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 about to break wide open?

September 29, 2011

This might be the final crack before the dam surrounding Operation Fast and Furious collapses altogether. We already knew that a BATF operation, with the cooperation of other federal agencies including the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office in Arizona, knowingly allowed regulated heavy firearms to be sold by US gun dealers to “straw buyers” who were acting on behalf of the Mexican drug cartels. We also know that those guns were knowingly  allowed to “walk” over the border to the waiting hands of the cartels , where we promptly lost track of them. And finally, we know that up to two US federal officers and over 200 Mexican soldiers, federal agents, and civilians have died because of “walked” guns.

That’s bad enough.

But today’s revelation in the New York Post is even worse: the BATF may have bought some of the guns themselves and resold them to the cartels:

Let that sink in: After months of pretending that “Fast and Furious” was a botched surveillance operation of illegal gun-running spearheaded by the ATF and the US attorney’s office in Phoenix, it turns out that the government itself was selling guns to the bad guys.

Agent John Dodson was ordered to buy four Draco pistols for cash and even got a letter from his supervisor, David Voth, authorizing a federally licensed gun dealer to sell him the guns without bothering about the necessary paperwork.

“Please accept this letter in lieu of completing an ATF Form 4473 for the purchase of four (4) CAI, Model Draco, 7.62×39 mm pistols, by Special Agent John Dodson,” read the June 1, 2010, letter. “These aforementioned pistols will be used by Special Agent Dodson in furtherance of performance of his official duties.”

On orders, Dodson then sold the guns to known criminals, who first stashed them away and then — deliberately unhindered by the ATF or any other agency — whisked them off to Mexico.

People were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, including at least two American agents and hundreds of Mexicans. And the taxpayers picked up the bill.

So where’s the outrage?

(Emphasis added)

Darned good question. While I think Michael Walsh’s speculations on the motives behind Gunwalker (1) are premature in the absence of more facts, I agree one-hundred percent with his conclusion: it’s time for a special prosecutor.

With the DOJ stonewalling House and Senate investigators, it’s the only way we’re going to get to the bottom of this fiasco.

RELATED: Prior Gunwalker posts.

Footnote:
(1) That it was either (or both) an effort to create a crisis that would lead to a call for strict gun-control in the US, or a CIA operation to arm other cartels against the Zetas, out of fear the Zetas might overthrow the Mexican government.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Gunwalker: more “walked” firearms found at US crimes

August 17, 2011

This isn’t the first time “walked” guns from Operation Fast and Furious (“Gunwalker”) have shown up at US crime scenes, but it is an illustration of the old adage that there’s never just one roach:

Firearms from ATF sting linked to 11 more violent crimes

Firearms from the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious weapons trafficking investigation turned up at the scenes of at least 11 violent crimes in the U.S., as well as at a Border Patrol agent’s slaying in southern Arizona last year, the Justice Department has acknowledged to Congress.

The department did not provide details about the crimes. But The Times has learned that they occurred in several Arizona cities, including Phoenix, where Fast and Furious was managed, as well as in El Paso, where a total of 42 weapons from the operation were seized at two crime scenes.

The new numbers, which expand the scope of the danger the program posed to U.S. citizens over a 14-month period, are contained in a letter that Justice Department officials turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

In the letter, obtained by The Times on Tuesday, Justice Department officials also reported that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials advised them that the agency’s acting director, Kenneth E. Melson, “likely became aware” of the operation as early as December 2009, a month after it began.

Melson has said he did not learn about how the operation was run until January of this year, when it was canceled.

To recap, Gunwalker was an operation to permit firearms to be purchased in the US and “walked” over the border to Mexico, where theoretically they could be traced to the cartel kingpins, who would then be arrested and charged. The guns were bought by “straw buyers,” people who would buy the guns not for themselves, but for cartel criminals who normally would be prevented from buying them. Even though the straw-buyers were known, or when there was a suspicious firearms order, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms would tell the gun dealer to let the purchase go through.

One problem: they lost track of the guns.

Now those guns have been involved in one, perhaps two deaths of US federal agents. They have been “in action” in the deaths of over 150 Mexican soldiers, federal agents, and civilians. US federal agents working in Mexico and the Mexican authorities were lied to about the extent of the operation. The guns are showing up more and more at American crime scenes.

And the US Justice Department is throwing roadblock after roadblock in the way of what may well be the biggest federal scandal in decades.

Right now, Gunwalker is overshadowed by the US debt crisis and the politics of the upcoming election. But it won’t stay that way. Some time in the next year, whether through dogged investigation by Rep. Issa’s House Oversight Committee or, God forbid, some major crime the media can’t ignore, the guns of Operation Fast and Furious are going to come back to haunt the Obama administration.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Gunwalker. Bob Owens’ on Obama’s “un-plausible deniability.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


So, the ATF was running guns *and* drugs? Ahem… WTF??

August 5, 2011

Are we sure they’re not the Mafia in disguise?

From the El Paso Times:

U.S. federal agents allegedly allowed the Sinaloa drug cartel to traffic several tons of cocaine into the United States in exchange for information about rival cartels, according to court documents filed in a U.S. federal court.

The allegations are part of the defense of Vicente Zambada-Niebla, who was extradited to the United States to face drug-trafficking charges in Chicago. He is also a top lieutenant of drug kingpin Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman and the son of Ismael “Mayo” Zambada-Garcia, believed to be the brains behind the Sinaloa cartel.

The case could prove to be a bombshell on par with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Operation Fast and Furious,” except that instead of U.S. guns being allowed to walk across the border, the Sinaloa cartel was allowed to bring drugs into the United States. Zambada-Niebla claims he was permitted to smuggle drugs from 2004 until his arrest in 2009.

In other words, an arm of the federal government allowed one gang to bring drugs into the US in return for information about other gangs. Drugs that would enrich the gang through proceeds from their sale. Drugs that would destroy lives through their use and through the violence association with the trade. Drugs that are a federal crime to move and sell. These aren’t minor offenses being overlooked here for the greater good.

Erick Erickson of Red State wonders why  Holder still has a job. While that’s a good question for many good reasons, look at the dates in the article: these operations date back through George W. Bush into Bill Clinton’s administration, indicating a tradition of “felony stupid;” they include contract killings done for the cartel while the assassin was under ICE “supervision.”

Granted, the source for this is himself a cartel member who has every incentive to save himself by claiming he was working for the US, but, if he has the proof to back this up or can get it turned over via discovery… “Bombshell” would be a very mild description. And, in the light of what we already know and are learning about the “Gunwalker” fiasco, it’s disturbingly plausible. At the very least, this is another avenue for Congressman Issa’s already-busy investigators to follow.

Meanwhile, I have to ask: What the Sam Hill is going on at ATF??

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Gunwalker: the scandal that breaks the Obama administration?

June 14, 2011

I’ve said for a long time that I think Eric Holder is the worst Attorney General since the wretched A. Mitchell Palmer (1) and should be forced to resign or be impeached. From his failure to protect voting rights on a color-blind basis to his vindictive persecution of CIA interrogators questioning al Qaeda terrorists and his incompetence in handling the trials of terrorists, he’s not just incompetent — he’s doing genuine harm.

But it appears the scandal that may finally bring Holder down (and his boss?) is one that’s been simmering on the backburner for months and is only now coming to a boil: Operation “Fast and Furious,” aka “Gunwalker,” a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms plan to trace the flow of firearms to Mexican drug cartels by letting US gun-dealers sell them the weapons.

What could go wrong?

At Pajamas Media, Bob Owens (aka “Confederate Yankee“) looks at the forthcoming hearings, reviews the fatal results of Gunwalker, and concludes Obama and Holder have plenty of reason to stonewall Congress:

Rumors began to fly over a week ago that a .50 BMG weapon supplied to Mexican drug cartels by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was used to bring down a Mexican military helicopter in May. According to CBS News, the use of that weapon can be confirmed, and it turns out the helicopter was one of two  fired upon by suspected cartel members.

The raid on the cartel that the helicopters were supporting was successful, netting more than 70 weapons, including the helicopter-down .50 BMG rifle and other weapons traced back to the botched ATF Operation Fast and Furious, also know as “Gunwalker.”

To date, the ATF operation, which encouraged gun shops in the American southwest to sell weapons to suspected criminals and let them carry the weapons across the border, has resulted in an estimated 150 Mexican law enforcement officers and soldiers shot  with ATF-supplied weapons. While the theory behind the plot was different, the end result is no more deplorable than Iran’s arming of Iraqi terrorists.

At least two American law enforcement officers have been murdered with ATF weapons as well. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry  was killed with “Gunwalker” firearms in Arizona, while ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata  was killed in an ambush in Mexico with a gun the ATF allowed to be sold to a cartel gun smuggler in Dallas.

The damning evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice agency is a major supplier of cartel weapons will go in front of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week, in what could be a damning indictment of the ATF’s senior leadership and Eric Holder’s leadership of the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Holder has apparently ordered the DOJ to fight Congressional oversight, with the DOJ and ATF ignoring seven letters and a subpoena  from the committee. Neither Holder nor ATF Director Ken Melson will answer questions — which may lead to them being held in contempt of Congress.

Be sure to read the rest.

One can see why Holder would want to keep information from the House committee: if true, it reveals a mind-boggling level of stupidity and possibly criminal recklessness at ATF and Justice that has lead to the deaths of people on both sides of the border.

Owens hints at a hidden agenda behind the program, and one wonders if he isn’t on to something. Obama, as well as the Left in general, have long been advocates of strict gun-control, regardless of the plain meaning of the Second Amendment. Encountering resistance from the gun-rights lobby and conservatives in Congress, the administration has even worked to circumvent the Second Amendment via international treaty. The President has regularly lied about the role of US firearms in Mexico’s violence, far exaggerating their numbers. Could it be that one of the “side benefits” of Gunwalker was to provide more “ammunition” for the administration’s gun-control agenda?

I’d hate to think that was the case, but it can’t be completely discounted, either.

And that leads to the other reason Holder might rather risk a contempt citation at this week’s hearings than tell the truth: if Obama knew of this plan in advance and approved of it or at least didn’t stop it, or if he found out about it afterwards and didn’t do anything about it, then he bears responsibility for an operation that has cost the lives of US and Mexican federal agents and armed dangerous gangs allied with our declared enemies. It could easily be a fatal blow to his reelection chances.

Which means it’s time to ask The Question: What did the President know, and when did he know it?

BACKGROUND: CBS, in particular reporter Sharyl Attkisson, has been doing yeoman work on this story from its earliest days, reminding us of what the MSM used to be. Here’s one of her first reports. The whole series of articles is here.

RELATED: The Diplomad draws a connection from the ATF to… Thor Heyerdahl?

Footnotes:

(1) Hmm… Also appointed by a progressive Democrat president. I detect a pattern.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)