Fast and Furious: Grenade walking revisited


The Obama Administration’s deadly Operation Fast and Furious is commonly described as a “gun running” scandal, but that’s not entirely accurate.  For one thing, the purpose of the operation was not to bust gun runners.  The idea was to get American guns into Mexico, then trace them back to cartel kingpins after they turned up at murder scenes… which happened over 300 times.

For another thing, they didn’t just “walk” guns into Mexico.  There were hand grenades, too.

The Justice Department has been slowly complying with Congressional subpoenas, under the watchful eye of CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has been on a fairly lonely journalistic quest to explore the most remarkably under-reported scandal in recent history.  The latest pile of documents pertains to the case of arms dealer Jean Baptise Kingery, who had a sweet tooth for pineapples – the kind cartel killers love to throw at unsuspecting victims after pulling the pins:

ATF started watching Kingery in “2004 related to AK47 purchases,” according to an internal email, “it is believed that he is trafficking them to Mexico.” A full five years later in late 2009, ATF also learned Kingery was dealing in grenades: he’d ordered 120 grenade bodies on the Internet.

Grenades are weapons of choice for Mexico’s killer drug cartels. An attack on a casino in Mexico last year killed 53 people.

Documents show ATF secretly intercepted the grenade bodies Kingery had ordered, marked them, and delivered them to him on Jan. 26, 2010. Their plan was to follow Kingery to his weapons factory in Mexico, with help from Mexican authorities Immigration and Customs (ICE).

(Emphasis mine.)  Sounds like a brilliant plan!  What could go wrong?

ATF realized they might lose track of Kingery and the grenade parts in Mexico. But their emails show little attention to those who could be killed. Instead, officials expressed concerned with tying the grenades to Kingery after they reached Mexico. “Even in a post blast, as long as the safety lever is recovered we will be able to identify these tagged grenades,” says one email.

An official now investigating ATF and the Justice Department for their actions in the Kingery case tells CBS News: “All the usual safeguards of law enforcement were thrown out. They were more worried about making a big case than they were about the public safety.”

In a pattern familiar to students of Fast and Furious, the plan drew internal objections from ATF agents in the field, but the brass insisted on forging ahead.  Kingery vanished into Mexico with his grenades, but reappeared four months later, caught by the Border Patrol on his way into Mexico with a new load of grenade parts, plus 2,000 rounds of ammunition, hidden in a spare tire:

And the ATF let him go again.  He kept delivering American hardware to the Sinaloa cartel for another year and a half, and being a full-service sort of death merchant, he also offered classes in grenade assembly and fully-automatic weapons conversion.  The Mexican police finally caught him in Mazatlan with enough materials to build a thousand grenades.

The most intriguing element of this story is the involvement of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  An ATF official in Mexico objected in writing to the Kingery “grenade walking” plan by saying, “We are forbidden from doing that type of activity.  If ICE is telling you they can do that, they are full of s**t.”

ICE was also a player in the remarkably similar tale of Manuel Celis-Acosta, a top gun-walking target with a lengthy criminal record, who was nabbed on the Mexican border with a pile of 7.62mm ammo stuffed in his spare tire.  He was released by lead “Fast and Furious” ATF agent Hope McAllister, who wrote her number on a $10 bill and asked him to call her with info on cartel gun buyers.  Celis-Acosta never made such a call.

David Codrea of the Gun Rights Examiner and Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars caught the ICE connection after reviewing a Justice Department report last week:

Another significant piece of information contained in the report, yet so far largely unexplored by major media: The participation in the contact interview with Celis-Acosta by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Layne France, a person first called to the attention of Gun Rights Examiner readers following revelation of a February 3, 2011 letter from ATF Agent Gary Styer that supported allegations by whistleblowing Agent John Dodson and refuted since-withdrawn denials of “gunwalking” by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich.

“[The participation of SA France] provides direct documentary evidence of group participation outside of Justice, in this case Homeland Security,” this correspondent wrote, “and should provide an entirely new avenue to explore in terms of authorizations, reports and memos/communications.”

That’s a pretty big deal, because it’s further evidence that the gun-walking scandal reached far beyond the ATF, or even the Justice Department.  If this were all happening in a Republican Administration, Sharryl Attkisson would be fighting off a horde of other reporters, and they’d all be chugging blood-pressure medication.