Firearms from the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious weapons trafficking investigation turned up at the scenes of at least 11 violent crimes in the U.S., as well as at a Border Patrol agent’s slaying in southern Arizona last year, the Justice Department has acknowledged to Congress.
The department did not provide details about the crimes. But The Times has learned that they occurred in several Arizona cities, including Phoenix, where Fast and Furious was managed, as well as in El Paso, where a total of 42 weapons from the operation were seized at two crime scenes.
This shocking information was disclosed in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) of the Judiciary Committee.
Weich said that although the “ATF does not have complete information” on all of the lost guns, “it is our understanding that ATF is aware of 11 instances” beyond the Border Patrol agent’s killing where a Fast and Furious firearm “was recovered in connection with a crime of violence in the United States.”
It seems as if the “understanding” over at Justice is incomplete, because Serrano has a source that claims 57 weapons have been recovered from crime scenes in Phoenix, Nogales, Douglas, and Glendale in Arizona, plus El Paso, Texas. I can hardly wait to learn where the weapons pushed into Honduras by Florida’s “Operation Castaway” turn up!
Weich’s letter claims that Attorney General Eric Holder talked with Acting ATF Director Ken Melson about Fast and Furious for the first time “in or about late April,” shortly after learning of the operation during a briefing.
That’s funny, because Bob Owens at Pajamas Media recently noticed an October 27, 2009 email from the ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division, William Newell, in which he described a Southwest Border Strategy Group meeting concerning Fast and Furious, attended by Melson and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, along with a number of other Justice Department officials.
As Owens notes, “It strains credibility to claim that the assistant attorney general, the AGAC, the directors of the five major DOJ agencies in charge of law enforcement, and all the U.S. attorneys in the Southwest region were privy to Gunwalker, but that the attorney general himself was unaware of the operation.” I’d say it’s getting to the point where it strains not just credibility, but perjury.
SAC Newell, by the way, is the guy who was talking to White House security operative Kevin O’Reilly about the Gun Walker project. But I’m sure O’Reilly never talked to anyone else in the Administration about it. There is no gossip in the White House, especially not about certifiably insane government operations with Border Patrol agents included in their body count.
Local news organizations in Arizona have been talking about Gun Walker weapons turning up at crime scenes for months now. The Justice Department just confirmed it. Incredibly, three of the ATF supervisors in charge of this debacle have been promoted to management positions in Washington, including – you guessed it – William Newell. That smells an awful lot like the opposite of the retaliation against whistleblowers Grassley and his House partner, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), have been sternly warning Holder against. Congress can take away Holder’s supply of sticks, but he’s still got a plump bag of carrots to hand out, to those who stay quiet during oversight hearings.
It’s long past time to stop referring to Fast and Furious as a “botched ATF operation.” It wasn’t just an ATF operation, although they did the heavy lifting. Well, okay, the straw buyers running guns to murderous Mexican drug cartels were doing the really heavy lifting. Have you ever tried picking up a case of AK-47s or .50 sniper rifles? But as far as the Washington end of the Mexican gun pipeline goes, it was an operation involving the ATF, FBI, IRS, DEA… For the moment, let’s call it a Justice Department operation, until Holder tells us to look higher.