So far, there has been one confirmed American victim of the Gun Walker project, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives deliberately “walked” American guns across the border into Mexico. In addition to over a hundred and fifty Mexicans, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed with a Gun Walker weapon.
Questions linger about a possible second American victim, immigration agent Jaime Zapata, who was murdered by a Mexican drug cartel on the Pan-American Highway last February. Zapata’s partner, ICE agent Victor Avila, was also wounded in the attack.
Zapata’s family wants to know if the gun that killed him came from the ATF. Roughly 200 Gun Walker weapons have turned up at Mexican crime scenes, according to an article in the L.A. Times. The family has been unable to get answers from the FBI or Homeland Security, but now House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is investigating Zapata’s death and its possible links to the Gun Walker project.
It appears that the cartel which killed Zapata was getting a lot of its hardware from a gun shop in Texas, which would seem to be rather far removed from the ATF field office in Phoenix, Arizona that ran the notorious “Operation Fast and Furious.” We’ve since learned of a second Gun Walker operation, called “Castaway,” pushing guns into Honduras and run out of the Tampa, Florida bureau. Was there a third operation running in Texas?
Florida congressman Gus Bilirakis appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss Operation Castaway Monday morning:
Meanwhile, Issa and his Senate partner, Charles Grassley of the Judiciary Committee, have been running out of patience with Attorney General Eric Holder. In a new 10-page letter to Holder, they complain that “the Justice Department prevented Acting Director Melson from communicating with Congress, and even his own staff.” They relayed a little of the testimony Melson provided in his July 4 appearance, including Melson’s recollection of telling the Associate Deputy Attorney General that their frantic stonewall attempts amounting to “really just poking Senator Grassley in the eye.”
Senator Grassley does not like being poked in the eye.
Issa and Grassley once again accused the Justice Department of misleading Ken Melson about his options for testifying before their committees, and leaking media stories designed to set him as the Fast & Furious fall guy. Most shockingly, they assert “the Department’s efforts to isolate Mr. Melson went so far as to prevent him from communicating with his own staff about Fast and Furious.” It’s funny how much time this Administration spends on preventing our massive government from communicating with either the people, or itself.
Issa and Grassley are keenly interested in exploring the FBI’s connections to the Gun Walker operations:
Witnesses have testified that some of the very targets of Operation Fast and Furious – the high-level weapons suppliers to the cartels – may have been paid informants. While this is preliminary information, if true, the implications are dramatic. Not only would this mean taxpayer dollars could have funded those helping to arm Mexican drug cartels, it would also mean ATF unwittingly targeted unindictable defendants.
Or maybe that wasn’t done “unwittingly,” since much of this investigation will boil down to establishing the true purpose for the Gun Walker operations. If that purpose was to deliberately increase Mexican gun crime for American political purposes, the ability to indict the nominal targets wouldn’t have mattered much.
Melson characterizes the Justice Department’s response to the Gun Walker investigation as a “disaster.” Issa and Grassley say that “less than one percent of the documents the Department, by its own admission, has reviewed.” They note archly that “if the attorneys working on the Department’s response to the Committee spent less time redacting documents and more time producing them, we would be much closer to understanding the failures in leadership surrounding Operation Fast and Furious.” It took DOJ two months to cough up 69 pages of non-public documents.
The Congressmen sternly inform Eric Holder that his department “needs to move from spin mode to disclosure mode” and stop treating “the Fast and Furious inquiry as merely a public relations problem, rather than a legitimate topic in need of congressional oversight and corrective action.” The designated fall guy won’t fall, and the involvement of other agencies renders him useless as a firewall to protect his superiors anyway. This scandal has moved beyond “Operation Fast and Furious,” and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.