not buying it.

Footnotes:
(1) Or was encouraged to, for the greater good. This is Washington, after all.
(2) Which probably doesn’t include the count of grenades.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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