Free Markets, Free People

Legal Affairs

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Eric Holder suddenly concerned about “illegal firearms”

Mr. Fast and Furious –, whose idiotic operation supposedly (and officially) designed to trace firearm flow in Mexico (there is a very strong case for a political gun control agenda actually driving the operation) has led to one and possibly two deaths of Border Patrolmen — is suddenly concerned about criminals and their access to “illegal firearms”:

The number of officers killed in the line of duty jumped 13 percent in 2011 compared with the year before — and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the increase as “a devastating and unacceptable trend” that he blamed on illegal firearms.

The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty rose to 173 this year, from 153 in 2010, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund announced Wednesday. This year’s figure is 23 percent higher than 122 killed in the line of duty in 2009.

Yes, law enforcement is dangerous work.  Yes, I feel for the families of those officers slain.  This, however is not some sort of record year (see 2001) and in fact, in most years more officers are lost to traffic accidents than to “illegal firearms”. 

Additionally, I’m sure the Mexican law enforcement officers killed by the guns Holder’s department allowed to flow into their country find this concern of his particularly hollow.  Why it could even be considered … wait for it … racist.  I just throw that out there as an example of what some GOP AG would have been hit with by the left had he or she been so stupid as to run an operation like Fast and Furious.  Anyway:

Holder said “too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them,” in explaining the increase.

Yes, Mr. Holder, that’s why they are called “criminals”.  In case you haven’t figured it out criminals are scofflaws. Like the criminals you supplied with guns and ammo in Mexico.

Criminals break the law.  So obviously passing laws making it a criminal offense for criminals to possess firearms doesn’t work, huh?  It also is a problem when you just hand them firearms as well.

But, as we’ve surmised,  Fast and Furious was supposed to set up a “better case” for more gun control, right?  And one can assume the stealth premise, soon to be obvious, is the way to keep criminals from getting illegal firearms is to more tightly control them.  That, of course, means more “gun control”, doesn’t it?

“This is a devastating and unacceptable trend. Each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day,” Holder in a statement. “I want to assure the family members and loved ones who have mourned the loss of these heroes that we are responding to this year’s increased violence with renewed vigilance and will do everything within our power — and use every tool at our disposal — to keep our police officers safe.”

You mean just like you did for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mr. Holder?

Incompetent political hack.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Government coercion, crony capitalism and freedom limiting laws — see light bulb ban

Reading a POLITICO article today, I found it pointed like a blazing neon sign to one of the persistent problems crony capitalism brings us each and every day.  And the result is less choice (i.e. freedom) and competition as industry and government team up to limit both.

This concerns the incandescent light bulb ban that was voted into existence by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.  It was all supposedly done for our own good (you know, that well worn path to hell paved with good intentions) – incandescent bulbs are considered “inefficient” and used more energy than the new, green bulb of choice that the government thinks you should use. 

Of course the government also knows that if left it up to you to choose, you most likely wouldn’t choose the bulb government prefers. 

So instead of letting you and the market decide, Congress decided to use its power of coercion to do that for you.  One less thing to worry your silly little head over prole.

And so the ban went into effect and the industry began to plan and change over.  Now, read this from the POLITICO story:

Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them.

After spending four years and millions of dollars prepping for the new rules, businesses say pulling the plug now could cost them. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has waged a lobbying campaign for more than a year to persuade the GOP to abandon the effort.

Manufacturers are worried that the rider will undermine companies’ investments and “allow potential bad actors to sell inefficient light bulbs in the United States without any fear of federal enforcement,” said Kyle Pitsor, the trade group’s vice president of government relations.

So, if industry wants these rules, why is the GOP grinding them to a halt? Republicans say they’re pro-choice when it comes to light bulbs.

Government intrudes and makes a decision that circumvents the market and removes your ability to choose.  Another example of picking winners and losers, something for which it has a dismal record.   And for 4 years the industry is forced to spend money it might not have spent to retool and prepare to abide by the bad law.   It certainly makes sense that they’d be quite put out at a change in that law now because while they’re not prepared to meet the demand for incandescent bulbs.  So they claim to “fear” that “bad actors” might sell “inefficient light bulbs” in the US if it is repealed.

Really?  Like the market wouldn’t weed out “bad actors” fairly quickly?  No, what manufacturers now want is government, who made the law, to protect their 4 year investment based on that law.   Funny how that works isn’t it?

This is about nothing more than industry petitioning government to protect the investment forced on industry by government.  And why does it feel it must be protected?  Because if it isn’t, the market will most likely reject the government’s preferred product, a product on which these manufacturers have the inside track for providing.  Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run lays it out:

"A host of more efficient products already line store shelves." The [NY] Times concedes that "many of the alternatives to incandescent bulbs are more expensive." In fact, all of them are, including compact fluorescent lamps (which cost about six times as much as standard incandescents), halogen bulbs (10 times), the new extra-efficient incandescents (ditto), and LEDs (80 times). Why pay so much more, especially when—as with CFLs, the cheapest alternative—performance may be inferior? Supposedly because you save enough on energy and replacement costs to justify the investment. If so, why not let bulb manufacturers make that case to consumers, who can then decide for themselves?

Why? Because you proles can’t be trusted to choose the right way, that’s why. That was the entire point about passing the law in the first place.  Lawmakers felt that the decision must be forced on the populace, because if left to the populace they’d most likely choose the “wrong” product because it fits their needs and wallet better than the government preferred one.

All of this based in the specious science that we’re causing global warming by burning fossil fuels.  And those fuels power these inefficient bulbs.  It is up to government to rectify the situation by forcefully limiting our choices by banning certain products via law with the ultimate aim of eventually banning fossil fuel altogether –  something that is cheap and which we have in abundance.   Of course, the means of banning fossil fuels will be much more subtle than just an outright ban.  Government will do its best to make it cost prohibitive to use such fuel.  It’s permatorium, the probable nixing of the Keystone XL pipeline and implementation of policies via EPA over-reach that will raise energy prices and cause energy poverty among a large portion of the population.

But remember, government knows best.

But this case is incredible in the fact that because of bad law,  you have industry in the position of asking the bad law be enforced.  If the ban on the incandescent bulb is lifted, the guarantee the law promised them for a high-margin return on their investment is in jeopardy.  Sullum picks up the absurd argument that follows that absurd situation:

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be pro-business? Sometimes they are actually pro-market instead, and this is one of those cases. A spokesman for Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claims "the only people we are aware of who have opposed the bulb standards are some politicians and some conservative commentators." If legislators, regulators, environmentalists, and even the industry all agree this mandate is a good idea, why would consumers object? Maybe because the whole premise of the policy is that their choices do not matter because they are too stupid to know their own interests.

Bingo.

Whatever happened to the premise of freedom of choice?   Whatever happened to the idea that government was the servant, not the master?  Who was it that decided the government should be deciding what we use to light our homes, fuel our cars or any of a myriad of other things it has decided over the decades it should choose instead of you?

This is where it inevitably leads.  This is a case study in government over-reach and how it incrementally bleeds your freedoms away.  In my opinion all laws such as the ban on incandescent light bulbs is the modern version of the Intolerable Acts.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

SCOTUS takes on ObamaCare–Bigger than Roe v Wade?

ObamaCare, as mentioned in a previous post, gets its Constitutional review by the Supreme Court today.  CATO’s Ilya Shapiro lays out the agenda:

This morning, as expected, the Supreme Court agreed to take up Obamacare.  What was unexpected — and unprecedented in modern times — is that it set aside five-and-a-half hours for the argument.  Here are the issues the Court will decide:

  1. Whether Congress has the power to enact the individual mandate. – 2 hours
  2. Whether the challenge to the individual mandate is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act. – 1 hour
  3. Whether and to what extent the individual mandate, if unconstitutional, is severable from the rest of the Act. – 90 minutes
  4. Whether the new conditions on all federal Medicaid funding (expanding eligibility, greater coverage, etc.) constitute an unconstitutional coercion of the states. – 1 hour

Those are critical questions.  They tend to define in four points, how threatened our rights are by this awful legislation.  Forget what it is about, consider to what level it intrudes and what, if found Constitutional, it portends.

If found Constitutional, you can take the actual Constitution, the one that no fair reading gives an inkling of support to such nonsense as ObamaCare, and cut it up for toilet paper.  It will be, officially, dead.

A decision that supports those 4 points (or even some of them) means the end of federalism and the final establishment of an all powerful national government which can (and will) run your life just about any way it wishes.   If it has the power to enact a mandate such as that called for in ObamaCare, it can mandate just about anything it wishes.  And, if the new conditions on all federal Medicaid funding stand, the states have no grounds to resist or refuse other federal intrusion.

In any event, the Supreme Court has now set the stage for the most significant case since Roe v. Wade.  Indeed, this litigation implicates the future of the Republic as Roe never did.  On both the individual-mandate and Medicaid-coercion issues, the Court will decide whether the Constitution’s structure — federalism and enumeration of powers — is judicially enforceable or whether Congress is the sole judge of its own authority.  In other words, do we have a government of laws or men?

If you’re devoted to freedom and liberty and opposed to intrusive and coercive government, you know how you want this to come out.

And it isn’t to the advantage of ObamaCare.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

No Cojones — Jerry Brown blows off his responsibility to safeguard the rights of Californian’s

I have to say, the position CA governor Jerry Brown has taken on warrantless cell phone searches is a total abdication of his responsibility to the citizens of California:

California Gov. Jerry Brown is vetoing legislation requiring police to obtain a court warrant to search the mobile phones of suspects at the time of any arrest.

The Sunday veto means that when police arrest anybody in the Golden State, they may search that person’s mobile phone — which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the phone has traveled.

Brown’s excuse for vetoing it?

Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.

Instead, he says the state Supreme Court’s decision is good enough, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court let stand last week.

“The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections,” the governor wrote.

What wonderful reasoning, huh? Jerry Brown would never have had a problem with Plessey v. Ferguson because, you know, the court’s decision would have been viewed by him as “good enough”.

Why not make them decide then while coming down on the side of the citizens who believe that device is something which shouldn’t have open access to government?   Why not approve the bill and make the court decide it is wrong and must be repealed.  Why not make the court justify such searches?  Why not come down on the side of privacy and against the invasion of privacy?

Isn’t that what government is supposed to do – protect the rights of its citizens from unlawful search and seizure?  Brown has decided it is up to the citizens to sue to stop such an invasion and not him.  So he’s going to side with those who believe that there is no inherent right to privacy when it comes to one’s cell phone and make the citizen’s of California seek protection in the courts.

Total abdication of responsibility by an elected official – something that has become more and more commonplace even though, in most cases, not as blatant.  This is an assault on the 4th Amendment and it is being aided and abetted by a sitting governor.

Radley Balko notes the abdication as well and references something one of his commenters pointed out:

Cell phones are also not simple “containers” to the extent that modern phones show both local data and vastly more data information stored in cloud services, often all integrated together seamlessly to the user. These law enforcement searches are actually retrieving information stored in “containers” elsewhere.

In other words, this gives them instant access to data for which they’d otherwise have to get a warrant. It allows police to go far beyond searching just the device itself.  It allows them access to records and data far removed from where the search is taking place without a warrant. 

Now, you tell me: how difficult, assuming probable cause exists, would it be for the police to hold the device, submit probable cause to a judge and obtain a warrant without losing any of the expected “evidence” the phone would provide?

And, how many of you believe, given this abdication by Brown, that police won’t take advantage of and use “traffic stops” to seized and search cell phones of those they suspect of other crimes?

Yeah, they’d never do that.

Isn’t it the job of a governor to err on the side of the citizen’s rights?

Governor Brown should be ashamed – mortified – at the abdication of his role as protector of the people of his state.   And the people of his state should do what is right and make sure that when the time comes, he’s given his walking papers.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

New information reveals ATF sold guns directly to Mexican drug cartels

Information about Operation Fast and Furious – the US government run gun running operation that turned over thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels – is coming fast and furious now.  The newest revelation:

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.

Yes, it’s not just about allowing drug cartel members to buy guns from US dealers and move them into Mexico, apparently the ATF also bought guns and resold them to the drug cartels with the same result.  Or said another way, they used your money to actively participate in this bone-headed plan and sure enough, got the expected results.  But then they lost track of the weapons – on purpose.

Apparently there was a little office politics involved in the stupidity:

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."

Your government at work, carefully looking out for your best interests.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

What part of “freedom of assembly” don’t San Juan Capistrano officials understand?

I swear this country gets more and more totalitarian as the days go by.  Try this one on for size:

An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.

“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.

A) What freaking business is it of  the city’s to begin with?

B) It doesn’t matter if they gather every day.  If it is voluntary, in a private home and they’re not disturbing anyone or violating anyone’s rights, what business is it of the city?

C) Where does the city get off requiring permits to gather at a private residence?

D) In case you missed it in A, what freaking business of the city, especially in light of the 1st Amendment guarantee?

Who someone chooses to peacefully assemble – especially in a private home – is none of the damn city’s business.  Does this make the weekly poker game an event that requires permits.  How about the weekly gathering at the neighbor with the big screen tv to watch football?

This is utter nonsense on a extraordinarily intrusive scale.  It isn’t about what they’re doing (bible study, poker, football) but that the city has taken it upon itself to invent some permitting nonsense that puts them in jeopardy legally.

Absurd – but there it is.

You have to wonder what part of this the folks in city government don’t understand:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Seems pretty clear to me.  And yes, I recognize we’re not talking about Congress here, but this is a right that has since been incorporated so that we all have it and government in general is prohibited from violating these rights.

Says the city:

“The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking,” City Attorney Omar Sandoval said.

Oh, I see.  That is all it takes to abrogate the 1st Amendment guarantee.  Temporarily impacting “on street access and parking”.  Yup, inconvenience others and you’re guaranteed rights are kaput.  Gone.  Out the window, or to use today’s favorite phrase, under the bus.

Of course the fact that it is an invented excuse only adds to the nature of the folly:

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

Or, as one can conclude, it’s a naked show of power by the city to exert control in something they have no freaking business being involved.

The little totalitarians are as dangerous as the big ones.  It is from the little ones – who are able to get away with this sort of nonsense – that the big one’s grow.  We need to stomp them out (metaphorically speaking) when they’re small.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Mexican officials learned of “Gunwalker” from news reports

How about setting up an operation that allows illegal guns to be “walked” into another sovereign nation – a friendly nation — and see them tied to hundreds of murders.  If you were that friendly nation, and had to find out about this violation of your sovereignty via the news media, would you be happy?

Of course not.  And neither is Mexico.  The entire “Gunwalker” fiasco was done without consulting Mexico a single time. Marisela Morales, Mexico’s Attorney General, is understandably unhappy about that.

Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told The Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.

"At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted," Morales, Mexico’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said in a recent interview. "In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans."

Morales said she did not want to draw conclusions before the outcome of U.S. investigations, but that deliberately letting weapons "walk" into Mexico — with the intention of tracing the guns to drug cartels — would represent a "betrayal" of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people. U.S. agents lost track of hundreds of weapons under the program.

How could they apologize, Ms. Morales – according to them, none of the top guys knew this was even going on (/sarc).

But the point is clear – this is either the most inept operation ever conceived and executed, or there’s some other ulterior motive to be assigned.  Or perhaps both.  Things like this unwillingness to notify Mexico or bring them in on the operation tend to have one consider that there might have been an alternate agenda, even if one isn’t inclined to be very open to conspiracy theories.

Anyway, back to Mexico:

Atty. Gen. Morales said it was not until January that the Mexican government was told of the existence of an undercover program that turned out to be Fast and Furious. At the time, Morales said, Mexico was not provided details.

U.S. officials gave their Mexican counterparts access to information involving a group of 20 suspects arrested in Arizona. These arrests would lead to the only indictment to emerge from Fast and Furious.

"It was then that we learned of that case, of the arms trafficking," Morales told The Times. "They haven’t admitted to us that there might have been permitted trafficking. Until now, they continue denying it to us."

Mexico is the beneficiary of the Obama open hand approach to foreign policy – a slap in the face.  And that famous transparency is evident as well.

Shoe on the other foot time.  How do you suppose we would react if Mexico did the same sort of thing to us?  Any inkling of what would be going on now if they were letting guns walk into the US and then finding them at murder scenes?

Yeah, no arrogance to be found here.

In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Atty. Gen. Morales about the weapons used by Mario Gonzalez’s captors, thought to be members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

"I wanted her to find out from me, because she is an ally of the U.S. government," he testified.

Canino later told congressional investigators that Morales was shocked.

"Hijole!" he recalled her saying, an expression that roughly means, "Oh no!"

Canino testified that Fast and Furious guns showed up at nearly 200 crime scenes.

Mexican Congressman Humberto Benitez Trevino, who heads the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, said the number of people killed or wounded by the weapons had probably doubled to 300 since March, when he said confidential information held by Mexican security authorities put the figure at 150. The higher number, he said, was his own estimate.

A former attorney general, Benitez labeled the operation a "failure," but said it did not spell a collapse of the two nations’ shared fight against organized crime groups.

"It was a bad business that got out of hand," he said in an interview.

Many Mexican politicians responded angrily when the existence of the program became known in March, with several saying it amounted to a breach of Mexican sovereignty. But much of that anger has subsided, possibly in the interest of not aggravating the bilateral relationship. For Mexico, the U.S. gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75% come from the U.S.

"Yes, it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?" a senior official in Calderon’s administration said, referring to Fast and Furious. "But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?"

Still, Mexican leaders are under pressure to answer questions from their citizens, with very little to go on.

"The evidence is over there [north of the border]," Morales said. "I can’t put a pistol to their heads and say, ‘Now give it to me or else.’ I can’t."

You have to love the pistol analogy, given the circumstances, don’t you?

The official reason for not notifying Mexico that the US had decided to violate its sovereignty with this operation was ostensibly fear of corruption and that the details of the operation would be leaked to the drug cartels.   OK, understood, but still it doesn’t excuse what we wouldn’t tolerate if the tables were turned.   You either have a cooperative working relationship with law enforcement officials in Mexico (including all the attendant risks that entails) or you don’t.  You can’t selectively choose when and when not to share information if you expect to maintain a reciprocal and meaningful relationship.

This operation has obviously done more than put guns at the scene of 200 Mexican crime scenes.  It has damaged relations with a close and friendly neighboring state. 

Brilliant.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Third “Gunwalker” weapon evidence withheld by FBI?

More developments in the fiasco that is known as Operation Fast and Furious.

There appears to have been a third “Gunwalker” weapon at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry which hasn’t been in evidence, suggesting it has been withheld.  Audio recordings reveal the mention of a third gun that until now has been unknown.  The conversation is between ATF Agent Hope MacAllister and Glendale, AZ gun shop owner Andre Howard:

Agent: Well there was two.

Dealer: There’s three weapons.

Agent: There’s three weapons.

Dealer: I know that.

Agent: And yes, there’s serial numbers for all three.

Dealer: That’s correct.

Agent: Two of them came from this store.

Dealer: I understand that.

Agent: There’s an SKS that I don’t think came from…. Dallas or Texas or something like that.

Dealer: I know. talking about the AK’s

Agent: The two AK’s came from this store.

Dealer: I know that.

Agent: Ok.

Dealer: I did the Goddamned trace

Agent: Third weapon is the SKS has nothing to do with it.

Dealer: That didn’t come from me.

Agent: No and there is that’s my knowledge. and I spoke to someone who would know those are the only ones they have. So this is the agent who’s working the case, all I can go by is what she told me.

The tapes are several months old (mid March, 2011):

Law enforcement sources and others close to the Congressional investigation say the Justice Department’s Inspector General obtained the audio tapes several months ago as part of its investigation into Fast and Furious.

Then, the sources say for some reason the Inspector General passed the tapes along to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona: a subject in the investigation. It’s unclear why the Inspector General, who is supposed to investigate independently, would turn over evidence to an entity that is itself under investigation.

A spokesman from the Office of the Inspector General today said, "The OIG officially provided the United States Attorney’s Office with a copy of the recordings in question so that the USAO could consider them in connection with the government’s disclosure obligations in the pending criminal prosecutions of the gun traffickers. Prior to receiving the tapes, the OIG made clear that we would have to provide a copy of the recordings to the United States Attorney’s Office because they would need to review them to satisfy any legal disclosure obligations."

Uh, yeah.  And why has it taken this long for copies to be provided elsewhere?

Remember:

Court records have previously only mentioned two weapons: Romanian WASR "AK-47 type" assault rifles. Both were allegedly sold to suspects who were under ATF’s watch as part of Fast and Furious.

Per the agent in the transcript, the third weapon (SKS) came from “Dallas or Texas or something like that” and they had serial numbers for all three.

Why are we just finding out about the third weapon at the scene?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Feds drop charges against man who defended his children against grizzly bear

You may remember the story from last week about the Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard because he feared it would injure or kill his children (also somewhere in the yard).  He reported the killing to fish and wildlife officials and that’s when his troubles began.  Although the local and regional fish and wildlife people recommended no charges based on their investigation (they considered it a justified kill), federal officials decided to proceed, leveling federal misdemeanor charges against Jeremy Hill.

There was an outcry not only from the local population, but on blogs all across the land.   It put the spotlight on the story and pressure on the U.S. Attorney’s Office to justify their decision.  Obviously, they couldn’t.  So, assuming a face-saving ploy, they’ve decided they’ll simply reduce the charges to a “citation” and a fine Hill $1,000.

Becky Kramer, writing for the Coeur d’Alene Spokesman-Review tells us the story:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped misdemeanor charges against a Porthill, Idaho, man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard.

Instead, Jeremy M. Hill was issued a citation for the May 8 shooting of the male grizzly, and paid a $1,000 fine.

A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that state and federal wildlife officials were unable to establish the location of Hill’s children when three grizzly bears were first sighted in the yard, about forty yards from the Hill home. Hill told law enforcement officers that he last saw his children outside playing basketball in front of their home, but that he didn’t know where his children were when he saw the three grizzly bears near his pig pen. The two other bears ran off after Hill shot the 2-year-old male.

U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson said that dismissal of the criminal charge was based in part on Hill’s prompt notification of the shooting to Idaho Fish & Game officials.

“The United States Attorney’s Office well understands Mr. Hill is a concerned husband and father who wants to protect his family,” said Olson. “Anyone who observes or hears of a grizzly bear near campsites or residences must immediately contact fish and wildlife officials.”

If that last bit of drivel isn’t a laugh I don’t know what is.  He was charged by the feds after he notified the proper authorities.  It wasn’t his “prompt notification” which caused the U.S. Attorney to drop the charges, it was public outcry and them looking like asses.  The man should never have been charged in the first place as the fish and wildlife officials in the area recommended.  And now they want to paper it over with the nonsense above after Hill has had to go to the time and expense of defending himself.

In reality, he’d have been much better off not notifying the authorities, but instead quietly disposing of the remains instead.  And the authorities know it.  Thus the fabricated reason for dropping the charges.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

More Fast and Furious revelations

Business Insider has the details.   As the probe widens, more and more of the botched and frankly stupid operation becomes known:

The WSJ reports today that federal authorities are now investigating why the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix — the same office that oversaw Fast and Furious — released Jean Baptiste Kingery after he confessed to providing military-style weapons to the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Kingery, who was arrested and released in June 2010, confessed to manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using grenade components from the U.S. He also admitted to helping the cartel convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.

Mexican criminal organizations are increasingly using these military-style weapons as the cartels’ escalate their wars against the government and one another.

Despite Kingery’s confession, and over loud protestations from the arresting ATF officers, the U.S. Attorney’s office let Kingery go within hours of his arrest.

This has led the Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office to attempt to push back:

The Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office denies that it declined to prosecute the case, saying that it wanted to continue surveillance. The office alternatively told investigators that ATF agents wanted to make Kingery an informant, but lost contact with him within weeks of his release.

Prosecutors involved in the case also accuse ATF agents of devising a failed sting that allowed Kingery to take hundreds of grenade parts across the border in the months about six months prior to his arrest.

Kingery had been hauled in by ATF agents and confronted with the evidence and the U.S. Attorney’s office thinks he’s going to go back to work and it’ll be business as usual?  Really?  I guess they figured out that wasn’t the case when they “lost contact with him within weeks of his release”.

Botched?  That’s being kind.  And notice too the attempt to distract by the U.S. Attorney with the “failed sting”.  It seems to me if that’s the case and six months later the agents had the goods on Kingery, it was probably a good arrest at that point.  But apparently the U.S. Attorney there knows better, huh?

This is Clown College stuff.  How badly can an organization screw up an operation that was absolutely stupid to begin with?   Obviously worse than we thought.  The level of stupidity, incompetence and outright dumb decisions wrapped up in this case are staggering.   It was a dumb idea to begin with and it was compounded with incompetence, poor execution and it inevitably ended up killing a US agent and untold Mexicans.

The question is, who at what level knew about this in the administration.  There are those who believe Eric Holder is certainly knew and there’s speculation that the man in the White House may have known and condoned the operation as well.

The Fast and the Furious case has escalated over the past weeks, with news that at least three White House national security officials knew about the gunrunning program.

Emails obtained by the Committee last week show contact between the head of the Phoenix ATF and Kevin O’Reilly, then-director of North American affairs, about the operation. The White House confirmed that O’Reilly briefed Dan Restrepo, senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Greg Gatjanis, director of counterterrorism and narcotics.

The emails, first reported by the LA Times, do not indicate that the White House aides knew about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns "walk." There is also no indication that the information went beyond those three officials.

Yeah, that sort of stuff never makes it into security briefings for the President, does it?

And you can already see the attempt to limit the damage if it is finally proven the President was aware of the operation (and tacitly approved it) with the line that says the White House security aides didn’t know “about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns “walk.””   That was sort of the whole point of the operation, wasn’t it?

Lots of interesting revelations yet to come methinks.  Whether or not the press will cover it in any depth remains to be seen, but in my estimation, this is a large enough scandal that at least Eric Holder’s job ought to be in jeopardy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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