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Standing Guard

By Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President

BATFE: A “Fast And Furious” Scandal

With the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in a remote Arizona canyon by armed Mexican bandits, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) now stands accused as complicit in that murder—having allegedly facilitated the unlawful purchase, distribution and transport of two rifles used by the Mexican killers.

According to published excerpts from FBI reports, the 40-year-old Terry was part of a six-member Border Patrol Tactical Team that encountered a group of armed Mexican illegals in the dead of night on Dec. 14, 2010. Sources said the “illegal entrants” were in Arizona to rob cartel drug mules and other illegals. In the initial skirmish, the Border Patrol agents fired low-velocity shotgun bean-bag rounds and were met with 7.62×39 mm return fire.

The bandits left behind two AK-style rifles quickly traced to sales at a federally licensed firearm dealer reportedly cooperating with a massive BATFE “sting” called “Fast and Furious.” BATFE reportedly gave tacit approval to felonious gun sales, allowing thousands of illegally purchased firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.

Fast and Furious was spawned as a means to overcome two scathing Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports concluding that Project Gunrunner was a waste of money and manpower. The U.S. obsession with gun tracing was mocked by the Mexican authorities, who daily face the bloodletting realities of narco-anarchy of the cartels.

The new strategy was a dangerous one. As NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox stated in a letter urging Congress to conduct expedited hearings on BATFE’s tactics: “… even while the Inspector General’s review was going on, BATFE leaders were undertaking a new approach to the issue—an approach that can only be called wrongheaded, foolish and reportedly deadly.”

According to the reports, BATFE officials actively supervised the commission of felony violations, mostly illegal straw sales—by merely monitoring criminal activity instead of enforcing the law. As for criminals buying guns bound for Mexico, dealers who consistently reported suspicious multiple sales of handguns and semi-automatic rifles were told to let those sales proceed, sources confirm. The theory was that BATFE could then try to monitor the movement of those guns to attack trafficking networks.

Before Agent Terry’s murder, much of the national media colluded with the big lie that U.S. gun dealers supplied the bulk of firearms to fuel Mexican drug carnage.

To get the truth out, it took the courage of a growing number of BATFE field agents and supervisors who vehemently objected to the orders to let these guns “walk” into Mexico.

Among them was a senior agent named John Dodson, who first appeared on a remarkable CBS report by correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. The report concluded that “The guns that ATF let go began showing up at crime scenes in Mexico … ATF stood by watching thousands of weapons hit the streets. …”

“Senior agents including Dodson told CBS News they confronted their supervisors over and over,” Attkisson said. “Their answer, according to Dodson, was, ‘If you’re going to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.’”

Dodson went public after the Justice Department failed to acknowledge his repeated objections to Fast and Furious policies filed through proper Justice Department “whistleblower” channels.

He also was the only named source among numerous field agents for an ongoing study by the Center for Public Integrity, telling investigator John Solomon that the Fast and Furious guns “are going to be turning up in crimes on both sides of the border for decades … with the number of guns we let walk, we’ll never know how many people were killed, raped, robbed.” According to Solomon, “The risks that some of the guns might wind up in crimes was fully understood, memos show.”

The OIG found that BATFE had no real presence in Mexico and virtually none of its border army of agents and inspectors spoke Spanish.

Add to that the most astonishing fact in this bloody disaster: Mexican officials were never told that Fast and Furious would let guns in to Mexico.

So, how did BATFE plan to follow guns in Mexico? By waiting until their contraband weapons turned up in a crime—traced just like the guns at the site of Brian Terry’s murder. Dodson said his supervisors were “elated every time a gun was recovered in Mexico” because they “saw it as proving that we were dealing with a real drug trafficking group.”

With imminent lawsuits; with investigations that U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is aggressively pursuing and with NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action calling for expedited hearings, including the full use of Congress’ subpoena power, the whole sordid story should come out.

When the dust clears, one thing is certain—at the very least—BATFE needs a good house cleaning and severe restraints. If allegations are borne out, the consequences should be severe for those who dreamed up and ordered this nightmare and who covered up and lied about it when caught.