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Why You Should Be Furious About Fast & Furious

 
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“Fast and Furious”—the very phrase brings varying emotions: anger, outrage, confusion, even apathy.

The anger and outrage are understandable considering the federal government, while calling for a renewed ban on so-called “assault weapons,” knowingly and intentionally placed hundreds of guns into the hands of murderous Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the death of at least one federal agent and many other people. As the Obama administration and the Eric Holder-led Justice Department continue to obscure the truth, many—including a growing contingent in Congress—are getting angrier by the day.

Yet the story is such a big one—so complicated, covering a wide span of months, even years—that it truly is difficult to cover. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of the coverage we have given “Fast and Furious”—this unforgivable scandal—to this point.

And this month, we’re throwing caution and convention aside and dedicating as much space as necessary to give all of our readers the complete story of “Operation Fast and Furious.”

Following is a chronological presentation of the scandal from the beginning to present day. Please read every word. It’s likely you’ll get Furious quite Fast.

–Mark Chesnut, Editor


2009
Feb. 25: President Barack Obama’s new attorney general, Eric Holder, tells Congress that the administration wants to reinstitute the ban on the sale of so-called “assault weapons.” Holder said, “I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico at a minimum.”

William Newell, head of BATFE’s Phoenix office and an advocate of gun control, will later blame the failure of “Operation Fast and Furious” (F&F) on Arizona’s lack of sufficiently severe gun control laws. He finds an ally in his ultimate boss: Attorney General Holder.

March 26: Speaking in Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims, “The guns that are used by the drug cartels against the police and the military, 90 percent of them come from America.”

April 16: At a press conference with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, President Obama asserts, “More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.”

Throughout the spring and summer, the Obama administration repeatedly tries and fails to provide solid evidence for the “90 percent” factoid. Behind the scenes is Dan Restrepo, National Security Council officer in charge of Latin America. He previously worked for the Center for American Progress, a think tank funded by globalist billionaire George Soros. Restrepo has been a key adviser urging Obama to blame Mexico’s drug-cartel violence on the United States’ Second Amendment freedoms. He will later receive memos from batfe regarding F&F.

September: BATFE’s Phoenix office opens an investigation of several high-volume gunrunners. Soon dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” it is a vastly expanded and even more reckless version of “Operation Wide Receiver,” a “gun walking” program that Newell oversaw in 2006-07.

Oct. 31: The Phoenix Field Division opens an investigation of Uriel Patino, a gun trafficker who lives on food stamps. Under F&F, licensed firearm dealers are persuaded by BATFE to become confidential informants by selling guns to obvious straw purchasers (people who are buying guns on behalf of criminals). The dealers promptly notify BATFE of the sales, and the serial numbers of the firearms are entered into BATFE’s Suspect Gun Database.

For the majority of F&F purchases, this is all BATFE does. For a minority, BATFE watches the straw purchases take place. For a subset of those, BATFE continues surveillance long enough to watch the straw purchasers transfer the firearms to an intermediary. Throughout, BATFE agents are always forbidden to interdict the guns, and are often ordered to discontinue surveillance. As a result, BATFE soon loses track of virtually all the trafficked guns. Notably, the policy of letting the guns “walk” into the hands of criminals is a flagrant violation of BATFE policy established in 1972.

Nov. 20: Patino brings a new straw purchaser, Jaime Avila, to a gun store. Avila will soon provide the guns found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. In all, Patino will eventually supply 730 guns to criminals.

Also on this date, Mexican law enforcement seized a shipment of 42 guns in Sonora. Thirty-seven of those guns came from F&F. BATFE now knows beyond doubt that many of the “walked” guns are ending up in Mexico.

Of the more than 2,000 guns that BATFE has disclosed through its “gun walking” investigation, more than 70 percent are procured by just five straw purchasers. BATFE also disabled its eTrace system in order to prevent BATFE agents in Mexico from discovering the truth about how the F&F guns are being trafficked into Mexico.

How was putting more than 2,000 guns into the hands of violent criminals supposed to improve public safety? BATFE field agents, such as whistle-blower John Dodson, were told that their supervisors “didn’t have to explain anything. … We were told that we simply did not understand the plan.”

The plan, as Newell later told Congress, was that by recording the crime scenes in Mexico where F&F guns were found, BATFE would be able to identify a Mexican cartel kingpin, then ask Mexico to prosecute him.

One of the main flaws of this plan is that BATFE in Mexico, and the Mexican government, were already well aware of the identities of the Mexican drug kingpins—as BATFE’s attaché in Mexico, Darren Gil, would later testify to Congress.

The absurdity of the “plan” raises questions about whether there were other motives—such as making the “90 percent” falsehood seem closer to true, or even creating a pretext to expand batfe regulatory powers. If so, the plan worked, as displayed through the new Obama rule (currently being challenged in three nra-backed lawsuits) to require registration of all persons in the four southwest border states who buy two centerfire semi-auto rifles in a five-day period.

December: In a six-day period, straw purchasers buy 212 guns. By now, BATFE has identified a Phoenix man, Manuel Celis Acosta, as manager of the gun-purchasing ring. More than a year later, he will be the highest-ranking person indicted. Over the next 13 months, F&F will place approximately 1,500 more guns into criminal hands, and yet BATFE will be unable to prosecute anyone higher than the manager of a local group of straw purchasers.

2010
Jan. 5: Steve Martin, an assistant director of intelligence operations for BATFE, asks top BATFE officials: “How long are you going to let this go on?” Nobody answers, and several men promptly leave the room.

Jan. 8: BATFE Phoenix Field Division Group VII, the group carrying out F&F, explains in a briefing paper: “Currently our strategy is to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place. …” The briefing paper is indisputable proof that F&F knowingly allowed firearms to continue to go into criminal hands. The briefing paper reveals that batfe is working on F&F with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Eventually, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, part of Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, part of the Treasury Department) and the DEA (part of Holder’s Department of Justice, or DOJ) all become involved in F&F. All are aware of the “gun walking” tactics being used, according to Newell.

Jan. 14: Near Columbus, N.M., a small town about five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, the Border Patrol stops a car carrying eight guns in the trunk—six of them from F&F—all of which had been bought by Avila. BATFE, however, has yet to enter the serial numbers of those Avila guns into its Suspect Gun Database, so when the Border Patrol checks the guns against the database, they find nothing. The Border Patrol releases the men and the guns.

On Feb. 8, 2011, one of those F&F guns found in the trunk is believed to have been used in a murder in Palomas, Mexico, seven miles south of Columbus, N.M. In March 2011, federal agents bust a gun-smuggling operation of the “Columbus 11,” which includes city officials. Government press announcements about the raid make no mention of F&F.

Jan. 16: Avila buys three Romanian AK variants. At least two of the rifles will be found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Over the next 11 months, Avila will buy 34 more firearms and Patino will buy 539.

March 10: BATFE intelligence analyst Lorren Leadmon conducts a videoconference briefing. Among those present is Department of Justice attorney Joe Cooley, who was personally assigned to be the DOJ point of contact for F&F for Lanny Breuer, Holder’s assistant attorney general who runs all of Justice’s criminal programs. The issue of gun walking is raised, and Cooley says that allowing guns into Mexico is “an acceptable practice.”

March 12: David Voth, supervisor of Phoenix Field Division Group VII, threatens the jobs of agents who object to “gun walking”: “If you don’t think this is fun, you are in the wrong line of work—period! This is the pinnacle of domestic U.S. law enforcement techniques. … Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day. … This can be the most fun you have with ATF, the only one limiting the amount of fun we have is you!”

Voth’s belief that F&F was a lot of fun was not confined to a single day. According to Dodson, BATFE agent and whistleblower, “Whenever we would get a trace report back,” Voth “was jovial, if not giddy, just delighted about that: Hey, 20 of our guns were recovered with 350 pounds of dope in Mexico last night!”

April 2: A Phoenix office e-mail reports that in March 2010, “our subjects” bought 359 guns and 958 people were killed by Mexican drug violence. March was the deadliest month in Mexico since 2005. Among the dead are 11 policemen in the state of Sinaloa. Many of the F&F guns are going to the Sinaloa cartel.

April: The owner of Lone Wolf Trading Co., in Glendale, Ariz., raises concerns about selling guns in such high volumes to straw purchasers. Voth reassures him by lying: “We are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques.”

June 15: Jean Baptiste Kingery attempts to enter Arizona from Mexico at the San Luis Port of Entry. A search of his vehicle reveals over 100 grenade components hidden in a spare tire. Under questioning, he confesses to manufacturing improvised explosive devices with grenade components for the La Familia Michoacana cartel, teaching cartel members how to convert semi-automatic firearms to fully automatic and delivering instructions (such as assassination orders) to cartel employees. Emory Hurley, the assistant U.S. attorney who is running F&F, orders that Kingery be released rather than arrested. BATFE agent Pete Forcelli strongly objects to Kingery’s release, but Hurley is adamant. Forcelli will later become an F&F whistleblower.

October: Six gunmen from a cartel (probably Sinaloa) abduct Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, brother of the Chihuahua attorney general. The cartel releases three videos showing him being tortured. After he is murdered, Mexican law enforcement raids the kidnappers’ compound and discovers a pair of rifles from F&F, sold in a straw purchase that BATFE agents actually watched but were ordered not to interdict.

Dec. 14: Agent Brian Terry, as part of a Border Patrol Tactical Unit, is conducting a night operation looking for criminals in the very rugged terrain of Peck Canyon, near Rio Rico, Ariz. About 11:15 p.m., the unit encounters five criminals, a “rip off crew” that preys on illegal aliens and drug smugglers. Agent Terry is killed and the criminals flee, except for one who is wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

Dec. 15: At the scene of Terry’s murder, law enforcement recovers two rifles that were purchased as part of F&F by Jaime Avila.

Dec. 16: Hurley, the attorney in charge of F&F, e-mails his boss, Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney for Arizona, that the Terry murder guns were “part of the overall ‘Fast and Furious’ conspiracy.” Gary Grindler (a top Holder aide who will become his chief of staff the following month) receives a briefing that F&F guns were found at Terry’s murder scene.

Dec. 21: Newell e-mails his supervisor, William McMahon, saying, “Guns purchased early on in the case couldn’t have [been] stopped mainly because we weren’t fully aware of all the players at that time, and people buying multiple firearms in Arizona is a very common thing.”

This is patently false. BATFE was well aware that Avila was a serial straw purchaser of dozens of guns who was working with Patino who, BATFE knew, had bought hundreds of guns.

The Terry murder is the last straw for Dodson. He repeatedly contacts the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Justice, but gets nowhere. (This is the office that Holder will later place in charge of the internal DOJ investigation of F&F.)

Dodson contacts the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Eventually, at least a dozen whistle-blowers will speak with congressional investigators. A half-dozen of them will testify before Congress in June and July 2011.

Dec. 23: FBI ballistics experts file their “Report of Examination” determining that Terry was killed with a bullet from a semi-automatic rifle. However, “due to a lack of sufficient agreement in the individual microscopic marks of value” on the rifles, “it could not be determined” which particular rifle killed Terry. BATFE then tells the public: “We’re not aware of any forensic evidence that would link these guns to the homicide.”

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