Tag Archives: Operation Fast & Furious

GOP Votes for Contempt as “Fast and Furious” Blows Up in Its Face

How are tons of US guns getting to Mexico? Ask conservatives Flickr/Brian.ch

I really don’t like the GOP leadership in The House…

Mother Jones

The “Fast and Furious” imbroglio may have just gone sideways on House Republicans. Just prior to them leading a House vote for contempt against Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, a far-reaching investigation published by Fortune magazine poked major holes in the conservative storyline about the alleged gun operation. Claims that law enforcement engaged in a deadly plot to let Mexican outlaws smuggle US guns, the magazine reports, are based on allegations by a lone whistleblower who may in fact be the only person who did any illegal gun-smuggling. The real cause of violence and crime south of the border, it reports, is lax gun laws in Arizona and elsewhere pushed by Republicans and their friends at the National Rifle Association.

To review the allegations in brief: Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) supposedly recruited local sellers in Arizona to hawk guns to known smugglers, then monitored the flow of those guns to criminal gangs in Mexico in the hopes of catching “big fish,” in a tactic known as “gunwalking” (as opposed to “gun-running”). Two of these ATF-monitored assault weapons ended up at the crime scene where Brian Terry, a US Border Patrol agent, was shot and killed in December 2010. An ATF agent with a crisis of conscience blew the whistle on the operation, dubbed Fast and Furious, and Republicans in Congress began asking questions.

Now, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House government oversight committee, suspects the White House of involvement in the affair, and has demanded the administration turn over scores of internal communications. The White House has acknowledged that mistakes were made and turned over more than 7,600 pages of documents related to the case. But Issa demanded another 100,000 pages of internal administration communications, and President Obama invoked executive privilege to keep the documents confidential. Issa responded by pursuing the contempt-of-Congress vote against Holder—the first ever against a sitting attorney general—on the notion that DOJ screwed up on Holder’s watch.

According to Fortune, though, almost everything about the story that Republicans have been flogging is wrong. And the magazine makes the case that the GOP’s allegations against Holder and the Obama administration aren’t just inaccurate—rather, they distract from the possibility that GOP’s politics are actually to blame for the deluge of three-quarters of a million American guns per year into Mexico. “Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal,” the report states.

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Filed under GOP Malfeasance, GOP Overreach

The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., gavels to order a mark up hearing on June 20, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Reports are that the Fortune Magazine investigation on the so-called Fast and Furious brouhaha investigated the issue for more than six months before coming out with this report today.

CNN Money

A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust.

FORTUNE–In the annals of impossible assignments, Dave Voth’s ranked high. In 2009 the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives promoted Voth to lead Phoenix Group VII, one of seven new ATF groups along the Southwest border tasked with stopping guns from being trafficked into Mexico’s vicious drug war.

Some call it the “parade of ants”; others the “river of iron.” The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking, so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF’s congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one.

Voth, 39, was a good choice for a Sisyphean task. Strapping and sandy-haired, the former Marine is cool-headed and punctilious to a fault. In 2009 the ATF named him outstanding law-enforcement employee of the year for dismantling two violent street gangs in Minneapolis. He was the “hardest working federal agent I’ve come across,” says John Biederman, a sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department. But as Voth left to become the group supervisor of Phoenix Group VII, a friend warned him: “You’re destined to fail.”

Voth’s mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation’s “weakest gun violence prevention laws.” Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibits gun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers. Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases.

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they’re 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns. “In Arizona,” says Voth, “someone buying three guns is like someone buying a sandwich.”

By 2009 the Sinaloa drug cartel had made Phoenix its gun supermarket and recruited young Americans as its designated shoppers or straw purchasers. Voth and his agents began investigating a group of buyers, some not even old enough to buy beer, whose members were plunking down as much as $20,000 in cash to purchase up to 20 semiautomatics at a time, and then delivering the weapons to others.

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Filed under Rep. Darrell Issa

Five Signs You May Be A Fast & Furious Conspiracy Theorist

 

Get out your tin foil hats…

TPMMuckraker

[...]

So, let’s say you want to think the Obama administration sent thousands of guns across the border in a mad plan to keep Americans from owning them at home. Here are five things you’d have to to believe in order to fully subscribe to the theory.

1.) That the Obama administration wanted to spend political capital on gun issues.   When Fast and Furious started in 2009, the Obama administration was not talking about guns. There’s been little movement on the issue of guns their whole time in office — even after a member of Congress was shot — and the administration has in fact expanded gun rights in national parks and on Amtrak trains. The idea that they’d even want to touch the issue, or even thought that they could make any progress on it is simply not supported by the available facts.

2.) That DOJ officials contemporaneously created evidence to suggest that they never knew about the tactics being used.   There are plenty of emails showing top DOJ officials rejecting the first suggestions that guns were allowed to walk during Operation Fast and Furious. For the Republican-backed gun control theory to be true, officials would have had to fake conversations in which they denied that the ATF allowed guns to walk to begin with. In an email sent on Feb. 2, 2011, then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke called staffers for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) “willing stooges for the Gun Lobby.” Not exactly the kind of thing you’d write in an email if you secretly knew the allegations were true and could anticipate such an email being publicly released.

3.) That the number of weapons going to Mexico wasn’t already sufficient enough.   Plenty of weapons from the U.S. were headed to Mexico before Fast and Furious got underway in 2009. In fact, more weapons were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico before Fast and Furious got underway than after it had been going on for awhile. As Holder told Congress, Fast and Furious was “a flawed response to, not the cause of, the flow of illegal guns from the United States into Mexico.” In short, the few thousands weapons sent across the border as part of the program are a fraction of the total number of American firearms that end up as part of Mexico’s drug war.

4.) The whistleblowers who brought the tactics to light were also in on the gun-control conspiracy.   Last spring, ATF agents tried to testify about how “toothless” gun laws weren’t allowing them to do their jobs. Issa tried to shut down the testimony, but it’s important to note that the very same individuals who were upset with the tactic being used also believed that Congress wasn’t doing enough to stop gun trafficking.

5.) The White House pretended not to know about an emergency reporting rule request.   The one measure that the Obama administration has implemented since “Fast and Furious” is a minor regulation which treats so-called “long-guns” the same as handguns, but it is only in place in four border states. The measure (which Issa contends wasn’t necessary because he trusts dealers to provide the information voluntarily) was first proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in 2010, before Fast and Furious became a scandal and around the same time Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry died. Emailsobtained by TPM though a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that officials with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) chastised the ATF for not notifying them before publishing an emergency request. Under the gun-control theory, they were lying in the email on the off-chance that someone eventually would FOIA the information.

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Filed under Fast & Furious Gun Walking Program

“Fast & Furious” For “Dummies”

Fast Furious

Thanks to the Matthew DeLuca over at The Daily Beast, we might just get a clearer understanding of what all the hoopla is about.

We know an agent was killed during the F&F operations in 2007, but finding out how and why the agent was killed doesn’t appear to be on Darrell Issa’s agenda except to mention it a couple of times…

The Daily Beast

From the backroom of Congress to the national stage, a failed attempt to snare Mexican drug cartels is slowly becoming an election-year issue. Matthew DeLuca on what you need to know.

So…what is Operation Fast and Furious?

Fast and Furious was a “gun-walking” operation conducted by the Phoenix, Arizona branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (or the ATF) from 2009 and 2011. The idea was to encourage licensed Arizona gun merchants to sell firearms to known criminals, in the hope that law enforcement would be able to then trace the weapons from Arizona as they crossed the border into Mexico, slowly making their way into the hands of bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartels. Fast and Furious was part of a broader series of investigations called Project Gunrunner, all of which had the collective long-term goal of halting the flow of weapons to criminals in Mexico. Arizona gun sellers sold about 2,000 weapons to “straw” buyers, often young kids lured by a reported $100 per transaction. The ATF lost track of an estimated 1,700 of those guns.  One buyer alone is reported to have purchased 600 of the weapons. In another incident, one buyer went on a spree, snapping up 34 firearms in about three weeks.

Yikes. When did this all begin?

Project Gunrunner began in Laredo, Texas, in 2005 and was expanded in 2006. Operation Fast and Furious was operational from 2009 to 2011.

And this was the first time the feds had tried this?

No. In fact, two similar gun-walking operations, including one run out of the same Phoenix-area office that oversaw Operation Fast and Furious, were conducted under President George W. Bush. The first, Operation Wide Receiver, ran from 2006 to 2007, and tried to make use of the same chain of gun buyers, smugglers, and middle men who tossed deadly weapons up the ladder to cartel enforcers. Both Wide Receiver and the 2007 probe allowed guns to make their way across the border in a manner similar to Fast and Furious.

So what went wrong this time?

One hardly knows where to start: the history of Fast and Furious is in many ways a litany of disasters. Guns showed up where they were not supposed to be. A cache of more than 40 firearms sold through Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Arizona – an important outlet for Operation Fast and Furious – wound up in Texas in January 2010. In a separate incident, a gun runner was let off by the ATF so that he would lead them to higher-ups – a plan that was thwarted when ATF agents discovered too late that the men he led them to were already informants for the FBI. Kenneth E. Melson, then acting director of the ATF, announced in August 2011 that he was stepping down from his post as more details on Fast and Furious leaked out.

There’s more, though. What about Brian Terry?

Right. On December 14, 2010, Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry and other officers were on patrol in the Arizona desert when gunfire erupted. In the firefight that ensued, Terry and the other agents took aim at the Mexican gunmen first with non-lethal weapons and then with live ammunition. Terry was killed in the fight. Afterward, two AK-47 assault rifles were recovered from the site of the encounter –and both guns had been sold as part of Operation Fast and Furious. While ATF officials at first cited an FBI ballistics report that showed that a gun sold through Fast and Furious was not the murder weapon, later reports showed that it was actually not conclusive.

Following Terry’s death, President Obama ordered the Justice Department’s inspector general to conduct an investigation of Fast and Furious.

Sounds like a mess. What did Mexico think of this?

Apparently, they had no idea. When Mario Gonzalez, brother of an influential Mexican prosecutor, was tortured and killed in 2010, Mexican and American law enforcement officials were stunned. The Mexican police, however, did not know the whole story. Central to the case were the killers’ weapons – assault rifles that had slipped across the border under the watchful but passive eye of American border agents. The Mexican attorney general has said that even while Americans were allowing guns to come into her country, she only heard about the program after it hit the press. “At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted,” Marisela Morales said in an interview. “In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans.”

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Filed under Fast & Furious Gun Walking Program, Project Gunrunner