Saturday, June 25, 2011

Know Anything About the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives?



Time to Close Down the ATF
By Larry Pratt
June 25, 2011
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has shone a spotlight on the criminal behavior of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commonly referred to as the ATF. At a hearing last week, Issa took on Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich by asking him: “Who authorized this program that was so felony stupid it got people killed.”
Chairman Issa started off the interrogation of Weich by holding up one of the pages that the ATF had provided his committee. It was completely blackened, one of hundreds that had been totally redacted by the agency. (You can see a picture of this on GOA’s website.) Issa told Weich that this was unacceptable and that he was tired of the lack of cooperation at the Department of Justice.
Issa also caught Weich in a lie by pointing to a letter in which he denied any knowledge of Fast and Furious, when we now know that Weich did know about the program. Weich said that the letter had been written by a committee and that he did not know who had written that particular sentence. He refused to commit, however, to finding out who authored that lie and reporting back to Issa about it!
(At least during Watergate, Nixon was not covering up any dead bodies.)
The subject of the hearing was Operation Gunrunner, which had been repackaged in October of 2009 as
Fast and Furious. What had been a fairly routine sting operation to make an arrest at the time of an illegal firearms sale became a way of letting guns go unmonitored with criminals into Mexico, as well as in the U.S.
Some 2,500 guns have turned up in Mexico from Fast and Furious, and some 150 people have been murdered by criminals using these arms. Two of the deceased were U.S. federal agents.
Officially, the plan was to run a super sting operation to bring down a cartel or two. On its face, this is a lie, because the ATF refused to work with Mexican authorities. The ATF frequently lost track of the firearms after they moved south of the border, and once the guns were not under surveillance, there was no longer a chain of evidence.
Moreover, U.S. agents need permission to enter Mexico. Failure to do so could result in a year in jail -- even for ATF agents who, by the way, are not allowed to have guns in Mexico. ICE agent Jaime Zapata was assigned to Mexico and was prohibited from carrying a gun. While disarmed, he was murdered during an ambush by cartel members who used one of the “Fast and Furious” guns.
In a March 2010 internal memo that was later made public, the ATF trumpeted the violence that was
occurring on both sides of the border -- violence that was, in part, being fueled by Fast and Furious. Issa’s hearing revealed that Acting Director Kenneth Melson would expectantly watch a “live feed” of firearms sales being made at a cooperating gun store.
It’s like spending the day at the movies, opined Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars. “Hey, get me some more popcorn,” he said.
News reports have disclosed that many gun stores in the Southwest had suspicions about buyers that were not flagged by the Instant Check. But these gun dealers were told to go ahead and let the sales take place.
So, what did Democrats do in the face of this damning evidence? They wanted to discuss the need for more
gun restrictions.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said Congress needed to pass more gun control because, if one massages the numbers just right (and ignores a whole bunch of others), why, 70% of guns used in Mexican crime supposedly come from the U.S. At least that’s what a brand new report from the ATF claims.
But Issa would have none of that, and he kept the committee focused on all the guns the ATF is helping send to Mexico.
ATF has a long history of death and destruction. Waco was never adequately addressed at the time. Indeed, ATF got a bigger budget the next year. Innocent people such as David Olofson were convicted with perjured testimony. The Bureau has never published a manual detailing how they determine what is, or is not, a machine gun.
We have to thank the agents who had the courage and integrity to blow the whistle on the corruption being fostered by their superiors. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The Constitution allows no room for gun control, which is why this agency needs to be done away with and the managers of Fast and Furious (and those who signed off on it in the upper echelons of the Justice Department) need to go to jail.
Was Operation Gunrunner a Pet Project of Gun-Control Senators?
Anthony Ventre
Tue Jun 21, 2011
There is a tenuous connection between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Enforcement, Operation Gunrunner, and top Democrats in the Senate, but it's a connection worth looking at.
The quick brief on "Operation Gunrunner" is that it was a misguided ATF plan hatched by as yet unknown ATF officials which allowed guns purchased in the U.S. to "walk" across the borders into Mexico. Anyone tempted to think that would be a good idea should think of trying the same thing with gangs like MS-13 operating in the U.S.
Of course, guns purchased under the watchful eyes of ATF agents don't actually "walk" across the border; they are smuggled across and sold to ready buyers, often to members of Mexico's best known drug gangs, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.
The Gulf Cartel and the Zetas used to be pals, but the relationship fell apart with bloody consequences. Across from Brownsville, Texas is the Mexican city of Matamoras where "El Lazca," the Zetas' top man, was killed a few days ago in a gunfight that lasted for about two days.
The violent skirmish that killed "El Lazca" (real name Heriberto Lazcano) began not in the darkness of night but at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. That fight preceded one the day before which killed 13 people, according to the Brownsville Herald.
Exact figures of killed and wounded are hard to come by, but there's no doubt that Mexico's drug wars are more than a "kinetic military action."
So why was the ATF helping gun smugglers to get weapons across the border to fuel the drug wars? The official ATF answer is that it would be a useful tool leading to the capture of people like Heriberto Lazcano. Mission accomplished, you might say, minus the "capture" part.
On the other hand, the assortment of semi-auto AK-47s and AR-15s and other weapons supplied by the ATF Gunrunner managers also killed agent Brian Terry in Arizona, and likely DEA agent Jaime Zapata, ambushed along with another agent in San Luis Potoso.
The stated official purpose of the Gunrunner "Fast and Furious" Operation didn't make sense to Congressman Darryl Issa who conducted hearings on the operation. The hearings could soon lead to the resignation of ATF chief Kenneth Melson, and possibly other officials.
Attorney General Eric Holder, questioned by Issa's committee, says he didn't learn of the operation until "weeks ago" and President Barack Obama said he hadn't heard of it either.
It's possible that Melson's operation was given tacit approval in a milieu of silence, referencing the policies of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and three ardent anti-gun senators: Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Earlier this month, the three senators sent a report to a congressional subcommittee recommending an expansion of ATF cooperation with Mexico to curtail U.S. gun sales.
Conspicuously lacking in the senators' report are any recommendations on border security. A real plan to secure the borders would interdict drug, human, and gun smuggling, were that the real intent.
The entire purpose of Operation Gunrunner seems to be to fulfill the wishful thinking of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who made common ground with Mexico's leaders in stating that Mexico's drug violence stems from lax American gun laws.
In the fanciful analytics of top ATF bureaucrats, the solution was to force U.S. licensed firearms dealers to make repeated illegal gun sales to known criminals. It seems never to have occurred to anyone that serial numbers can be filed off the weapons or that operation Gunrunner would lead to more Americans and Mexicans being killed.
Gunrunning scandal uncovered at the ATF
By Sharyl Attkisson (CBS News)
February 23, 2011
WASHINGTON - Keeping American weapons from getting into the hands of Mexican gangs is the goal of a program called "Project Gunrunner." But critics say it's doing exactly the opposite. CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports on what she found.

December 14, 2010. The place: a dangerous smuggling route in Arizona not far from the border. A special tactical border squad was on patrol when gunfire broke out and agent Brian Terry was killed.
Kent, Brian's brother, said "he was my only brother. That was the only brother I had. I'm lost."
The assault rifles found at the murder were traced back to a U.S. gun shop. Where they came from and how they got there is a scandal so large, some insiders say it surpasses the shoot-out at Ruby Ridge and the deadly siege at Waco.
To understand why, it helps to know something about "Project Gunrunner" an operation run by the ATF the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"Project Gunrunner" deployed new teams of agents to the southwest border. The idea: to stop the flow of weapons from the US to Mexico's drug cartels. But in practice, sources tell CBS News, ATF's actions had the opposite result: they allegedly facilitated the delivery of thousands of guns into criminal hands.
CBS News wanted to ask ATF officials about the case, but they wouldn't agree to an interview. We were able to speak to six veteran ATF agents and executives involved. They don't want to be quoted by name for fear of retaliation. These are their allegations.
In late 2009, ATF was alerted to suspicious buys at seven gun shops in the Phoenix area. Suspicious
because the buyers paid cash, sometimes brought in paper bags. And they purchased classic "weapons of choice" used by Mexican drug traffickers - semi-automatic versions of military type rifles and pistols.
Sources tell CBS News several gun shops wanted to stop the questionable sales, but ATF encouraged them to continue.
Jaime Avila was one of the suspicious buyers. ATF put him in its suspect database in January of 2010. For the next year, ATF watched as Avila and other suspects bought huge quantities of weapons supposedly for "personal use." They included 575 AK-47 type semi-automatic rifles.
ATF managers allegedly made a controversial decision: allow most of the weapons on the streets. The idea, they said, was to gather intelligence and see where the guns ended up. Insiders say it's a dangerous tactic called letting the guns, "walk."
One agent called the strategy "insane." Another said: "We were fully aware the guns would probably be moved across the border to drug cartels where they could be used to kill."
On the phone, one Project Gunrunner source (who didn't want to be identified) told us just how many guns flooded the black market under ATF's watchful eye. "The numbers are over 2,500 on that case by the way. That's how many guns were sold - including some 50-calibers they let walk."
50-caliber weapons are fearsome. For months, ATF agents followed 50-caliber Barrett rifles and other guns believed headed for the Mexican border, but were ordered to let them go. One distraught agent was often overheard on ATF radios begging and pleading to be allowed to intercept transports. The answer: "Negative. Stand down."
CBS News has been told at least 11 ATF agents and senior managers voiced fierce opposition to the strategy. "It got ugly..." said one. There was "screaming and yelling" says another. A third warned: "this is crazy, somebody is gonna to get killed."
Sure enough, the weapons soon began surfacing at crime scenes in Mexico - dozens of them sources say - including shootouts with government officials.
One agent argued with a superior asking, "are you prepared to go to the funeral of a federal officer killed
with one of these guns?" Another said every time there was a shooting near the border, "we would all hold our breath hoping it wasn't one of 'our' guns."
Then, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered. The serial numbers on the two assault rifles found at the scene matched two rifles ATF watched Jaime Avila buy in Phoenix nearly a year before. Officials won't answer whether the bullet that killed Terry came from one of those rifles. But the nightmare had come true: "walked" guns turned up at a federal agent's murder.
"You feel like s***. You feel for the parents," one ATF veteran told us.
Hours after Agent Terry was gunned down, ATF finally arrested Avila. They've since indicted 34 suspected gunrunners in the same group. But the indictment makes no mention of Terry's murder, and no one is charged in his death.
Kent Terry said of his brother, "He'd want them to tell the truth. That's one thing my brother didn't like was a liar. And that's what he'd want. He'd want the truth.
In a letter, the Justice Department which oversees ATF says the agency has never knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to suspected gunrunners.
ATF Operation Gunrunner
Jonathan Hunt Fox News
Jan 17, 2008
Operation Gunrunner, the agency's attempt to stem what they call an "iron river" of weapons flowing from U.S. gun stores across the border to Mexico. These guns are going into the hands of drug cartels, who are using them to kill each other and, more worryingly, to assassinate scores of Mexican police officers and government officials.
The smugglers came across from Mexico, bringing with them their illicit cargo of drugs, and then they head back with their equally illegal cargo of weapons. And, short of stopping and searching every single vehicle and every single person crossing the border, there is no way to stop the flow of weapons.
Operation Gunrunner has been successful in stopping thousands of guns getting to the drug gangs … but thousands more have made it through, with the result that the cartels are frequently better armed than the Mexican police and army. When we toured some of the violence-wracked towns of northern Mexico, one police chief showed us the weapon he carries — a Smith and Wesson revolver that looked like something Wyatt Earp might have used. As an ATF special agent told us, a police officer armed with that sort of a weapon doesn't stand a chance against the AK-toting drug cartel enforcers.
The stark reality is that until the flow of high-powered weapons from the U.S. to Mexico is halted, there will be only one winner in the drug war.
From a reporters point of view it's not easy deciding how to cover the soaring drug-related violence in Mexico, since journalists are frequent targets of the all-powerful cartels ... so wandering around without protection isn't a good idea.
The police are happy to help out, with officers armed to the teeth, but given that police officers are being murdered almost every week, the safety they offer may be more of an illusion than a reality.
Having to make that choice, we — myself, cameraman Eric Barnes (who fears nothing except his mother), and producer Ron "Ronzilla" Ralston — opted for the illusion. Having a 300-pound policeman, with an AK47 strapped across his barrel chest, sitting next to you in the back of a pick-up just seemed to at least give us a chance if the drug gangs emerged from the shadows of the Mexican countryside.We are in Cananea, about 50 miles across the border from Douglas, Ariz. It was here that a drug gang of around 100 brazenly abducted four police officers ten days ago. The gang swept into town in a convoy of 20 vehicles; they took the four officers, drove them to the edge of town, lined them up against a fence, and shot them execution style. It was a clear warning from the cartels that the local authorities should not interfere with the billion-dollar drug smuggling operation.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has sworn to do much more than interfere. He says he will crush the cartels, but the drug gangs have answered that call to arms with unprecedented violence. They are also adopting the methods of the Iraqi insurgency, beheading their victims and posting videos of the murders on the Internet. They have also left severed heads on the steps of government buildings. It is terror; it is intimidation, and it is war. The Mexican police and army find themselves facing an opponent who is often better armed, more disciplined, and certainly more ruthless.
It is a strange feeling to be in a country in which I, and the rest of the FOX crew, have spent many wonderful vacations ... and now, to know that we could get caught in a bloodbath at any time.
That's why we opted to stay close to the guys in uniforms, the guys with the big guns. It's not the perfect choice, but right now with Mexico at war, it's the best one we could make.
Also See:
Across the Border in Mexico
27 March 2010
Mexico - Conflict and Disorder
23 January 2010
Illegal Aliens and a New American-Mexican Border
08 July 2008