Disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder To Testify About His Department’s Efforts That Supplied Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS News has learned Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee regarding “Fast and Furious.” The hearing will take place Dec. 8th.

Judiciary Committee member and head of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had requested that Holder appear, in part to dig deeper into when-he-knew-what about ATF’s so-called “gunwalking” operation Fast and Furious.

In May, Holder testified that he only first heard about Fast and Furious a few weeks before. However, as CBS News reported, documents and memos indicate he had been sent multiple briefings mentioning Fast and Furious in 2010.

Holder later explained in a letter to Congress that he didn’t read those memos, and that in any event, nobody at the Justice Department who knew of Fast and Furious was aware of the specific “gunwalking” tactics used.

More Fast and Furious coverage
Memos contradict Holder on Fast and Furious
Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico
Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF

Also today, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested a public hearing with the former Director of ATF: Kenneth Melson.

“A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again,” wrote Cummings in a letter today to Rep. Issa.

Rep. Cummings says Melson’s attorney has indicated Melson would be “pleased to cooperate.”

Below is a copy of the Cummings letter.

October 28, 2011

The Honorable Darrell E. Issa

Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As I have stated repeatedly, I believe Operation Fast and Furious was a terrible mistake with tragic consequences. As I have also stated, I support a fair and responsible investigation that follows the facts where they lead, rather than drawing conclusions before evidence is gathered or ignoring information that does not fit into a preconceived narrative.

On several occasions over the past month, you have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about when he first became aware of the controversial tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. The Attorney General has now agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on December 8, 2011, when you will have another opportunity to question him directly.

With respect to our own Committee’s investigation, I do not believe it will be viewed as legitimate or credible-and I do not believe the public record will be complete-without public testimony from Kenneth Melson, who served as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again.

Our staffs have already conducted transcribed interviews with Mr. Melson and the former Deputy Director of ATF, William Hoover. During those interviews, these officials expressed serious concerns about the controversial tactics employed by the Phoenix Field Division of ATF as part of this operation. They also raised concerns about the manner in which the Department of Justice responded to congressional inquiries. Both officials also stated that they had not been aware of the controversial tactics being used in Operation Fast and Furious, had not authorized those tactics, and had not informed anyone at the Department of Justice headquarters about them. They stated that Operation Fast and Furious originated within the Phoenix Field Division, and that ATF headquarters failed to properly supervise it.

Since the Attorney General has now agreed to appear before Congress in December, I believe Members also deserve an opportunity to question Mr. Melson directly, especially since he headed the agency responsible for

Operation Fast and Furious. My staff has been in touch with Mr. Melson’s attorney, who reports that Mr. Melson would be pleased to cooperate with the Committee.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Elijah E. Cummings

Ranking Member

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Subpoena Issued As Congress Investigates US Justice Department Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels With High Power Assault Weapons

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional investigators issued a subpoena Wednesday for communications from several top Justice Department officials — including Attorney General Eric Holder — relating to the discredited “Fast and Furious” federal gunrunning operation.

The subpoena, issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also covers communications from Holder’s chief of staff, Gary Grindler, and from Lanny Breuer, head of the department’s criminal division.

Among other things, the subpoena includes a request for information regarding relevant Justice Department communications with the White House, as well as details about the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent last December, the source added.

“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.”

Holder has promised to comply with any Capitol Hill subpoena, though a Justice Department spokeswoman appeared to dismiss the development as a political exercise.

“We’ve made clear from the beginning that the department intends to work with the committee to answer legitimate questions,” Tracy Schmaler said. “However, this subpoena shows that Chairman Issa is more interested in generating headlines than in real oversight important to the American people.”

Operation Fast and Furious involved agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowing illegal sales of guns, believed to be destined for Mexican drug cartels, to “walk” from Phoenix gun stores into Mexico.

The idea was to track the sellers and purchasers of guns to Mexican cartels. But the program became mired in controversy after weapons found at Mexican and American murder scenes were traced back to the program. Mexican officials and critics in the United States called the operation a failure, saying it exacerbated the longstanding problem of U.S. weapons getting into the hands of the violent Mexican cartels.

A GOP-led congressional investigation into the matter has become politically contentious, with administration and Capitol Hill leaders accusing each other of acting irresponsibly.

In a letter to Holder released Monday, Issa, a California congressman, accused the attorney general of actively obstructing Congress’ oversight function and damaging his own credibility as a top national law enforcement officer.

“Numerous statements” made by Holder about Operation Fast and Furious have “been proven to be untrue,” Issa said.

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Issa wrote in the letter, which was dated Sunday. “The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Issa blasted Holder for “negligence and incompetence” on the issue, and for offering a “roving set of ever-changing explanations” designed primarily to “circle the wagons around (the Justice Department) and its political appointees.”

The operation was the Justice Department’s “most significant gun trafficking case,” Issa said. “On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.”

Holder testified before the Judiciary Committee in May that he had known about the Fast and Furious program for just a few weeks. Republicans insist that recently released Justice Department documents show the attorney general actually knew about the program much earlier.

Holder and his aides continue to vehemently deny that charge.

The attorney general responded angrily Friday to GOP critics of his handling of the operation, charging them with using “irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric.”

“I simply cannot sit idly by as a (Republican) member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggests, as happened this week, that law enforcement and government employees who devote their lives to protecting our citizens be considered ‘accessories to murder,’” Holder said in a letter to members of Congress.

Such rhetoric, Holder declared, “must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms.”

On Sunday, Issa said the Judiciary Committee has invited Holder to “come and clear the record.”

“Clearly, he knew when he said he didn’t know,” Issa said. “Now the question is, what did he know and how is he going to explain why he gave that answer?”

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Oversight Committee Letter Questions Disgraced US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr’s Trustworthiness And Credibility After Lies About His Department Supplying Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s “lack of trustworthiness” in explaining what he knew about the failed “Fast and Furious” weapons investigation has “called into question his overall credibility” to serve as the nation’s top prosecutor, the chairman of a House committee investigating the operation said Monday.

In a blistering letter, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Mr. Holder that it was time for him “to come clean to the American public” on what he knew and when about the weapons investigation, saying Mr. Holder has made numerous statements about the operation that have “proven to be untrue.”

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Mr. Issa wrote. “Operation Fast and Furious was the department’s most significant gun-trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives — destroying the Mexican [drug] cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border.

“On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Holder had an obligation to say who is going to be held accountable “for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Mr. Issa has been investigating Fast and Furious for several months with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The operation involved the purchase of weapons at Phoenix-area gun shops that eventually were “walked,” or taken, into Mexico, where they were delivered to Mexican dug bosses.

Two of the weapons, both AK-47 assault rifles, were found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry in December.

Mr. Issa said the Justice Department from the beginning of the probe has offered “a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman dismissed Mr. Issa’s letter Monday as “recycled” partisanship.

But Mr. Issa said Justice’s defenses were aimed at undermining the congressional investigation.

The Justice Department insisted from the start that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked that he and Mr. Grassley defer their oversight responsibilities because of concerns they would interfere with an ongoing investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General, Mr. Issa said.

Additionally, he said, the department steadfastly insisted that none of the Fast and Furious guns had been “walked” into Mexico.

“Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” he said. “When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona.

“All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around [Justice] and its political appointees,” he said.

Last month, Mr. Holder claimed Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department, Mr. Issa said, although documents discovered through the course of the investigation proved that “each and every one of these claims advanced by the department to be untrue.”

“It appears your latest defense has reached a new low,” he said, adding that Mr. Holder in a letter Friday said he was unaware of the Fast and Furious operation because his staff failed to inform him of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to the attorney general.

“At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as attorney general,” Mr. Issa said. “At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.

“Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate and attempt to change the topic away from the department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation and authorization of this reckless program.”

On Friday, Mr. Holder denied that emails sent to his office showed that he knew of the Fast and Furious operation and did nothing about it. He said public comments about the inquiry and his involvement with it had become “so base and so harmful to interests that I hope we all share” that he had to publicly address the matter.

Mr. Holder said he took “decisive action” when he learned earlier this year about Fast and Furious in ordering the Office of Inspector General to investigate the matter. He said he also overhauled the leadership at ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, which oversaw the investigation.

“It has become clear that the flawed tactics employed in Fast and Furious were not limited to that operation and were actually employed in an investigation conducted during the prior administration,” Mr. Holder said, referring to a separate initiative known as “Operation Wide Receiver” managed by federal authorities during the George W. Bush administration.

“Regardless, those tactics should never again be adopted in any investigation,” he said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the Issa allegations, no matter how many times they are repeated, continue to be “baseless.” She said Mr. Holder took concerns about tactics used in Fast and Furious to the Office of Inspector General, where the operation is now under investigation.

“The department will continue to cooperate with both the inspector general and congressional investigations,” she said. “In the meantime, what the American people deserve is less partisan showboating and more responsible solutions to stopping gun violence on the Southwest Border.”

In the letter, Mr. Issa said documents obtained by congressional investigators show Mr. Holder was aware of Fast and Furious in the summer of 2010 at the latest, not April or May of this year as he testified. Mr. Issa said Mr. Holder was informed about the ATF investigation on at least five occasions and was told that straw buyers were responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug-trafficking cartels.

“Yet, you did nothing to stop this program,” Mr. Issa said. “You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind” attorneys in your office, “who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention.”

Mr. Issa said the “most disturbing aspect of this intransigence” is that the Justice Department “has been lying to Congress ever since the inquiry into Fast and Furious began.”

“These firearms were not interdicted. They were not stopped. Your agents allowed these firearms purchases to continue, sometimes even monitoring them in person, and within days some of these weapons were being recovered in Mexico,” he said.

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100+ Assault Weapons Supplied By U.S. ATF Found In Drug Cartel Enforcer’s Home In Mexico

October 9, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.

In all, 100 assault weapons acquired under Fast and Furious were transported 350 miles from Phoenix to El Paso, making that West Texas city a central hub for gun traffickers. Forty of the weapons made it across the border and into the arsenal of Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a feared cartel leader in Ciudad Juarez, according to federal court records and trace documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The smugglers’ tactics — quickly moving the weapons far from ATF agents in southern Arizona, where it had been assumed they would circulate — vividly demonstrate that what had been viewed as a local problem was much larger. Six other Fast and Furious guns destined for El Paso were recovered in Columbus, N.M.

“These Fast and Furious guns were going to Sinaloans, and they are killing everyone down there,” said one knowledgeable U.S. government source, who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing investigations. “But that’s only how many we know came through Texas. Hundreds more had to get through.”

Torres Marrufo, also known as “the Jaguar,” has been identified by U.S. authorities as the enforcer for Sinaloa cartel chieftain Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. The Fast and Furious weapons were found at one of Torres Marrufo’s homes April 30 when Mexican police inspected the property. It was unoccupied but “showed signs of recent activity,” they said.

The basement had been converted into a gym with a wall covered with built-in mirrors. Behind the mirrors they found a hidden room with the Fast and Furious weapons and dozens more, including an antiaircraft machine gun, a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.

“We have seized the most important cache of weapons in the history of Ciudad Juarez,” Chihuahua state Gov. Cesar Duarte said at the time, though he did not know that many of the weapons came from the U.S. and Fast and Furious.

Torres Marrufo has been indicted in El Paso, but authorities have been unable to locate and arrest him.

In the U.S., intelligence officials consider the Sinaloa cartel the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. Weekly reports from U.S. intelligence authorities to the Justice Department in the summer of 2010, at the height of Fast and Furious, warned about the proliferation of guns reaching the Sinaloa cartel.

Under Fast and Furious, begun in fall 2009, the ATF allowed illegal buyers to walk away with weapons in the hope that agents in Phoenix could track the guns and arrest cartel leaders.

Three months into the program, El Paso began to emerge as a hub, perhaps the central location, for Fast and Furious weapons. On Jan. 13, 2010, El Paso police stumbled upon 40 firearms after following a suspicious dark blue Volkswagen Jetta that backed into a garage at a local residence, according to federal court records.

Alberto Sandoval told authorities he acquired the weapons three days after they were purchased from someone he knew only as “Rudy.” He said he was paid $1,000 to store the guns and “knew the firearms were going to Mexico.”

Sandoval pleaded guilty in federal court in El Paso and was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison. A month later, on Dec. 17, 2010, he escaped from a minimum-security prison in Tucson; officials believe he fled to Mexico.

Two others, Ivan Chavira and Edgar Ivan Galvan, were subsequently charged in that gun recovery, along with the recovery of 20 Fast and Furious weapons on April 7, 2010, in El Paso. Those guns also were discovered by chance by local authorities, and ATF trace records show that the weapons were purchased in Phoenix two weeks before they were found in El Paso.

Chavira and Galvan pleaded guilty. Chavira received eight years in prison; Galvan is to be sentenced next month.

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Two Top Washington DC ATF Supervisors Demoted After Agency Supplied Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 6, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Two top supervisors at ATF headquarters in Washington — the deputy director and the assistant director for all field operations — have been reassigned as the beleaguered agency attempts to remake itself amid the fallout from a failed gun-tracking operation along the Southwest border called Fast and Furious, according to two sources briefed on the changes.

William J. Hoover, the No. 2 man at ATF, will become special agent-in-charge of the agency’s Washington field office, while Mark Chait, who ran all of the field investigations around the country, is being reassigned as head of the Baltimore field office.

Thomas Brandon, who was sent to Phoenix to run the field office there and help it recover from the repercussions of Fast and Furious, will be taking Hoover’s spot as deputy director.

The new assignments, along with other job changes, were announced today by Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis who was named acting head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this year. He succeeded ATF chief Kenneth Melson, who was reassigned to a lower-level position in the Justice Department.

Hoover had broad supervision over Fast and Furious, was given routine updates on the “gun walking” operation, and grew concerned over the number of firearms getting into Mexico without any U.S. indictments on this side of the border.

He tried to get it shut down six months after it began in the fall of 2009. But he failed, and the program continued until January of this year. During that time, a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in Arizona and two Fast and Furious weapons were recovered at the scene.

Under the program, the ATF allowed the illegal purchase of countless weapons and expected agents to track them to Mexican drug cartels.

Instead, more than 2,000 were lost and many turned up in at least 170 violent crime scenes in Mexico.

The furor has prompted a congressional investigation and a review by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Changes His Story With Respect To His Department Supplying Guns To Medican Drug Cartels

October 5, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.

On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

Yet internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.

The documents came from the head of the National Drug Intelligence Center and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

In Fast and Furious, ATF agents allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

It’s called letting guns “walk,” and it remained secret to the public until Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December. Two guns from Fast and Furious were found at the scene, and ATF agent John Dodson blew the whistle on the operation.

Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico

Ever since, the Justice Department has publicly tried to distance itself. But the new documents leave no doubt that high level Justice officials knew guns were being “walked.”

Two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010. “It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions,” says Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replies “I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like, “Finally they’re going after people who sent guns down there.”

The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General. And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee – he did know about Fast and Furious – just not the details.

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Documents Show Our Tax Dollars Funded ATF’s “Fast And Furious” Operation – Which Provided 2,000+ Guns To Mexican Drug Cartel

September 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Not only did U.S. officials approve, allow and assist in the sale of more than 2,000 guns to the Sinaloa cartel — the federal government used taxpayer money to buy semi-automatic weapons, sold them to criminals and then watched as the guns disappeared.

This disclosure, revealed in documents obtained by Fox News, could undermine the Department of Justice’s previous defense that Operation Fast and Furious was a “botched” operation where agents simply “lost track” of weapons as they were transferred from one illegal buyer to another. Instead, it heightens the culpability of the federal government as Mexico, according to sources, has opened two criminal investigations into the operation that flooded their country with illegal weapons.

Operation Fast and Furious began in October 2009. In it, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives encouraged gun stores to sell weapons to an arms smuggling gang, then watched as the guns crossed the border and were used in crimes. Each month, the agency allowed hundreds of guns to go South, despite opposition from some agents.

All told, the gang spent more than $1.25 million for the illegal guns.

In June 2010, however, the ATF dramatically upped the ante, making the U.S. government the actual “seller” of guns.

According to documents obtained by Fox News, Agent John Dodson was ordered to buy six semi-automatic Draco pistols — two of those were purchased at the Lone Wolf gun store in Peoria, Ariz. An unusual sale, Dodson was sent to the store with a letter of approval from David Voth, an ATF group supervisor.

Dodson then sold the weapons to known illegal buyers, while fellow agents watched from their cars nearby.

This was not a “buy-bust” or a sting operation, where police sell to a buyer and then arrest them immediately afterward. In this case, agents were “ordered” to let the sale go through and follow the weapons to a stash house.

According to sources directly involved in the case, Dodson felt strongly that the weapons should not be abandoned and the stash house should remain under 24-hour surveillance. However, Voth disagreed and ordered the surveillance team to return to the office. Dodson refused, and for six days in the desert heat kept the house under watch, defying direct orders from Voth.

A week later, a second vehicle showed up to transfer the weapons. Dodson called for an interdiction team to move in, make the arrest and seize the weapons. Voth refused and the guns disappeared with no surveillance.

According to a story posted Sunday on a website dedicated to covering Fast and Furious, Voth gave Dodson the assignment to “dirty him up,” since Dodson had become the most vocal critic of the operation.

“I think Dodson demanded the letter from Voth to cover both himself and the FFL (Federal Firearm Licensee). He didn’t want to be hung out to dry by Voth,” a source told the website “Sipsey Street Irregulars.”

Subsequent to this undercover operation, sources told Sipsey, “Dodson just about came apart all over them (his supervisors). In a ‘screaming match’ that was heard throughout the Phoenix office by many employees, Dodson yelled at Voth and Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Gillett, ‘Why not just go direct and empty out the (ATF) arms room?” (to the cartels), or words to that effect.’

After the confrontation, ATF managers transferred Dodson to a more menial job. Months later, after the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, Dodson blew the whistle and went public about the federal government’s gunrunning operation.

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Cover Up Revealed: More Guns That ATF Supplied To Mexican Drug Cartels Show Up At Crime Scenes

September 2, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Just hours after the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, federal officials tried to cover up evidence that the gun that killed Terry was one the government intentionally helped sell to the Mexican cartels in a weapons trafficking program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The revelation comes just days after a huge shake-up of government officials who oversaw the failed anti-gun trafficking program and Congress renewed its demand for more answers.

Also late Thursday, Sen. Charles Grassley’s office revealed that 21 more Fast and Furious guns have been found at violent crime scenes in Mexico. That is up from 11 the agency admitted just last month.

“The Justice Department has been less than forthcoming since day one, so the revisions here are hardly surprising, and the numbers will likely rise until the more than 1,000 guns that were allowed to fall into the hands of bad guys are recovered — most likely years down the road,” Grassley said in a statement released Thursday.

“What we’re still waiting for are the answers to the other questions the Attorney General failed to answer per our agreement. The cooperation of the Attorney General and his staff is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of this disastrous policy and help the ATF and the department move forward.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Grassley, R-Iowa, said they are expanding their investigation into the scandal on Thursday. In a strongly worded letter to Anne Scheel, the new U.S. attorney for Arizona, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested interviews, emails, memos and even hand-written notes from members of the U.S. attorney’s office that played key roles in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) program.

Issa and Grassley said they want to speak with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emory Hurley and Michael Morrissey, along with Patrick Cunningham, chief of the office’s Criminal Division.

Not only do congressional investigators want to “make sense” of details of the operation that allowed more than 2,000 guns to “walk” and later turn up at crime scenes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, but they want to known why Hurley — who knew almost immediately the guns found at Terry’s crime scene belonged to Fast and Furious — tried to “prevent the connection from being disclosed.”

In an internal email the day after the murder, Hurley, and then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, decided not to disclose the connection, saying ” … this way we do not divulge our current case (Fast and Furious) or the Border Patrol shooting case.”

“The level of involvement of the United States Attorney’s Office … in the genesis and implementation of this case is striking,” wrote Issa and Grassley.

The two claim witnesses have told them that recently reassigned Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley may have also prevented ATF agents from doing their jobs.

“Many ATF agents working on Operation Fast and Furious were under the impression that even some of the most basic law enforcement techniques typically used to interdict weapons required the explicit approval of your office, specifically that from Hurley,” the letter states.

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ATF Head Kenneth Melson Gets The Boot Amid Investigation Into ATF Operation That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels

August 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The head of the ATF has been removed after months of speculation about his role in a botched gun-tracking operation that could have contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Kenneth Melson was being replaced. Melson is being transferred to the Office of Legal Policy, where he will be a senior adviser.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Todd Jones will take over as acting ATF director, according to the Department of Justice.

In a simultaneous move, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, announced his resignation on Tuesday. Burke oversaw the legal aspects of the Fast and Furious operation, providing advice to agents involved.

The Fast and Furious gun-tracking initiative has been in Congress’s crosshairs for the majority of this year. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) led an investigation of the gun-tracking operation, which oversaw the sale of thousands of firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called for Melson’s resignation in June; two weeks later he backed away from those demands when Melson came to Capitol Hill during the July 4 holiday with his own personal lawyer to conduct a transcribed interview with Issa and Grassley’s staff.

Melson’s reassignment and Burke’s resignation represent the first major investigative victory for Issa, who said he would continue to probe Justice and its botched gun-tracking operation.

“While the reckless disregard for safety that took place in Operation Fast and Furious certainly merits changes within the Department of Justice, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation to ensure that blame isn’t offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department,” Issa said in a statement.

“There are still many questions to be answered about what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and who else bears responsibility, but these changes are warranted and offer an opportunity for the Justice Department to explain the role other officials and offices played in the infamous efforts to allow weapons to flow to Mexican drug cartels.”

Grassley said the administration’s announcement represented an admission that “serious mistakes were made” and was a step in the right direction. In a statement, he added that there’s blame to go around.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more fall out beyond the resignations and new assignments announced today,” Grassley said.

Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned that Melson could be taking the fall for the incompetent decisions of others, and that Congress needs to probe further into the matter to identify and hold responsible any remaining key players.

“This move by the administration indicates that Director Melson may be being used as a scapegoat for a much larger problem within ATF and DOJ,” said Smith in a statement.

“It appears that other senior officials at DOJ may have been involved in this deadly operation. The American people and Congress will not be appeased until we have the whole truth about how and why Operation Fast and Furious was authorized. Congress will not ignore an agency so out of control that its decisions and operations cost American lives.”

The Fast and Furious operation came under congressional scrutiny after whistleblowers within the ATF brought it to Grassley’s attention. ATF agents said they were told to monitor the sale of thousands of guns in the Southwest with the hope of tracking them back to Mexican drug cartels and dismantling their trafficking networks.

But agents were often told to abandon surveillance of the weapons, allowing them — and the straw buyers — to disappear, according to testimony from numerous agents before the House. The only remaining hope for agents to track the guns was if other agencies found them at a murder scene or during a drug raid and identified them by the serial numbers on the guns.

Officials linked two weapons found at the Arizona murder scene last December of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry — according to testimony, they are terrified that some of the thousands of guns still at large will be used to kill more innocent people.

Melson has never been implicitly indicated as approving the tactic of letting the guns “walk,” but Issa has argued that as the head of the agency, he should have been aware of the operation.

Attorney General Eric Holder heralded the promotion of Jones, saying he will provide the ATF with the necessary leadership to strengthen the agency.

“As a seasoned prosecutor and former military judge advocate, U.S. Attorney Jones is a demonstrated leader who brings a wealth of experience to this position,” Holder said.

“I have great confidence that he will be a strong and steady influence guiding ATF in fulfilling its mission of combating violent crime by enforcing federal criminal laws and regulations in the firearms and explosives industries.”

He also lauded Burke’s career, focusing on his role in bringing the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to justice. Giffords was shot in the head in January while speaking publicly at a shopping center.

“The office’s quick response to the devastating shootings in January that claimed the lives of several people and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was crucial in arresting and charging the alleged shooter,” said Holder in a statement.

The DOJ inspector general is conducting its own investigation of the operation. Both Holder and President Obama have declined to comment in any detail about the program until the investigation is completed.

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Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke Quits Amid Investigation Into ATF Operation That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels

August 30, 2011

ARIZONA – Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, has delivered his letter of resignation to President Obama – effective immediately.

The move comes amid fallout from Operation Fast and Furious, that was designed to track gun buyers and major weapons traffickers along the border. One of the guns was linked to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last year.

“My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying. It has also been intensely demanding. For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead,” Burke said in the letter.

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.

Burke’s departure comes the same day as the transfer of ATF acting director Kenneth Melson to a new post.

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ATF Blamed For Starting Motley County Texas Wildfire – “That Bunch Has A Real Corner On Stupid…”

May 13, 2011

MOTLEY COUNTY, TEXAS – The fight between Texas and Washington, D.C., over wildfires in the Lone Star State just got nastier.

A county official in the Texas Panhandle is now blaming a federal agency for starting one of the fires through carelessness.

Tom Edwards, the county attorney in rural Motley County east of Lubbock, said on Friday that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives was responsible on Tuesday for sparking a fire that consumed 150 acres.

“You can quote me on it: That bunch has a real corner on stupid,” Edwards told Reuters.

Tom Crowley, a spokesman with the federal agency, said bureau officials were assisting four local bomb squads — at their request — to destroy some explosives. Firefighters were on hand, he said. The wind picked up, but the explosives were too dangerous to move, so the officials went ahead and destroyed the explosives.

“Unfortunately, a fragment ignited some grass,” Crowley said. “As far as the community, we’re working with them to let them know how to go about making a claim with the government.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry has publicly criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency for declining the state’s request for a major disaster declaration for wildfires that have scorched some 2.5 million acres since November.

FEMA has said it has awarded fire management grants to Texas but that the agency determined there was not a need for additional support.

“We’ve got the federal government that has refused to provide assistance to the state on the request of Governor Perry because of all our statewide fires, and then in waltzes federal agents and they start a fire,” Edwards said.

“We had high winds, we’re under a burn ban because of extensive prairie fires, brush fires, and in they rolled with the idea of blowing up things.”

Crowley said that the federal bureau and the local bomb squads were working as a team.

Fires covering some 203,000 acres were still burning as of Friday, according to the Texas Forest Service. The state remains dangerously dry, with 47 percent of Texas listed as in “exceptional drought” by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

This week’s episode shows how dangerous the conditions are, said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed.

“It underscores why we need help,” she said. “It’s still a touch and go situation out there with drought and winds.”

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ATF’s “Fast And Furious” Operation Knowingly Allowed Hundreds Of Guns To Cross Border Into Mexico

March 3, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Hoping to score a major prosecution of Mexican drug lords, federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives permitted hundreds of guns to be purchased and retained by suspected straw buyers with the expectation they might cross the border and even be used in crimes while the case was being built, according to documents and interviews.

The decision — part of a Phoenix-based operation code named “Fast and Furious” — was met by strong objections from some front-line agents who feared they were allowing weapons like AK-47s to “walk” into the hands of drug lords and gun runners, internal agency memos show. Indeed, scores of the weapons came back quickly traced to criminal activity.

One of those front-line agents who objected, John Dodson, 39, told the Center for Public Integrity that these guns “are going to be turning up in crimes on both sides of the border for decades.” Dodson said in an interview that “with the number of guns we let walk, we’ll never know how many people were killed, raped, robbed … there is nothing we can do to round up those guns. They are gone.”

Dodson has taken his misgivings to the Senate Judiciary Committee as a whistleblower after his concerns were dismissed by his supervisors and initially ignored by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the panel’s top Republican — who is spearheading a probe of ATF’s actions – said “it’s time to step back” and examine the policy. Two of the guns involved in the sting operation turned up at the scene of a fatal shooting of a U.S. agent.

The Justice Department said today that Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the department’s acting inspector general to evaluate the concerns about ATF’s investigative tactics.

A Change in Strategy

Dodson told the Center he and several of his colleagues wanted to intercept some of the weapons but their objections were repeatedly overruled by ATF supervisors. The supervisors instructed them to simply record the straw purchases in a database, flag them as “suspect,” and monitor the suspected gun runners until evidence piled up about their connections to Mexican drug lords.

The tactics employed in the Fast and Furious case were part of an evolving change in the strategic direction of firearms investigations, ATF officials told the Center.

Mark Chait, ATF’s assistant director in charge of field operations, told the Center he personally decided to change the strategy in September 2010 after years of futile efforts to interdict guns from small-time straw buyers with little hope of dismantling major drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. The agency’s earlier focus on straw buyers was criticized last fall in a review by the Justice Department’s inspector general of ATF’s border effort, known as Project Gunrunner.

In addition, ATF officials have so far been frustrated in efforts to persuade the White House to implement even a simple change in firearm sales reporting requirements to help detect possible gun-running at the border.

“When we look at the complexities of the organizations working around the border of Mexico, just dealing with the lowest level purchaser, the straw purchaser, doesn’t get you to the organizer, the money people and the key people in that organization to shut that down. We found that if we don’t attack the organization and shut the organization down, they will continue to move guns across the border,” Chait told the Center. “It’s kind of a somewhat common sense approach that if you don’t get to the higher-level folks that are making the calls, then guns will continue to cross the border.”

But Chait went on to say that the policy was not set in stone. “I think we have a good strategy,” he said. “I think it needs to be reviewed. We’re taking a look at it right now to see if it needs to be tweaked in any way.”

The Fast and Furious investigation was initiated in October 2009, eleven months before Chait’s formal policy change.

With direct blessing of ATF headquarters in Washington and supervision by the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, a special ATF strike force known as Group VII was given permission to let federally licensed gun shops continue selling weapons to straw buyers already linked to a suspected Mexican gun running operation.

Officials told the Center that ATF allowed about 1,765 firearms over the 15 months of the operation to pass from gun dealers to the suspected straw buyers that were the accomplices of the gun running ring. Another 233 weapons had been bought by the suspects prior to the ATF operation starting, bringing the total number of guns in the case to 1,998.

Of those, 797 of the guns were eventually recovered as a result of criminal activity on both sides of the border — including 195 from inside Mexico — after they were used in crimes, collected during arrests, or interdicted through other law enforcement operations, the officials told the Center.

Understanding the Risks

The risks that some of the guns might end up in crimes was fully understood, memos show.

A case summary sent to ATF headquarters took note of “firearms being recovered in the Republic of Mexico or on/near the US/Mexico border.”

“ATF is attempting to not only secure a straw purchase/dealing in firearms without a license case against various individuals but more specifically to make the bigger connection to the Mexican Cartel/Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) obtaining these firearms for the best possible case and the most severe charges when it is time to Indict this case,” the memo read.

Dodson said his supervisors seemed pleased when one of the guns the agency had let “walk” showed up in a crime in Mexico. They were “elated every time a gun was recovered in Mexico” because they “saw it as proving the nexus that we were dealing with a real drug trafficking group.”

But the investigation dragged on for 15 months, in part, documents show, because the Justice Department was slow to approve a wiretap and bring prosecutions. Memos reveal that ATF supervisors were frustrated by the delays, but let straw buyers and suspected gun runners continue to move scores, even hundreds of guns a month, internal agency memos show.

An April 2, 2010 memo from the strike force leader to the Justice Department disclosed that ATF watched as targeted suspects purchased 359 guns in the United States in March 2010 alone.
The case summary sent to ATF headquarters in summer 2010 gave a much higher number.

“To date over 1,500 firearms have been purchased since October 2009 for over one million ($1,000,000.00) cash in over-the-counter transactions at various Phoenix area” gun dealers, the memo said.

Some of the field agents became increasingly incensed.

“Nothing happened. We’re monitoring the same buyers buying the same guns from the same dealers at the same rate and we’re not stopping any of it,” Dodson recalled.

Notations in the case files reviewed by the Center show ATF received several “trace” reports of guns they had let pass to straw buyers showing up in criminal cases in Mexico or on the U.S. side of the border.

In November 2009, for example, four 7.62 caliber weapons were recovered in Naco, Mexico only two weeks after one of the suspects had purchased them. Also, in July 2010 a Romanian AK-47 variant was recovered in Navojoa, Mexico, the records say.

Dodson, who told the Center he expects to be fired for speaking out, said four of the seven agents on the strike force had strong reservations about what they were being instructed to do. The three others, he said, backed the approach. Dodson’s biggest fear was that some of the guns would eventually be used against law enforcement.

That fear was soon realized.
A Death Raises Questions

In May 2010, a Customs and Border Protection agent confronted an armed band of gangsters along the U.S. side of the border. The suspects fled but some of the guns they left behind were traced back to weapons purchased by one of the suspects targeted in Fast and Furious, Dodson said.

imageU.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry was fatally shot north of the Arizona-Mexico border in December while trying to arrest bandits who target illegal immigrants. Two weapons recovered at the scene were traced to the ATF’s Fast and Furious operation, according to Sen Charles Grassley.Then in December, two weapons recovered at the scene of a murdered Customs and Border Protection agent, Brian Terry, were traced to the ATF operation, according to Sen.Grassley.

“This may be a well-intended policy, but when you have agents on the ground for months questioning what’s going on, and a Border Patrol agent is killed, it’s time to take a step back and check to see if the policy has gone awry,” Grassley told the Center.

The ATF said in a statement today that neither gun recovered at the scene appears to be the weapon that killed Terry, and they may simply have been left behind by the criminals. “At this time, we’re not aware of any forensic evidence that would link these guns to the homicide,” the agency said.

Grassley said his committee has interviewed numerous ATF agents, including Dodson, who have come forward to raise concerns about the Fast and Furious operation and the potential danger of ATF’s approach.

“The ATF clearly had plenty of information on the bad guys. The problem wasn’t the fact that the guns weren’t being reported, it was that the ATF didn’t act on the information they had,” the senator said.

“We heard from more than a dozen people who brought forward allegations of wrongdoing at the ATF. What Agent Dobson has done by risking his career in an effort to expose the truth is patriotic. He is guilty of only one thing: committing truth,” Grassley added.

Dodson said he feels responsible for Terry’s death by being part of the ATF operation. He said he saw no other option but to go public — even if meant being fired — because he and his fellow agents’ concerns were ignored by supervisors.

Dodson said after his supervisors rejected the agents’ concerns, he filed a whistleblower complaint both by Web and phone to the Justice inspector general but was never contacted. He then approached Grassley, keeping his current supervisor on a joint terrorism task force apprised of his whistleblowing activities. Eventually, the inspector general contacted Dodson after Grassley intervened.

ATF supervisors told agents who disagreed with the strategy that “if you are going to make an omelet you’ve got to scramble some eggs,” Dodson said. “That was the attitude. I took it to mean that whatever crimes these guns were going to be involved in, those were the eggs, those were acceptable.”

Dodson said that another time a supervisor told him, “’It’s kind of a moot argument. They’re going to get those guns somewhere.’ But my feeling is we shouldn’t be making it easier for them.”

Internal agency memos show ATF supervisors dismissed the objections of agents in the Group VII strike force, insisting the prize of getting permission to run a wiretap and eventually rolling up a major gun or drug gang in Mexico merited the risks. There were even comments interpreted by the agents as veiled threats that they could lose their jobs if they didn’t fall in line.

“This is a time we all need to pull together, not drift apart,” Group VII supervisor David J.Voth wrote to his strike force team in March 2010, acknowledging “there may be a schism developing amongst the group.”

“If you don’t think this is fun you’re in the wrong line of work — period! This is the pinnacle of domestic U.S. law enforcement techniques. After this the tool box is empty,” Voth wrote.

“Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day.”
Plagued By Delay

The operation, however, turned out to be anything but fast and furious.

By spring 2010, Voth appealed to the Justice Department for some “urgency” as the number of weapons ATF let through was growing.

In an April 2, 2010, email to one of his supervisors and an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix, Voth wrote there was “no pressure but perhaps an increased sense of urgency.” The strike force supervisor noted that March 2010 was deadliest month in five years in Mexico and also yielded some of the largest movement of weapons from Fast and Furious.

“Our subjects purchased 359 firearms during the month of March alone, to include numerous Barrett .50 caliber rifles,” Voth wrote. “I believe we are righteous in our plan to dismantle this entire organization and to rush in to arrest any one person without taking into account the entire scope of the conspiracy would be ill advised to the overall good of the mission.

“I acknowledge that we are all in agreement that to do so properly requires patience and planning. In the event, however, that there is anything we can do to facilitate a timely response or turnaround by others, we should communicate our sense of urgency with regard to this matter.”

Nine months later, Fast and Furious finally bore some fruit.

On Jan. 25, 2011 — 15 months after the operation was launched and one month after the agent’s death along the border — the primary suspect named in the strike force case file, Jaime Avila, was indicted along with 19 alleged cohorts in Arizona. The 53-count indictment included 35 counts of making a false statement in connection with the acquisition of firearms. Avila has pleaded not guilty.

“The massive size of this operation sadly exemplifies the magnitude of the problems,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke at the time. “Mexican Drug Lords go shopping for war weapons in Arizona.”
When asked for comment on the office’s role in the ATF operation, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix noted today that federal prosecutors along the Mexican border have been pressing for tougher penalties against straw buyers who traffic arms to Mexico.

imageWilliam Newell, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Phoenix office, announces the indictments that emerged from the Fast and Furious investigation on Jan. 25 in Phoenix. ATF officials say Newell is slated to become the agency’s new attaché to the Mexican government. Credit: Matt York/Associated PressDodson said some of the cooperating gun dealers who sold weapons to the suspects at ATF’s behest initially had concerns and wanted to end their sales. One even asked whether the dealers might have a legal liability, but was assured by federal prosecutors they would be protected, he said.

The case logs show ATF supervisors and U.S. attorney’s office lawyers met with some of the gun dealers to discuss their “role” in the case, in one instance as far back as December 2009.
Concerns about ATF’s approach even extended outside the ATF office in Phoenix.

Grassley’s office said it has gathered evidence and testimony that Darren Gil, the ATF’s then-attache to the Mexican government in Mexico City, also objected to the Fast and Furious strategy. He worried it might be viewed by the administration of Mexican president Felipe Calderon as a misguided approach that only armed drug lords for more violence.

The attache, Grassley said, raised his objections to ATF headquarters but was told supervisors there already knew about the operation. Gil was eventually removed from his job, and retired. His planned replacement is the special agent-in-charge in Phoenix during the operation, William Newell, ATF officials said.

Gil declined to be interviewed.
Behind the Debate

Law enforcement experts said the ATF’s strategy clearly had risks.

Phil Jordan, a former Drug Enforcement Administration administrator who once ran the inter-agency El Paso Intelligence Center, said: “I can’t comprehend how one of our agencies could allow weapons to flow if we knew that they could end up in the hands of the cartels, and then be utilized to kill people.”

A respected former ATF executive, Jim Cavanaugh, conceded that allowing guns to reach the streets may have been a mistake. “But the alternative argument could be, ‘Well I could have got one or two guys. But that would have allowed a ring of 30 to 40 to 50 gun traffickers to operate for two or three more years, and they could have pumped thousands of guns into Mexico,’ ” he said.

What other factors might have influenced ATF to let guns “walk” rather than confiscating them immediately and arresting the straw buyers?

Part of the answer may lie in the sort of frustration experienced by ATF in an earlier Phoenix case against firearms dealer George Iknadosian, who owned a store called X Caliber Guns.

Dozens of Romanian WASR 10 weapons bought by suspected straw buyers at X Caliber were eventually recovered at Mexican crime scenes, but authorities could not make a successful case against Iknadosian in 2009, alleging that he was part of a conspiracy trafficking firearms to Mexico. Federal prosecutors declined to take the case because federal courts were increasingly ruling that purchasers had to be barred from buying weapons in order for a dealer to be prosecuted. State prosecutors stepped in and charged Iknadosian with fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, but a state judge dismissed the case, using similar logic as the federal courts.

imageAfter a deadly shootout with suspected members of the Beltran-Leyva cartel on May 26th, 2008, that left eight policemen dead, authorities seized a variety of guns, including seven AK-47s, as well as 36 magazines, and 500 rounds of ammunition, according to ATF investigative reports. Credit: ATFATF officials were also facing a Justice Department inspector general’s review of Operation Gun Runner — a review which ultimately criticized the agency in November 2010 for not aiming higher in its border gun probes.

“ATF’s focus remains largely on inspections of gun dealers and investigations of straw purchasers, rather than on higher-level traffickers, smugglers, and the ultimate recipients of the trafficked guns,” the report said.

“Because there is no federal firearms trafficking statute, ATF must use a wide variety of other statutes to combat firearms trafficking. However, cases brought under these statutes are difficult to prove and do not carry stringent penalties — particularly for straw purchasers of guns,” the report noted.

“As a result, we found that [U.S. Attorney’s offices] are less likely to accept and prosecute Project Gunrunner cases. And when these cases are prosecuted and convictions obtained, Federal Sentencing Guidelines categorize straw-purchasing-related offenses as lesser crimes.”

The contretemps occurs just as Mexican President Felipe Calderon met today at the White House with President Barack Obama.

The presidential get-together was already expected to be tense, as friction has arisen over leaked American diplomatic exchanges that criticized the Mexican government. The cables, some of them classified secret, were disclosed by the Wikileaks website.

In an interview last week with El Universal, one of Mexico’s leading newspapers, Calderon said that U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual’s “ignorance has translated into a distortion of what is happening in Mexico” that has caused “an impact and an irritation in our own team.”

As he has several times, Calderon complained to El Universal that the American government has done little to curb the nation’s demand for drugs or stop the flow of weapons across the border.
“The institutional cooperation ends up being notoriously insufficient,” Calderon said.

Jordan, the former senior DEA official, said the ATF’s policy in Fast and Furious “supports President Calderon’s complaint that the U.S. is not doing nearly all it can to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.”

Publicly, ATF and Justice have tried to downplay any notion it would let guns knowingly flow to straw buyers to Mexican drug lords.

Newell, the special agent in charge in Phoenix, was asked at a news conference after the Avila indictment whether his agency would ever let guns knowingly cross the border. Newell answered, “Hell, no.” But, he said, suspects under surveillance sometimes elude agents, which could result in guns winding up in Mexico.

Grassley got a similar answer.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the senator, the Justice Department said ATF never “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico.” ATF, the letter added, makes “every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation into Mexico.”

Grassley told the Center he now believes those representations are contradicted by the documents his staff has gathered and the testimony of agents like Dodson. “The Justice Department and the ATF put up a wall to mislead the American people and were less than forthcoming,” he said.

Dodson also believes his agency has been less than forthright, and said that was part of the reason he went public.

“I’m boots on the ground and I’ve seen it done (let guns go through) and I had done it and I was instructed to do it almost every day I was down there. It happened,” he said.

“What we were doing in my opinion was wrong. It’s not what we do and for my agency to openly and publicly come in and deny we are doing it, I can’t even fathom it.”

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