Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them…
Link to song “Evil, Filthy, Rotten Conspiracy” by Carl Klang
Exposed: The secret guns sting that backfired on the US
America’s firearms watchdog allowed weapons to flow in, failed to catch ringleaders, then tried a cover-up
By Guy Adams
Thursday, 16 June 2011
The lethal fallout from a botched operation by the US Department of Justice which allowed almost 2,000 illegally purchased firearms to be transported from the streets of Arizona to drug gangs in Mexico has been laid bare in a scathing Congressional report, which concludes that it resulted in countless deaths.
A mixture of arrogance, over-confidence, and staggering ineptitude by the Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] was outlined in a 51-page investigation by two Republican members of a House panel charged with getting to the bottom of what went wrong during a two-year operation called “Fast and Furious”.
It tells how, between 2009 and this year, the ATF instructed agents to turn a blind eye to hundreds of AK-47 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and revolvers purchased from gunshops in Phoenix and en route to Mexico. They hoped to eventually recover them from crime scenes and build a complex conspiracy case that might take down the leaders of a major drug cartel.
In the event, the operation resulted in the arrest of a handful of small-time crooks. But it exacerbated an already-huge spike in violence on both sides of the border. Two of the guns allowed to “walk” into the hands of criminals were used in a shoot-out that killed a US border patrol agent, Brian Terry.
The report describes his death as “a preventable tragedy”, detailing how many of the ATF agents involved in Fast and Furious began to object to what they saw as the “reckless” nature of the operation, which conflicted with all known protocol and may turn out to have been illegal. But when they raised their concerns, they faced “punishment and retaliation” from their superiors.
It also highlights the symbiotic nature of the deadly drug trade between the US and Mexico, which has resulted in approximately 38,000 deaths since 2007. Cartels make their money smuggling cocaine and cannabis north from Mexico, and simultaneously equip their private armies with assault weapons purchased thanks to America’s notoriously relaxed gun laws.
Fast and Furious revolved around so-called “straw” purchases of firearms, in which a buyer purchase military-grade hardware from a gun-store with the intention of illegally passing it to a criminal third party. ATF agents who track suspected straw purchases typically run intensive surveillance operations allowing them to arrest suspects and recover the guns. During the Fast and Furious operation they were instructed to simply let the weapons disappear.
A record was kept of their serial numbers. The idea was that this would later allow agents to link individual weapons to particular crime scenes. Somehow, this was supposed to help the ATF build up a nuanced picture of the complex structure of a major drug cartel, which would in turn lead to high-level arrests. But it wasn’t to be.
“Both line agents and gun dealers who co-operated with the ATF repeatedly expressed concerns”, about the operation, the report says. “But ATF supervisors did not heed those warnings. Instead, they told agents to follow orders because this was sanctioned from above.”
In total, agents watched at least 1,730 guns flood on to the black market, knowing they would be used to commit murders and other violent crimes. Their concerns about the policy were ignored. In one email to field staff printed in the report, ATF supervisor David Voth suggested that staff who objected to his orders would be fired.
“I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumours, or other adolescent behavior,” he wrote. “We are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have an exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law-enforcement tool box. If you don’t think this is fun, you are in the wrong line of work, period!”
John Dodson, a special agent from Phoenix who eventually blew the whistle on the “flawed” operation, told congressmen his superiors would be “giddy” with delight when “their” guns were found at a crime scene in Mexico, because they believed it “validated” their tactic. With regard to potential loss of life, an ATF boss told him: “if you are going to make an omelette, you need to scramble some eggs.”
On 14 December, disaster struck when the US border patrol guard, Brian Terry, was killed during a shootout with suspected illegal aliens on the Arizona border. His killers dropped their rifles to flee faster. Two of the weapons were AK-47s which had been intentionally allowed to walk during Fast and Furious.
Rather than admit to any mistake, the ATF embarked on a cover-up. William Newell, the special agent in charge of the operation, ordered the arrest of 20 of the people agents had been watching buy weapons for months. Then, although not one senior cartel member was arrested, he held a press conference declaring the operation a success.
Newell was then asked if any weapons had been deliberately allowed to end up in the hands of criminals. He replied, “Hell no!” The report describes that statement as untrue and “shocking.” It alleges that the Department of Justice continued to attempt a cover-up for several months.
The fallout from the report’s publication remains to be seen. It was written by two Republican congressmen, Darryl Issa and Charles Grassley. Some right-wing commentators have suggested that Fast and Furious was sanctioned by the Obama administration in an effort to justify tightening US gun laws. But the White House has said it had no direct knowledge of the operation.
ATF to require gun buyer information on border
By PETE YOST, Associated Press – Jul 11, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department announced Monday that all gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles.
The new policy comes amid criticism of a flawed federal probe aimed at dismantling large-scale arms trafficking networks along the Arizona border with Mexico.
In the probe, called Operation Fast and Furious, several agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they were inexplicably ordered by superiors to stop tracking some small-time “straw” buyers who purchased large numbers of weapons apparently destined for drug cartels.
Twenty low-level gun buyers have been charged in the operation. In December, two assault rifles that one of the now-indicted small-time buyers under scrutiny in Fast and Furious had purchased from a gun shop in Glendale, Ariz., turned up at the scene of a shootout that killed Brian Terry, an agent of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In recent congressional testimony, ATF agent John Dodson estimated that 1,800 guns in Fast and Furious were unaccounted for and that about two-thirds are probably in Mexico.
Under the new policy, federal firearms licensees in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico must report purchases of two or more of some types of rifles by the same person in a five-day span. The requirement applies to purchases of semi-automatic rifles that have detachable magazines and a caliber of greater than .22.
ATF estimates it will generate 18,000 reports a year.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new reporting measure will improve the ATF’s ability to disrupt illegal weapons trafficking networks that funnel firearms to criminal organizations
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the new policy “is exactly what ATF agents on the ground told Congress — that reporting multiple sales of military-grade assault weapons is a crucial tool to identify and disrupt Mexican drug cartels engaged in gun trafficking.”
One of the critics of Operation Fast and Furious called the new policy “the height of hypocrisy.” The Obama administration is restricting the gun rights of border state citizens, “when the administration knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
“Limiting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to solve the problem,” Smith said.
Mexico’s federal security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, praised Obama’s action.
ATF estimates the requirement will cover nearly 8,500 gun store operators in the four states, though less than 30 percent of those operators are expected to have multiple sales to report.
ATF will retain the information and if no investigative leads have been realized after two years, it will be purged.
Holders of federal firearms licenses already report multiple sales of handguns. The results go to the National Tracing Center, and ATF says it has led to successful prosecutions for firearms trafficking.
(but they are tracking anyway despite the law)
(but here they stopped tracking at the border in order to create a trumped up problem)
(clearly it was…)
(complain about drug cartels getting guns while the feds sell them the guns…)
ATF promotes supervisors in controversial gun operation
The three, who have been criticized for pushing on with the border weapons sting even as it came apart, receive new management jobs in Washington.
By Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau
August 16, 2011
Reporting from Washington—
The ATF has promoted three key supervisors of a controversial sting operation that allowed firearms to be illegally trafficked across the U.S. border into Mexico.
All three have been heavily criticized for pushing the program forward even as it became apparent that it was out of control. At least 2,000 guns were lost and many turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and two at the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
The three supervisors have been given new management positions at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. They are William G. McMahon, who was the ATF’s deputy director of operations in the West, where the illegal trafficking program was focused, and William D. Newell and David Voth, both field supervisors who oversaw the program out of the agency’s Phoenix office.
Documents: Fast and Furious paper trail
McMahon and Newell have acknowledged making serious mistakes in the program, which was dubbed Operation Fast and Furious.
“I share responsibility for mistakes that were made,” McMahon testified to a House committee three weeks ago. “The advantage of hindsight, the benefit of a thorough review of the case, clearly points me to things that I would have done differently.”
Three Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesmen did not return phone calls Monday asking about the promotions. But several agents said they found the timing of the promotions surprising, given the turmoil at the agency over the failed program.
McMahon was promoted Sunday to deputy assistant director of the ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations — the division that investigates misconduct by employees and other problems.
Kenneth E. Melson, the ATF’s acting director, said in an agency-wide confidential email announcing the promotion that McMahon was among ATF employees being rewarded because of “the skills and abilities they have demonstrated throughout their careers.”
Newell was the special agent in charge of the field office for Arizona and New Mexico, where Fast and Furious was conducted. On Aug. 1, the ATF announced he would become special assistant to the assistant director of the agency’s Office of Management in Washington.
Voth was an on-the-ground team supervisor for the operation, and last month he was moved to Washington to become branch chief for the ATF’s tobacco division.
The program ran from November 2009 to January 2011, with the aim of identifying Mexican drug cartel leaders by allowing illegal purchases of firearms and then tracking those weapons. Nearly 200 were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, and in December two semiautomatics were found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s slaying in Arizona.
No cartel leaders were arrested.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, are reviewing the operation.
Steve Martin, an ATF deputy assistant director, said he urged McMahon as far back as January 2010 to end the operation, and was met with silence. “I asked Mr. McMahon, I said, what’s your plan?” Martin told the House committee. “Hearing none, I don’t know if they had one.”
Newell spent a decade on the border. As Operation Fast and Furious was unraveling, he insisted that his agents never allowed guns to “walk.”
The statement angered many agents. “Literally, my mouth fell open,” said Agent Larry Alt, who worked under Newell. “I am not being figurative about this. I couldn’t believe it.”
Newell has since acknowledged that “frequent risk assessments would be prudent” for operations like Fast and Furious. He also said the slaying of Terry “is one I will mourn for the rest of my life.”
Voth supervised the crew of ATF agents under the operation. As they questioned the wisdom of allowing illegal purchases, he countered that because the weapons were turning up at Mexico crime scenes, cartel leaders had to be involved. He told his crew members they were “watching the right people.”
His agents did not buy it.
“Whenever we would get a trace report back,” said Agent John Dodson, Voth “was jovial, if not giddy, just delighted about that: Hey, 20 of our guns were recovered with 350 pounds of dope in Mexico last night. … To them it proved the nexus to the drug cartels. It validated that were really working a cartel case here.”
Lone Wolf gun store…
Gun store owner had misgivings about ATF sting
When federal agents with Operation Fast and Furious told Andre Howard to sell weapons to illegal purchasers, he complied, but he feared someone would get hurt. Then a border agent was shot.
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times September 11, 2011, 9:14 p.m.
Reporting from Glendale and Rio Rico, Ariz.—
In the fall of 2009, ATF agents installed a secret phone line and hidden cameras in a ceiling panel and wall at Andre Howard’s Lone Wolf gun store. They gave him one basic instruction: Sell guns to every illegal purchaser who walks through the door.
For 15 months, Howard did as he was told. To customers with phony IDs or wads of cash he normally would have turned away, he sold pistols, rifles and semiautomatics. He was assured by the ATF that they would follow the guns, and that the surveillance would lead the agents to the violent Mexican drug cartels on the Southwest border.
When Howard heard nothing about any arrests, he questioned the agents. Keep selling, they told him. So hundreds of thousands of dollars more in weapons, including .50-caliber sniper rifles, walked out of the front door of his store in a Glendale, Ariz., strip mall.
He was making a lot of money. But he also feared somebody was going to get hurt.
“Every passing week, I worried about something like that,” he said. “I felt horrible and sick.”
Late in the night on Dec. 14, in a canyon west of Rio Rico, Ariz., Border Patrol agents came across Mexican bandits preying on illegal immigrants.
According to a Border Patrol “Shooting Incident” report, the agents fired two rounds of bean bags from a shotgun. The Mexicans returned fire. One agent fired from his sidearm, another with his M-4 rifle.
One of the alleged bandits, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, a 33-year-old Mexican from Sinaloa, was wounded in the abdomen and legs. Agent Brian Terry — 40, single, a former Marine — also went down. “I’m hit!” he cried.
A fellow agent cradled his friend. “I can’t feel my legs,” Terry said. “I think I’m paralyzed.” A bullet had pierced his aorta. Tall and nearly 240 pounds, Terry was too heavy to carry. They radioed for a helicopter. But Terry was bleeding badly, and he died in his colleague’s arms.
The bandits left Osorio-Arellanes behind and escaped across the desert, tossing away two AK-47 semiautomatics from Howard’s store.
Some 2,000 firearms from the Lone Wolf Trading Company store and others in southern Arizona were illegally sold under an ATF program called Fast and Furious that allowed “straw purchasers” to walk away with the weapons and turn them over to criminal traffickers. But the agency’s plan to trace the guns to the cartels never worked. As the case of the two Lone Wolf AK-47s tragically illustrates, the ATF, with a limited force of agents, did not keep track of them.
The Department of Justice in Washington said last week that one other Fast and Furious firearm turned up at a violent crime scene in this country. They have yet to provide any more details. They said another 28 Fast and Furious weapons were recovered at violent crimes in Mexico. They have not identified those cases either. The Mexican government maintains that an undisclosed number of Fast and Furious weapons have been found at some 170 crime scenes in their country.
Howard said he does not own a gun, does not hunt, and does not belong to the National Rifle Assn. His love is helicopters — a former Army pilot, he gives flying lessons. He said he fell into the gun-dealing business 21 years ago only to help support his career as a flight instructor. Howard spoke to a reporter for the first time in depth about why he cooperated with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
He said he supported law enforcement, and never imagined a thousand weapons, or half of the entire Fast and Furious inventory, would “walk” out of his store. And when arrests were not forthcoming, “every passing week I was more stunned,” he said.
According to a confidential memo written by assistant federal prosecutor Emory Hurley, “Mr. Howard had expressed concerns about the cooperation he was providing and whether he was endangering himself or implicating himself in a criminal investigation.”
Other firearms dealers shared his concerns. At the nearby Scottsdale Gun Club, the proprietor sent an email to Agent David Voth. “I want to help ATF,” he said, “but not at the risk of agents’ safety because I have some very close friends that are U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern AZ.”
Howard recalled that a chubby, bald and “very confident” man named Jaime Avila walked into the store on Jan. 16, 2010, and bought the AK-47s. Under the Fast and Furious protocol, agents were supposed to use the video cameras, surveillance, informants and law enforcement intelligence to follow the weapons and hope they led them to the drug cartels.
But no agents were watching on the hidden cameras or waiting outside to track the firearms when Avila showed up. Howard faxed a copy of the sale paperwork to the ATF “after the firearms were gone,” assuming they would catch up later. They never did.