Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder at the hands of Mexican criminals carrying at least one weapon from the ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious” brought that awful program to a screeching halt. The straw purchaser who secured the weapon carried by Terry’s killers, a 23-year-old Phoenix man named Jamie Avila, is now on trial for gun-trafficking offenses.
Agent Terry’s family asked to be granted status as crime victims, so they could talk with prosecutors and speak at Avila’s sentencing. It’s a routine request… but to the surprise of many observers, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona has denied them. William LaJeunesse of Fox News reports:
U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke argues because the family was not “directly or proximately harmed” by the illegal purchase of the murder weapon, it does not meet the definition of “crime victim” in the Avila case. Burke claims the victim of the Avila’s gun purchases, “is not any particular person, but society in general.”
Prominent litigator and the former U.S. Attorney in Florida, Kendall Coffey disagrees.
“The government apparently is saying they’re not victims, even though it was a federal crime that put the murder weapon in the hands of the killer of Brian Terry,” says Coffey. “They are simply rights of respect, rights of communication and the right to be heard.”
Gosh, it’s a shame Agent Terry was caught in the crossfire when those invaders started shooting at society.
Why would U.S. Attorney Burke issue this unusual decision? Take a wild guess:
Coffey and others wonder if Burke has a conflict. It was his office that led Operation Fast and Furious. The operation, while executed by agents for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was managed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley. Hurley drafted the response to the family’s motion. It was signed by Burke.
Congressional investigators are expected to subpoena both to appear before the House Government and Oversight Committee next month to answer questions about the flawed operation that put some 2,000 weapons in the hands of the Sinaloa cartel.
LaJeunesse goes on to speculate that Avila might have cut a deal with prosecutors that would keep him out of jail, a development that would go over especially poorly if Terry’s family was seated in the courtroom, armed with official crime victim status. The family may also be considering a wrongful death suit against the federal government, which would involve Burke. Victim status would pump a lot of energy into that case.
Meanwhile, the expanding Gun Walker case has involved agencies beyond the ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office, including the IRS, FBI, DEA, and CIA. Robert Farago and Ralph Dixon of the Washington Times offer the provocative theory that the CIA was actually the driving force behind Operation Fast and Furious.
The CIA is concerned that the Los Zetas drug cartel has a real shot at overthrowing the Mexican government. They control huge amounts of territory, they’ve got military training, and they control a terrifying arsenal. Their major rival is the Sinaloa cartel, which is the caffeine-free Diet Coke version of Los Zetas. They also happen to be the major recipients of Fast and Furious guns:
Operation Fast and Furious may not have been the only way the CIA helped put lethal weapons into the hands of the Sinaloa cartel and its allies, but it certainly was an effective strategy. If drug thugs hadn’t murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with an ATF- provided weapon, who knows how many thousands more guns would have crossed the U.S. border?
To be sure, Operation Fast and Furious suited the ATF’s needs. It was all too willing to let guns walk to increase its power, prestige and budget in Washington. It actively recruited so-called straw purchasers and happily used American gun dealers as pawns. And it was only one agency in a mosaic of federal agencies helping the CIA actualize its covert plans.
The fact that Operation Fast and Furious was part of the CIA’s black-bag job in Mexico does not excuse the ATF for violating the very federal laws it was created to enforce; for contributing to the deaths of hundreds of innocent citizens, including a Border Patrol agent trying to live up to his oath; or for being unrepentant, uncooperative and unresponsive to the wishes of the American people for honesty, integrity and loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.
There has never been a more dangerously misguided, dishonest, and covered-up program than the Gun Walker project. Whatever you think of scandals like Watergate or Iran-Contra, they were balsa wood scale models of this monstrosity. It’s increasingly clear that the stated purpose of the operation – following the guns to their cartel buyers – was never realistic. The L.A. Times reports today that even a few months into the project, it was clear that its dogs were not hunting:
Five months into the surveillance effort — dubbed Operation Fast and Furious — no indictments had been announced and no charges were immediately expected. Worse, the weapons had turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the ATF official was worried that someone in the United States could be hurt next.
Acting Deputy Director William Hoover called an emergency meeting and said he wanted an “exit strategy” to shut down the program. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for decades had dedicated itself to stopping illegal gun-trafficking of any kind. Now it was allowing illegal gun purchases on the Southwest border and letting weapons “walk” unchecked into Mexico.
But those at the meeting, which included a Justice Department official, did not want to stop the illegal gun sales until they had something to show for their efforts. Hoover suggested a “30-day, 60-day or 90-day” exit plan that would shut Fast and Furious down for good — just as soon as there were some indictments.
In the end, it took a year and a half to get any indictments… and they came after Agent Terry was killed. Was it really an attempt to pump up gun-crime statistics for the benefit of American liberal politicians, a CIA operation that shredded U.S. law in a desperate attempt to support the government of Mexico, or both? It’s a story that gets worse every day. Today the family of the courageous Border Patrol agent killed by this insane program was told by a U.S. Attorney that they’re not officially victims of the crime that armed his murderers.