The controversial “gunwalking” program Fast and Furious that lead to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in the Arizona desert in December of 2010 was once again subject of a House Oversight Hearing.
After Congressional testimony, whistle-blower statements and investigative reporting by dedicated journalists, an avalanche of facts have been placed front-and-center. The ill-fated Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Project Gunrunner investigation “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking program made the front page of most newspapers and claimed the life of Agent Terry. However, today’s four-hour hearing revealed little new information other than the administration’s reluctance to provide 93,000 requested documents.
Accountability, culpability, and cover-up are words used repeatedly at today’s hearing to describe this disastrous program that will forever be remembered as a black mark in American history.
It’s been nearly 14 months since the former decorated Iraq war veteran Marine-turned -Border Patrol agent lost his life at the hands of drug smuggler/rip crews. Terry was killed by a firearm that was purchased by a “straw buyer” with the approval of ATF supervisors.
Those are the facts.
Agent Terry’s family, who will never hear Brian’s side of the story have sought the truth from ATF/DOJ for the last 14 months, would like to know- who knew what and when. With the government’s code of silence, Terry’s family has no other recourse than to obtain the truth through a $25 million lawsuit recently filed against the government.
During the Fast and Furious hearings, documents have been requested from the Department of Justice, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder, some have been released, but others fail to see the light of day. For those accustomed to DC politics, it is business as usual.
Despite Congressional requests made by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to the Department of Justice and Eric Holder, for all agency documents relating to Fast and Furious hearings, few documents have seen the light of day. For those accustomed to DC politics, it is business as usual.
During the Fast and Furious investigation, members of Congress have unleashed a circus-like hearing that makes for compelling political theater, but the American people have seen this movie before and it always ends the same- plausible deniability.
It’s been the contention of law enforcement agencies across the country that the results of Fast and Furious were predictable; it was destined to claim the life of an officer. That’s what happens when law enforcement lets a gun “walk”- into the hands of ruthless cartels- they have the propensity to kill people.
Regrettably, Operation Fast and Furious successfully did exactly what it was designed to do- make headlines. ATF agents have admitted time and time again that supervisors in the Phoenix office wanted to bring down the “bad guys” and make “headlines.” They did.
According to an email exchanged released by the House Committee, the Department of Justice in DC and Arizona officials involved in Fast and Furious expressed concern about the media. How are we going “to mitigate the negative press coverage?” And “how are we going to fix the problem” and “guns were being walked to Mexico” were among the main concerns of the officials in charge.
After interviewing, reading and reviewing all the information in the public arena, as well as some documents not released, the conclusion is quite straightforward- it was a terrible ATF operation, according to rank-and-file ATF agents.
It’s also true that this investigation started under the Bush Administration with “The Southwest Border Initiative” and from that sprung “Operation Wide Receiver” which allowed some guns to walk south of the border only to be suspended. But it’s also true that President Obama entered into office in January 2009 and his Administration began the process of suspending many Bush-era programs. Unfortunately, Fast and Furious would not be one of those programs.
In fact, under the Obama/Holder Administration, Operation Fast and Furious progressed and grew in scope. At least seven wiretap applications were requested from the Washington DC Justice Department. These applications exceeded 50-pages each and involved the international border with Mexico. Sources inside Justice say ultimately a committee would need to approve the applications. The aforementioned Washington DC committee meets to ensure ongoing investigations from other departments like the FBI, CIA, DEA and ATF do not interfere with each other or hinder ongoing operations.
Again, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) reaffirmed this point at today’s hearing and asked AG Holder if Fast and Furious would need approval from Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEF); the answer was “yes.”
The logical conclusion to this revelation means AG Holder should have known about Fast and Furious. The fact this operation detailed ATF overseeing the sales of weapons to straw buyers, then transported them to the Mexican border with the intention of arresting drug cartel members once the transaction lifecycle was completed should have bubbled to the desk of the nation’s top law enforcement officer. This assumption did not slip by several Republican lawmakers that sit on the Oversight Committee.
But again, Holder says “no” and he has plausible deniability on his side. The evidence produced thus far cannot place Holder in a room, physically receiving and reading a memo or discussing Operation Fast and Furious on the record. All the communication regarding this case went through a bureaucratic layer meant to protect those at the top. The oversight of Fast and Furious is no different from other, plausible denial programs.
In the end, all the political gamesmanship about who knew what and when will result in a stalemate. Holder will keep his job, even if he is weakened as a leader of Justice.
While logic may be a key factor in the daily life of mortals, plausible deniability rules the day at the Department of Justice. In fact, Holder reminded the committee today that he appointed a Special Prosecutor and Inspector General and once that happened he was out of the so-called loop. Holder says he effectively removed himself from performing a “top-to-bottom investigation.”
Nevertheless, the American people have “lost faith in the system,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) at the conclusion of the hearing. He also referred to words the Attorney General said once he became the nation’s top law enforcer; “It’s about trust…transparency and the rule of law for our administration.”
Yet the self-described most transparent administration in U.S. history finds itself hiding behind plausible deniability time and time again.
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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified to the Judiciary Committee, under oath, that no apologies are needed for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosive’s (ATF) ill-fated gun-walking program that claimed the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Agent Terry was murdered by known-drug smugglers in December of last year. The suspect allegedly used a gun from the Fast and Furious investigation.
Senator John Cornyn (R), whose state of Texas has been the recipient of Fast and Furious guns; ask AG Holder a direct question regarding apologizing for the death of Agent Terry.
“Have you apologized to the family of Brian Terry?”
Holder replied; “I have not apologized. But I certainly regret what happened.”
Cornyn continued; “Have you even talked to them (the family)?”
“I have not,” Holder said.
The Senator continued to ask Holder; “Would you like to apologize for this program that went so wrong, that took the life of a United States law enforcement agent?”
Holder finished the questioning with; “I certainly regret what happened… I can only imagine the pain his family is feeling… We are not prepared to bury our kids… (However) it’s not fair to assume, however, the mistakes that happened with Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.”
Check back for more details on the Judiciary hearing…
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
In a scathing letter to the nation’s top Department of Justice (DOJ) lawman, Eric Holder, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called the Obama appointed lawyer either a liar, incompetent or worse when it came to overseeing thousands of weapons being trafficked to Mexican drug cartels.
The first paragraph of the letter includes phrases like “DOJ has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations, undermining the investigation and insisted there was no wrongdoing or gunwalking.”
However after Congressional testimony, whistle-blower statements and investigative reporting by dedicated journalists an avalanche of facts were placed front-and-center. The ill-fated Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Project Gunrunner investigation “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking made the front page of most newspapers.
After months of DOJ denials that the Phoenix-based operation didn’t reached anyone in Washington D.C., the jig was up and honest federal agents released emails proving wiretaps and concerns were indeed approved in the Nation’s Capital.
Issa’s letter continues; “It appears your latest defense has reached a new low. Incredibly, in your letter from Friday you now claim that you were unaware of Fast and Furious because your staff failed to inform you of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to you. At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as Attorney General. At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.”
Harsh, but reality-based words for Holder to consider as the 2012 election cycle ramps up. Political insiders are speculating the Attorney General will only lose his job if President Obama’s reelection is at grave risk.
Issa also lambasted Holder of playing politics instead of representing the American people. “Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally-flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate, and attempt to change the topic away from the Department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation, and authorization of this reckless program.”
Congressman Issa also pointed to a speech Holder gave a month after he became DOJ’s leader. “The cartels, you said, ‘are lucrative, they are violent, and they operated with stunning planning and precision.’ You promised that under your leadership ‘these cartels will be destroyed.’ You vowed that the Department of Justice would ‘continue to work with (its) counterparts in Mexico, through information sharing, training and mutual cooperation to jointly fight these cartels, both in Mexico and the United States.’”
Many senior ATF Agents have repeated a new mantra; “Mexican relations have now been set back by 10 years- trust is gone.”
In fact, Issa contends DOJ and some agents at ATF have engaged in a major cover-up of the Fast & Furious unlawful details. “Officials are actively engaged in hiding information about Fast and Furious from not only Mexican officials, but also U.S. law enforcement officials operating in Mexico.”
One of the main beneficiaries of the weapon allotment appears to be the Sinaloa Cartel whose front man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has moved to the top of the FBI’s most wanted list after the CIA/SEALs team killed Osama bin Laden. (Also, last week the LA Times reported Guzman’s wife crossed the California border to give birth to twins in a Los Angeles County hospital all under the watchful eyes of federal law enforcement. Before the young wife returned to Mexico with El Chapo’s twins, U.S. law gave the FBI’s most wanted criminal’s daughters with American citizenship.)
The Congressional Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ends his six-page letter to Holder with; “Operation Fast and Furious was the Department’s most significant gun trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives – destroying the Mexican cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border. On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong.”
To read Issa’s letter to Eric Holder click here. October 11th letter.
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Fast and Furious truth seeker Issa slams DOJ’s Holder competence – National Homeland Security | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/fast-and-furious-truth-seeker-issa-slams-doj-s-holder-competence#ixzz1aRQAQccb
Instead of firing ATF supervisors for an ill-fated gun program, ATF brass promotes three key players in the “fast and furious” debacle. The “screw-up, move-up” position is nothing new for the federal government.
The controversial Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearm and Explosives’ (ATF) “gun walking” program set out to nab cartel gun buyers (straw purchasers), gain media notoriety and add a notch to the agent’s belt. However, the failed “fast and furious” program allowed known-criminals to purchase firearms without any beacon-type device to follow the weapons as they made their way to cartel henchmen.
According to ATF agents, there are more than 4,000 open investigations operating under “project gunrunner.”
While Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) focus on Arizona’s “fast and furious,” the country should be demanding all “project gunrunner” investigations be scrutinized. ATF sources contend a number of these investigations continue to operate under questionable rules and will allow “walked guns” to show up at crime scenes for years to come.
Click here to find out more!
As Congressional investigators collect data and build a case, ATF decided to insulate key “fast and furious” players in their Washington DC headquarters.
It’s especially ironic that William McMahon, who testified at a recent hearing that plenty of mistakes were made, failed to report those mistakes to his supervisors, will now be in charge of ATF’s ethics department. His official title, Deputy Assistant Director of ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations will solidify his unaccountability.
The Special Agent in Charge of Arizona and directly involved with “fast and furious,” William Newell will also make the trip to DC for his promotion to Special Assistant to the Assistant Director for ATF’s Office of Management.
And finally, Arizona’s “fast and furious” ground supervisor, David Voth heads to Washington DC and will oversee ATF’s Tobacco Division as Branch Chief.
The ill-fated “fast and furious” program resulted in dozens of Mexican federal officer deaths as well as ATF firearms being recovered at the crime scene where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry lost his life last December. (Only one man remains in custody. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, a Mexican national, is charged with second-degree murder).
Of course, the quandary left for the fallen officers’ family is responsibility. ATF Agent Newell displayed arrogance for his role in the gun-walking program when he testified at the Congressional hearings. He could have shut down the investigation at any time. Instead, Newell knew the agency would hand-out promotions in order to cover-up mismanagement.
The following are two stories that highlight the federal government’s practice of rewarding failure.
Screw up; move up in play again in Customs and Border Protection
In another clear screw up move up policy set to purge the Legacy Customs representatives from the agency in order to foster a new ‘Global Patrol’ –CBP moves to appoint a well known insider with liberal leanings regarding amnesty to the top post of Acting Deputy Commissioner of CBP.
David V. Aguilar hails from U.S. Border Patrol where he served under Congressmen Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and has followed the coattails of ‘friends in high places’ all the way to the CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner slot.
“As Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, David has successfully provided leadership and guidance through a period of unprecedented growth and tremendous change while at the same time strengthened control of our nation’s borders,” says Jayson Ahern outgoing CBP Commissioner. “As Acting Deputy Commissioner, he will bring to the position more than 30 years of border security experience, management, and leadership. He is a tested and proven leader and I have the utmost confidence in his abilities to take on this new role.”
In a memo from Ahern, Aguilar receives high praises for his career in law enforcement. However, Aguilar’s record is rife with controversy, power consolidation, and failures.
First, in February 2007, delegates to the National Border Patrol Council’s biennial convention unanimously endorsed a vote of “No Confidence” in Chief Aguilar.
“The vote was the result of increasing frustration by front line Border Patrol Agents in the decisions of their senior leadership,” T.J. Bonner, NBPC National President, said in a statement. “This lack of leadership has caused morale to plummet, which in turn has accelerated the attrition rate among experienced agents. Unless drastic changes are made soon, the goal of securing our borders will remain as elusive as ever.”
Aguilar again received a “No Confidence” vote from his rank and file agents on February 25, 2009.
According to the representatives of the National Border Patrol Council they unanimously supported a vote of “No Confidence” for Chief Aguilar due to his lack of leadership abilities. Hardly the glowing recommendation Ahern described and another example of the ‘screw up and move up’ policies plaguing the CBP and Department of Homeland Security; Keep reading.
San Diego the latest destination for a screw-up move-up border tour
Chris Maston began his colorful career more than twenty years ago in El Paso, Texas as a Border Patrol agent. In true ‘good ole boy’ fashion Maston moved up the ranks and with each questionable indiscretion, his infamous Customs and Border Protection’s career followed the tried and true rule of “screw up and move up.” This dark path to the top has led to Maston’s new post as Port Director of the Customs and Border Patrol’s busiest port of entry in the country, San Ysidro, located in San Diego.
A press release from CBP stated, “Maston brings to the key San Diego position in-depth experience in overseeing large scale passenger and cargo processing programs. He most recently served more than two years as port director at the Miami International Airport, managing more than 1,300 employees at the largest international operation in the U.S. for air cargo and the second largest for international traveler processing.”
“Maston’s recent responsibilities overseeing international traveler inspections, trade enforcement and tactical enforcement operations will provide the tools he needs to manage the busy 24-lane port of San Ysidro and nearby 13-lane Otay Mesa border station where, on average, 63,000 vehicles and 134,000 travelers enter the U.S. each day, CBP DFO Morris said. Maston served from 2004 to 2006 as the assistant director of border security at CBP’s Miami Field Office. In this position, he oversaw border security operations for the Miami, Port Everglades, Key West and West Palm Beach ports of entry.”
Repeated attempts (phone, email and finally showing up at CBP port offices) to interview Maston about his new post in San Diego were all declined. Even when presented with questions regarding new port duties, what challenges he could face and the implementing of his cargo inspection program Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), the new director chose to hide in his office. This begs the question what is he trying to hide?
While mindful of the agency’s important border security mission, Maston said in a press release he will continue to support operations that have proved successful for the field office while striking a working balance between facilitation of legitimate travelers and the need for strong enforcement.
Does this mean Maston will continue his behavior that landed him on the “dontdatehimgirl.com” tell-all web site? The website geared to serial cheaters depicts Maston as a player with multiple work-related affairs. The posting (click here http://www.friendsoftheborderpatrol.com/thereport/CMaston-DontDateHimGirl-Post.pdf) contains a number of postings regarding his time as a top official in Miami.
Can Maston maintain a San Diego CBP Field Office that manages more than 1,800 front-line federal officers at border stations in San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Tecate, Calexico, and Andrade as well as the San Diego seaport and international airports? These ports completed approximately 66 million inspections of people, seized more than 145 tons of illegal narcotics and apprehended more than 42,000 immigration violators during the last fiscal year. One assumes this is a fulltime job requiring an enormous amount of time and concentration.
President Ronald Reagan summed it up as, “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession, I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” Keep reading here.
While the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (BATFE/ATF) “gun walking” scandal has captured the mainstream media’s attention; the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) response for added gun regulation is going over like a straw purchase.
As witnessed last week, the Department of Justice issued some harsh medicine for firearm dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. These dealers will soon be required to report multiple sales of long guns.
Washington’s political posturing with ATF centers on the government-gone-wild approach, as in the “Fast and Furious” program that allowed guns to cross the border and into the hands of Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels. The reckless “Fast and Furious” program has left lawful firearm dealers scratching their collective heads and many rank-and-file ATF agents seething.
Congressional leaders investigating “Fast and Furious” have swiftly criticized DOJ’s handling of the program. Republican leaders say U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to divert the “Fast and Furious” investigation by punishing Federal Firearms Licensees who operate in southwestern states. The plan President Obama and DOJ have cooked up targets some southwestern dealers and forced them to report multiple long-gun sales.
“The Judiciary Committee has primary jurisdiction over policy related to the Justice Department,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We’ve learned from our investigation of ‘Fast and Furious’ that reporting multiple long gun sales would do nothing to stop the flow of firearms to known-straw purchasers because many Federal Firearms Dealers are already voluntarily reporting suspicious transactions,” Grassley explained.
In fact, documents obtained by Senator Grassley about BATFE’s “Fast and Furious” showed at least 150 long guns were reported in real time by law-abiding firearm dealers. Keeping that in mind, ATF leaders in D.C. watched (on closed circuit TV) the firearms transferred from known-straw purchasers (people who buy guns for those who cannot legally buy firearms) to third parties. The result of ATF’s rogue program put guns into the hands of Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), which have lead to countless slayings in Mexico as well as complicity in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December of 2010.
“This (data) makes it pretty clear that the problem isn’t lack of burdensome reporting requirements. The administration’s overreach with regulations continues, and is an (attempted) distraction from its reckless policy to allow guns to walk into Mexico,” Grassley said.
Department of Justice new overreaching firearm laws
Last week, the Justice Department announced it will move forward with a new reporting system despite its lack of authority to create legislation without Congress.
According to the National Rifle Association, a reporting procedure was proposed implemented last fall was an “emergency” measure by ATF. The new procedure specifically called for all the firearm retailers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report multiple long-gun sales.
The flawed program would force dealers to report law-abiding citizens who buy two long guns within five days. “For example, a dealer would have to tell the government every time a deer hunter in Sacramento or Amarillo finds a good deal on a pair of semi-automatic .30-06s like the popular Remington 7400,” the NRA explains.
Nevertheless, a DOJ statement from, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said; this new reporting measure “will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations.”
However, dealers contend the flood of new paperwork (ATF estimates 18,000 reports a year) would cost the agency and firearm dealers more money and labor as well as squander already limited resources that could focus on legitimate investigations.
Click here to find out more!
The NRA also points out that the ill-conceived and ill-fated “Fast and Furious” program encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell thousands of guns to suspicious buyers, despite documented objections from dealers and ATF agents alike.
“The (Obama) administration knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico,” said Lamar Smith (R-TX). The Texas lawmaker explained that “Limiting the Second Amendment rights’ of law-abiding citizens is not going to solve the problem…this is the height of hypocrisy.”
Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced S 570 a bill that would also “prohibit the Department of Justice from tracking and cataloguing the purchases of multiple rifles and shotguns.”
The Obama Administration’s approach is to skirt Congress by issuing regulations by “executive order” will only result in multiple legal actions from the NRA, Second Amendment advocates as well as the California Association of Firearms Retailers (CAFR).
A spokesman for the CAFR posed the following question; “What part of federal law is so difficult for this administration to understand? Federal law applies to all states not just a select few. It may very well be the ATF ‘fast and furious’ program that has placed more firearms in the hands of (Mexican) criminals than any one legitimate firearm retailer in any state targeted by the DOJ proposal.”
Dealers and citizens contend Mexico needs to be held accountable for its own actions regarding firearm purchases and importation.
“The $40 billion transnational criminal enterprises don’t fill out paperwork and are not deterred by paperwork violations,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director. “This is a blatant effort by the Obama administration and ATF to divert the focus of Congress and the general public from their gross incompetence in the ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal. This scheme will unjustly burden law abiding retailers in Border States. It will not affect drug cartels and it won’t prevent violence along our borders.”
The NRA and other Second Amendment organizations are preparing for the lawsuit and will file the moment “demand letters” are received from ATF or DOJ.
Next a report of Senator Feinstein’s efforts to limit guns…
Taking a serious look at the unique problems America faces with our southern neighbor is critical if the U.S. wants to gain the upper hand with narco-traffickers. Last month, to no one’s surprise, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) issued a report that AG Eric Holder and President Obama have taken seriously. (Feinstein report here)
Included in the Senator’s firearm assessment are;
– Enactment of legislation to close gun show loopholes regarding background checks.
– Better enforcement of existing bans of military-style imports.
– Reinstatement of Assault Weapons Ban.
– Federal Firearms Licenses required for multiple long-gun sales.
– Senate ratification of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and other related materials (CIFTA).
The Obama Administration has already begun implementing Senator Feinstein’s wish list much to the dismay of firearm retailers.
Stay tuned for more updates on the ATF scandal…
© Copyright 2011Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Continue reading on Examiner.com ATF’s ‘fast and furious’ pushes DOJ to skirt Congress to crack down on gun sales – National Homeland Security | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/atf-s-fast-and-furious-pushes-doj-to-skirt-congress-to-crack-down-on-gun-sales#ixzz1STldDbk5
A July 4 meeting between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) front man Kenneth Melson and Congressional investigators revealed the Department of Justice has actively engaged in a “cover-up” and “remain silent” campaign concerning the controversial firearm program that allowed U.S. weapons to cross into Mexico in the hands of criminals.
The hush, hush meeting revealed a couple of things, first, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knew a lot more about this operation than he has previously admitted and Melson will not be the Obama Administration fall guy.
This investigation began when senior Republican Congressional lawmakers embarked on quest to find out why Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in December of last year with a gun that traced back to an ATF program. However, Agent Terry’s family and lawmakers were met with roadblocks from ATF leaders.
That all changed with the Fourth of July meeting between lawmakers and investigators when Melson exposed that it was the Department of Justice (DOJ) who silenced ATF leaders.
“If his account is accurate, then ATF leadership appears to have been effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand,” Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA) chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in a letter Tuesday to AG Eric Holder. “That approach distorted the truth and obstructed our investigation.”
“According to Acting Director Melson, he became aware of this startling possibility only after the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the indictments of the straw purchasers.” (Straw purchasers are criminals who buy weapons for other known criminals who cannot legally buy firearms)
The secret meeting also produced admissions that ATF “made many mistakes” with the controversial gun walking program “Fast and Furious.” In fact Melson’s private attorney, Richard Cullen, a former federal prosecutor was present at the July 4 meeting with investigators to protect the acting director.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who also sits on the Government Oversight Committee said this scandal has quickly lent itself to a “he said, she said” scenario.
Chaffetz also cited his concern about AG Holder’s knowledge of the reckless ATF program. “We received page after page of redacted ATF documents. And in May Holder said he only learned about the gun walking program, even though we have questionable ATF memos that date back to January of this year.”
Another concern with ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program is wire-tapping. “Wire tapes require senior administration approval and we still don’t know who authorized them for this program,” Chaffetz finished.
Lawmakers also learned over the holiday weekend that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were involved in buying guns with taxpayer money using an informant in order to target Mexican drug cartels.
The informant in question happened to be a high-ranking drug dealer the DEA used as an informant before deporting him for undisclosed reasons. His name resurfaced after the FBI reportedly hired the drug dealer as a counter-terrorism informant who claimed he could offer intelligence that al Qaeda suspects were traveling back and forth along the southern border.
Once the FBI activated the former-DEA informant a new DEA wiretap overheard a questionable conversation and alerted the ATF.
Adding insult to injury are claims from a high-ranking Los Zetas leader that the U.S. sanctioned firearm sales. The Los Zetas leader was arrested over the weekend in connection with the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jamie Zapata earlier this year.
Mexican federal police say, Jesus Rejon Aguiler boasted that all the weapons his cartel uses are bought in the U.S. The cartel leader even accused the American government of participating in the sale of weapons, something U.S. officials adamantly deny.
While the exact number of weapons that have walked to Mexico is not known, the disastrous result is violent cartel members are now in procession of these guns and they will turn up at crime scenes on both sides of the border for years to come.
The question Americans’ must demand from lawmakers is “why?” Why were guns allowed to be purchased by known criminals? Why was Mexico kept in the dark about the failing program? Why did DOJ allow this program flourish and carry on?
The level of incompetence surrounding this program is very telling. It appears that the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies have failed to learn the tragic 9/11 lesson; it is imperative that three-letter acronym agencies must share information.
As the country approaches the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, America and her enemies now recognize that agencies like the DOJ, FBI, DEA and ATF are not sharing intelligence and continue to put intra-agency politics ahead of national security.
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Continue reading on Examiner.com DOJ working fast and furious to cover its gun walking program – National Homeland Security | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/doj-working-fast-and-furious-to-cover-its-gun-walking-program#ixzz1RSWIDFCJ
Two federal law enforcement agents are dead and new documents show Jamie Avila was in possession of two of the guns that were found at murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s crime scene. Questions from Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) point to Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm’s (ATF) Project Gunwalker as possibly being involved in the killing of the agents.
In a letter dated March 16th from Senator Grassley to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Alan Bersin, the senator demands answers regarding the facts in which straw purchaser Jamie Avila was pulled over by CBP agents last summer along the U.S. border with dozens of weapons in his vehicle but was eventually released by (ATF) or with an Assistant U.S. Attorney General’s blessing. This letter also confirms that multiple government agencies knew about the gun-walking program.
The letter reads in part; “CBP officials allegedly stopped Jamie Avila near the border in the spring or summer of 2010. He allegedly had the two WASR-10 rifles in his possession that were later found at the scene of Agent Brian Terry’s murder, along with over thirty additional weapons. CBP officials contacted ATF or an Assistant United States Attorney who allegedly instructed CBP to allow Avila to proceed without seizing the weapons.”
Senator Grassley goes on to inform CBP Commissioner Bersin that he had they better be prepared to answer questions about this incident.
Also Grassley found it troubling that after the murder of two federal agents that ATF didn’t suspend the controversial “gun walking” program sometime last year after they ran into trouble in New Mexico.
“First, on March 8, 2011, federal authorities indicted 11 defendants, including the Mayor and a Police Chief of a small town in New Mexico, for conspiring to smuggle weapons from the United States into Mexico. According to the indictment, on January 14, 2010, Blas Gutierrez and Migel Carillo were pulled over near the border and were found in possession of eight weapons, including three AK-47 type pistols,” Grassley points out in the letter to CBP Commissioner Bersin. “Also according to the indictment, two of the weapons were later smuggled to Mexico, where they were found this month, March 2011.”
Grassley indicates that CBP allegedly stopped the vehicle and after a few questions they let the guns “walk.”
As a result, Border Patrol Agent Terry’s December 16 murder has been racked with secrecy, even though two of the weapons recovered at the scene were part of a controversial ATF “gun walking program.” Multiple sources from the region have reported a virtual lock down of any information regarding Agent Terry’s murder. “Active BP agents have been told to keep quiet or they risk their jobs,” says one retired Border Patrol agent who lives in southern Arizona.
Another retired agent G. Alan Ferguson, author of nafbpo.org/M3 Report says “retired border agents stand with Border Patrol and will not rest until the murderer of Agent Terry is arrested, tried and jailed.”
The controversial ATF program “Fast and Furious” has been credited with ties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jamie Zapata’s murder in Mexico as well.
“Operation Fast and Furious” is the program where ATF agents allowed straw buyers (folks who ultimately buy weapons for bad guys like drug cartels) to purchase weapons from gun dealers and let them “walk” south into Mexico. ATF’s Management says they were following these guns, with the help of serial numbers and Mexican authorities, in order to ensnare powerful drug cartel leaders.
It didn’t work and Americans now know thousands of these “walked guns” made their way into the hands of cartel members and most likely will be used to kill numerous Mexican and American nationals.
This outrageous program was initially devised by ATF to turn the tide in Mexico’s drug cartel violence. It tries to trace straw purchased guns as they made their way south of the border. However, retired INS Agent Michael Cutler with 30 years of experience says the notion that any law enforcement officials would allow a gun to walk is ridiculous. “It would be like offering cocktails to drivers at a DUI checkpoint. Guns kill people and it was only a matter of time before these trafficked guns would be responsible for taking a life. Explain to me how this program makes us safer?”
Unfortunately the thousands of weapons that have made their way into the Mexican narco-state will be the proverbial “gift that keeps on giving.”
Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath – “First do no harm” and the time has come for ATF to answer questions surrounding a program that will continue for decade’s to be a part of crime scenes, according to Cutler. “This flies in face of law enforcement.”
Moving forward Americans need to connect the dots and of course follow-up on the details surrounding Agents Terry’s and Zapata’s murders which still remain a mystery.
For example, in the case of Zapata, there was a witness. Zapata’s partner, Victor Avila, also an ICE HSI agent, who suffered a superficial leg wound during the gun battle in Mexico. According to a government source, both agents were hit with bullets despite strict instructions that agents are not allowed to roll down their bullet-proof windows (which only roll down 30 percent anyways) unless they know the person (s) outside the car. The Zapata crime scene investigations also confirm there were approximately 80 empty shell casings left behind by alleged cartel members. Reports also confirm Zapata rolled down his driver-side SUV window. Did he know his killer? Why was his partner spared?
Last year this reporter published an in-depth story about the 90-percent myth (the number of guns taken to Mexico from America). As word of the smuggled guns grew, so did international concern. A Wikileaks cable recently acknowledged that 90 percent of the drug cartel heavy arsenal comes from Central America- not Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Information the Mexican government knows, but with the 90-percent myth floating around the U.S. airwaves, Mexico continues to receive millions of dollars to combat drug cartel violence.
It also appears the waning media coverage surrounding ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious” has compelled leaders within ATF to dismiss the seriousness of upcoming Senate hearings. Senator Grassley’s office continues its investigation into the reckless program, but with limited success in obtaining documents that would shed significant light on “Fast and Furious.”
And CBS News has confirmed ATF Acting Director, Kenneth Melson, has dismissed the Senate investigation altogether and will not attend the scheduled hearing, claiming the Senate subcommittee doesn’t have jurisdiction, Melson claims (and it does) that authority falls under President Obama’s right-hand man, Eric Holder, at the Department of Justice.
However, the newly-elected Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Darrell Issa (R-CA), has demanded answers from leaders at ATF. President Obama finally weighed in on the “Fast and Furious” discussion this last weekend when he told a Mexican news reporter that neither he nor Eric Holder had any knowledge of the rogue gun operation. (Watch this column for more on this soon).
While Issa claims that while Americans should be able to trust the president, he would like to hear from the Attorney General, Eric Holder himself. “The Attorney General is going to have to say what he knew and when he knew it- and, if he didn’t know it, who in his hierarchy did know and when they knew it?” Issa said. The folks at DOJ as well as Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, have until April 12 to provide the documents requested by Issa’s office.
According to media reports, ATF has lost track of hundreds of firearms. ATF whistleblower, agent John Dodson, explained to CBS News he was “ordered to allow the trafficking of guns to Mexico.” The agent says his office was attempting to build a case against the Mexican gunrunners.
“The idea was to see where the guns ended up, build a big case and take down a cartel. And it was all kept secret from Mexico,” Dodson told CBS.
Why all the secrecy?
While Department of Homeland Security leader, Janet Napolitano, may be “deeply saddened” by the death of both federal agents, it remains to be seen if DHS is fully engaged in the investigation that spans two countries. Connecting the dots between the murders and other government-gone wild programs only emphasizes the need for intra-agency transparency. Did the U.S. government know the murderers of these agents and could the straw-purchased sales of weapons leave the administration complicit in their murders? Time will tell… maybe.
The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward and the Mexican government is also offering a $10 million pesos (probably U.S. money from the Merida Initiative) for the information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the murder of Jamie Zapata. Those with information can visit https://tips.fbi.gov or http://www.recompensas.gob.mx.
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.