Did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), an agency of President Obama’s Justice Department, operate a program that deliberately allowed some 3,500 guns bought in the U.S. to be “walked” across the Mexican border and into the waiting hands of the murderous Mexican drug cartels? At first, PresidentObama and Attorney General Eric Holder denied such a program existed.
Four ATF agents who worked in the program, called Operation Fast and Furious, however, answered yes this week in testimony before the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.).
Special Agent John Dodson testified that he was assigned to the Phoenix office of ATF and specifically to Group VII, the designation of the Fast and Furious team. There Dodson found that ATF agents had been following 40 individuals who were known “straw purchasers” of guns for the cartels from federal government-licensed gun shops in the U.S. Gun shop owners who called the ATF with concerns, to report suspicious buyers, were told to complete the sales.
In 2009, Obama, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Dianne Feinstein had all charged that the increasing violence in Mexico was caused by guns purchased too easily in the U.S. They called on Congress to act to tighten gun control laws.
Obama specifically claimed 90% of the weapons in the cartels’ hands were purchased in the U.S.—sheer nonsense. Of the 100,000 or so guns recovered by the Mexicans at crime scenes at the time, 18,000 were found to be manufactured, sold or imported from the U.S. Of those, 7,900 came from federally licensed gun shops. Of those, up to 3,500 came from Operation Fast and Furious.
Was Operation Fast and Furious an Obama program to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and accomplish a gun control objective? Again the agents’ testimony was clear.
Over 10 months in 2009 and 2010, Dodson testified that on an almost daily basis, he was ordered to take notes, record conversations, videotape gun purchases, make reports and track the movements of these straw buyers but nothing more.
With everyone knowing the guns were headed for Mexico and the drug cartels, Dodson and his fellow agents were ordered to not stop or arrest the suspects or impede the flow of weapons.
When the straw buyers handed the guns off to third parties, ATF agents were told to follow the straw buyers, not the third parties who headed for the border with the guns. When the agents objected, they were told to “get with the program” and that “higher-ups” including “senior ATF officials” had sanctioned the operation.
In a Jan. 25, 2011, Phoenix press conference, Special Agent in Charge William Newell was asked whether ATF agents were ever ordered to allow guns to “walk” into Mexico. He answered, “Hell no!”
Leaked e-mail traffic from spring 2010 documents show that ATF management from Acting Director Kenneth Melson on down were personally briefed in Phoenix on Operation Fast and Furious by Newell.
One of these e-mails describes Melson’s intense interest in the program, including getting the IP address for the hidden cameras located in a gun shop in Arizona so he could watch the straw buyer buy guns on a screen in his Washington, D.C., office.
Melson later said Fast and Furious was really a sting operation “gone wrong.” The agents had been ordered not to stop the little fish (the straw buyers) so that the guns could be traced to the big fish (the cartel bosses).
This lame explanation ignored the fact that ATF agents were ordered to not follow the guns and that ATF had no jurisdiction to take down anyone in Mexico. In fact, no “sting” ever occurred, no arrests of cartel bosses ever happened. ATF made no effort to trace the guns after they crossed the border.
ATF agents feared that one day one of these guns would show up at a crime scene. That day came one night last December when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, armed with a bean bag gun, was killed by an AK-47 armed cartel bandito in the Arizona desert. The serial numbers on two AK-47s found at the site of the shooting identified them as coming from one of the straw purchases that the ATF agents had been tracking but were ordered not to stop.
The Mexican government has linked 150 of its police or military casualties to Fast and Furious guns. As Issa pointed out, referring to a State Department report, in the last year 111 Americans were killed in Mexico—victims of the drug war.
After bloggers started talking about what they called Project Gunwalker, CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson began a series of reports that blew the story wide open. On-air interviews with the ATF agents made Gunwalker a big story on both sides of the border.
At this point, Obama said neither he nor Holder had authorized the program, but admitted “mistakes had been made” and vowed to “hold the responsible parties accountable.” Holder ordered an internal investigation.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa) repeatedly sent letters to Holder demanding information. In a February 4, 2011, response letter to Grassley, Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ron Weich described as “false” Grassley’s assertion that ATF had knowingly allowed guns to be purchased and walked into Mexico.
Weich, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid, told Grassley that “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally, and prevent their transportation to Mexico.” Challenged on the truth of this statement, the Justice Department says that because the straw buyers themselves did not cross the border but handed the weapons off to third parties, the statement was true. Huh?
In 2009-’10, the ATF agents were ordered to not arrest the “little fish.” Following revelations of the Gunwalker program, the Justice Department indicted 20 of the straw buyers who were known to ATF before Fast and Furious began. Then Justice stonewalled answering any more letters seeking information on the program from Issa or from Grassley and refused to respond to Issa’s committee subpoenas on the grounds that there was an ongoing criminal prosecution!
Rahm Emanuel, when he was Obama’s chief of staff, famously said that no crisis should ever go to waste if it could advance the agenda. Did Obama go Rahm one better, advancing the gun-control agenda by manufacturing a crisis caused by gunrunning into Mexico, where one of the gunrunners was the U.S. government?
Members of the Mexican Congress think the answer is yes and have opened their own investigation. From the Mexican standpoint, Operation Fast and Furious was an act of war on Mexico.
For Americans of a certain age, the next question is, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”
For more information on Roger Hedgecock please visit http://www.rogerhedgecock.com.