Free Markets, Free People
This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale record talk about China, illegal immigration, and Egypt.
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Remember early on when the controversial and failed ATF/DoJ operation “Fast and Furious” came to light where the ATF bought guns and allowed them to be smuggled into Mexico, there was conjecture this was to be used as a means to demand more gun control?
CBS has uncovered some emails where it become pretty clear what the ATF’s intent was during the operation:
On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF’s Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:
"Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks."
On Jan. 4, 2011, as ATF prepared a press conference to announce arrests in Fast and Furious, Newell saw it as "(A)nother time to address Multiple Sale on Long Guns issue." And a day after the press conference, Chait emailed Newell: "Bill–well done yesterday… (I)n light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case."
But here’s the problem for the ATF – those multiple purchases demonstrated nothing but cooperation with them as requested by them. The gun dealers involved only did what they did at the request of the ATF and even then they were (as it turns out, properly) even concerned about that:
In April, 2010 a licensed gun dealer cooperating with ATF was increasingly concerned about selling so many guns. "We just want to make sure we are cooperating with ATF and that we are not viewed as selling to the bad guys," writes the gun dealer to ATF Phoenix officials, "(W)e were hoping to put together something like a letter of understanding to alleviate concerns of some type of recourse against us down the road for selling these items."
ATF’s group supervisor on Fast and Furious David Voth assures the gun dealer there’s nothing to worry about. "We (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into detail."
Two months later, the same gun dealer grew more agitated.
"I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys. I guess I am looking for a bit of reassurance that the guns are not getting south or in the wrong hands…I want to help ATF with its investigation but not at the risk of agents (sic) safety because I have some very close friends that are US Border Patrol agents in southern AZ as well as my concern for all the agents (sic) safety that protect our country."
Obviously the gun dealer had more concern for the life of the agents than did the ATF. But this was all an apparent ploy to advance more sweeping gun control in the area:
Two earlier Demand Letters were initiated in 2000 and affected a relatively small number of gun shops. Demand Letter 3 was to be much more sweeping, affecting 8,500 firearms dealers in four southwest border states: Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. ATF chose those states because they "have a significant number of crime guns traced back to them from Mexico." The reporting requirements were to apply if a gun dealer sells two or more long guns to a single person within five business days, and only if the guns are semi-automatic, greater than .22 caliber and can be fitted with a detachable magazine.
On April 25, 2011, ATF announced plans to implement Demand Letter 3. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is suing the ATF to stop the new rules. It calls the regulation an illegal attempt to enforce a law Congress never passed. ATF counters that it has reasonably targeted guns used most often to "commit violent crimes in Mexico, especially by drug gangs."
It’s one thing to want to “reasonably target guns” used to commit crimes in Mexico legitimately, and another to use the results of cooperation with an ATF operation, not matter how ill begotten, as a basis for targeting gun sales:
Larry Keane, a spokesman for National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group, calls the discussion of Fast and Furious to argue for Demand Letter 3 "disappointing and ironic." Keane says it’s "deeply troubling" if sales made by gun dealers "voluntarily cooperating with ATF’s flawed ‘Operation Fast & Furious’ were going to be used by some individuals within ATF to justify imposing a multiple sales reporting requirement for rifles."
Just another version of government creating a problem and then rushing in to fix it with more government control. A sort of “create a crisis and then don’t let it go to waste” if you will. The dishonesty and cynicism is appalling. Rep. Darrell Issa, whose Congressional committed has been investigating this operation said very pointedly about this evidence:
"In light of the evidence, the Justice Department’s refusal to answer questions about the role Operation Fast and Furious was supposed to play in advancing new firearms regulations is simply unacceptable," Rep. Issa told CBS News.
This sort of behavior is, as noted, unacceptable, but, unfortunately, more and more frequent. Government becomes less and less of a servant of the people and more and more their master. Operations like this remind one of the legal veneer authoritarian governments use to gradually oppress their people.
Eric Holder and all those who planned and executed this travesty should be given their walking papers. It would be a welcome change to see them actually held accountable for their unacceptable behavior.
Yeah, that’s going to happen. We’re talking government here.
UPDATE: The Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched a website to cover the Fast and Furious investigation.
The ATF operation, “Fast and Furious” is causing frayed nerves at both the DoJ and White House.
In a document dump last week, it became clear that the White House was aware of the operation at some level for quite some time. Additionally, it appears that Eric Holder at DoJ was also very aware of the operation prior to his Congressional testimony where he testified he’d only recently found out about it. The Hill:
Attorney General Eric Holder was issued multiple memos from senior Justice Department officials about a controversial gun-tracking operation months before he said he first became aware it, according to documents.
So either he doesn’t read his memos or he was just flat telling a fib when he told the Congressional committee that he wasn’t aware of the operation until recently.
Those revelations have caused the most transparent administration in history to begin yelling and screaming at reporters chasing the story. CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson told the story on the Laura Ingraham show yesterday:
In between the yelling that I received from Justice Department yesterday, the spokeswoman–who would not put anything in writing, I was asking for her explanation so there would be clarity and no confusion later over what had been said, she wouldn’t put anything in writing–so we talked on the phone and she said things such as the question Holder answered was different than the one he asked. But he phrased it, he said very explicitly, ‘I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.’
That’s right folks, the defense coming out of DoJ is that Holder was answering a different question than the one asked? Or, in simpler terms, he flat out lied. Attkisson goes on:
Ingraham: So they were literally screaming at you?
Attkisson: Yes. Well the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me. [Laura: Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?] Eric Schultz. Oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler, she was yelling not screaming. And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House."
And Atkisson is lectured about what is “reasonable” concerning coverage of this scandal, and apparently she’s way over that arbitrary boundary:
[The White House and Justice Department] will tell you that I’m the only reporter–as they told me–that is not reasonable. They say the Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, the New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.
You can hear the entire interview at the link above, but this is one of those “where there’s smoke, there is fire” moments and given the reaction, Atkisson must know she’s on to something big. The use of “unfair and biased” show they’re willing to use the big gun accusations that are supposed to shame Atkisson into dropping the story.
But the tone tells you a lot. They are running a bit scared on this one. And if they can just shut down the major news outlets pursuing the story, they’re fine. They obviously believe their faithful lapdogs – Washington Post, LA Times, and NY Times – are pretty much off the story or covering it in such a way that it doesn’t reflect poorly on the administration while CBS and Atkisson are pursuing it much too deeply for their comfort. Thus the yelling, screaming and accusations.
This is a very serious scandal and the administration knows it. Their fire brigades are out there trying their best to dampen the flames. My guess is the head of CBS news will be getting some phone calls if he or she hasn’t already.
This is how the team that was going to “change politics in Washington” play ball.
Seems like business as usual to me. And you?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
The Washington Times, one of the few media outlets covering this story, tells us:
The Obama administration sought to intimidate witnesses into not testifying to Congress on Tuesday about whether ATF knowingly allowed weapons, including assault rifles, to be “walked” into Mexico, the chairman of a House committee investigating the program said in an interview Monday.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said at least two scheduled witnesses expected to be asked about a controversial weapons investigation known as “Fast and Furious”received warning letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit their testimony.
Good grief … I can only imagine the reaction of the NY Times and Washington Post if this had been a mere 4 years ago. But I state the obvious. Intimidating witnesses? Is this the “hope and change” we were all promised?
Revelations like that have caused this story to stink so badly, that even a reluctant media is finally beginning to turn their attention to the hearings.
Here’s CBS with a piece about the controversy and what one of the scheduled witnesses today will be telling the committee:
In advance of a hearing later today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report containing new testimony and allegations in the ATF gunwalker case. According to the report, Carlos Canino, Acting ATF Attache in Mexico, calls the strategy his agency employed: "The perfect storm of idiocy."
"We armed the [Sinaloa] cartel," Canino told investigators. "It is disgusting." Canino will be a key witness at the hearing.
But it’s not just the Sinaloa cartel. Documents obtained by Congressional investigators show weapons – sold under ATF’s watch in Operation Fast and Furious out of the Phoenix office – have been used by at least three Mexican drug cartels: Sinaloa, El Teo and La Familia.
In other words, Congressional investigators say the very agency charged with preventing weapons from falling into the hands of violent cartels south of the border … instead facilitated it.
Doh! You can read the report at the link in the cite. Issa also had some strong words for AG Eric Holder:
“How is it that the No. 2, 3, 4 at Justice all knew about this program, but the No. 1 didn’t?,” Mr. Issa said. “Is it because he said ‘don’t tell me’? Is it because they knew what they were doing is wrong, and they were protecting their boss? Or is it that Eric Holder is just so disconnected … ?
“Whichever it is — he knew and he’s lied to Congress, or he didn’t know, and he’s so detached that he wasn’t doing his job — that really probably is for the administration to make a decision on, sooner not later,” Mr. Issa said.
Just another case of how ill-served we are with this clown as our chief law enforcement officer. He’s either a liar or clueless. Great choices, no? Hopefully this story will gain enough visibility that we’ll see Obama come out and tell the White House press corps that he has “full faith” in Eric and is “behind him 100%”. That of course means that within a week or two Holder would announce he was resigning from the AG’s office to “spend more time with my family”.
Frankly, we’d be better off with the office vacant than with this bunch in there.