Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry- slain in December 2010. Weapons from ATF's Operation Fast & Furious Were recovered at the crime scene along the Arizona/Mexico BorderEarlier this week, certain politicians and media outlets that support gun control were frantically out there trying to establish the 70% myth [i.e. the narrative that '70% of the weapons recovered in Mexico' come from America, which curiously is down from 90% in a few short months- NANESB!] just days ahead of the House Committee on oversight and Government Reform hearings into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms operation Fast & Furious.
The full committee hearings got underway at Capitol Hill on Wednesday with testimony from Brian Terry's family, 6 months to the day after the Border Patrol was shot and killed by Mexican smugglers armed with AK-variant rifles acquired by straw purchasers who were under surveillance as part of the ATF operation. Yet instead of interdicting the guns before they could be moved across the Mexican border, field agents were ordered the allow the guns to 'walk'. Two of the guns found at the scene of Terry's murder were part of thousands the ATF allegedly allowed gun traffickers to purchase.
The ATF called it letting "guns walk" -- a tactic they hoped would lead to them to drug kingpins. Agents who disagreed with the strategy blew the whistle.Perhaps to nobody's surprise, the Democrats on the Oversight Committee attempted to make the hearings about gun control rather than any sort of accountability from the Department of Justice or ATF. On top of apologizing to Assistant Attorney General Ronald Wiech after Committee Chair Darrel Issa (R- CA49) berated the Justice Department official for turning over pages of redacted documents in response to a subpoena, Representative Elijah Cummings (D- MD7) has proposed setting up a separate minority-led hearing with witnesses of his choosing. In doing so, the Democrats have demonstrated that they are deliberately ignoring the fact that even if the entire United States had strict gun control laws reminiscent of Chicago or Washington D.C. there's still the fact that it was a government agency that facilitated the acquisition of at least 2000 weapons to Mexican criminals. On top of that, US Diplomatic cables released by wikileaks indicate that the overwhelming number of weapons seized in Mexico- including explosives, grenades and anti-tank weapons- are actually procured by cartels from poorly-guarded military armouries in Central America before being smuggled into Mexico.
"To walk a single gun is in my opinion an idiotic move," said ATF senior special agent Pete Forcelli. "We weren't giving guns to people who were hunting bear. We were giving guns to people who were killing other humans."
After Terry's murder, ATF quickly rounded up gun trafficking suspects they'd watched for a year. That's when the first reports of gunwalking began to surface. Asked if they were true at the time, ATF Phoenix chief Bill Newell told reporters "hell no" -- surprising those who worked for him.
"I was appalled, because it was a blatant lie," Forcelli said. Newell didn't respond to interview requests.
Also under attack: the Justice Department which oversees the ATF. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich says the agency is cooperating with Congress, but Rep. Darryl Issa says information is being withheld.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Issa said at the hearing Wednesday holding up a blacked-out sheet of paper. "The pages go on like this forever. You've given us black paper instead of white paper. How dare you make an opening statement of 'cooperation.'"
Issa pressed Weich on who in Washington authorized the program -- and received no answer.
"There was serious profound disagreement about strategy -- but the common goal was to stop gun trafficking to Mexico," Weich said. "Some of the testimony provided today is of great concern. That is why the attorney general asked the inspector general to look into it."
When Brian Terry was gunned down last December, he'd already mailed Christmas gifts.
"The gifts that Brian had picked out with such thought and care began to arrive in the mail that same week," recalled Terry's cousin Robert Heyer, a Secret Service agent. "With each delivery, we felt the indescribable pain of Brian's death."
Terry's family wants someone to accept responsibility. The Department of Justice inspector general is investigating -- and any gunwalking that was taking place has been halted.
[I know I've asked this before, but it bears repeating- the Los Zetas organization is mostly comprised of former soldiers from the Mexican army, including Special Forces. Now, keeping in mind their connections to not only the black market, but the international arms market- why should I believe for a second that they are shopping for guns at Cabela's or Wal Mart?- NANESB!]
Weapons allowed across the border under Fast & Furious (or Rapido y Furiosa in the Mexican press) continue to turn up throughout Mexico- in April, Mexican police raided a house in Ciudad Juarez that turned up a half dozen Romanian-made AK-variant rifles that were traced back to the ill-conceived ATF operation [the raid also turned up dozens of grenades and three anti-aircraft machine guns, which probably weren't purchased from American gun stores- NANESB!] .
In May, Mexican soldiers came under fire and a Mexican Air Force helicopter was forced to make a crash landing during an anti-narcotics operation in Michoacan- weapons seized from there were also traced back to Fast & Furious.
Some of the preliminary findings of the Committee include:
● Agents expected to interdict weapons, yet were told to stand down and “just surveil.” Agents therefore did not act. They watched straw purchasers buy hundreds of weapons illegally and transfer those weapons to unknown third parties and stash houses.A full PDF file of the Committee's reports can be found HERE
● ATF agents complained about the strategy of allowing guns to walk in Operation Fast and Furious. Leadership ignored their concerns. Instead, supervisors told the agents to “get with the program” because senior ATF officials had sanctioned the operation.
● Agents knew that given the large numbers of weapons being trafficked to Mexico, tragic results were a near certainty.
● Operation Fast and Furious contributed to the increasing violence and deaths in Mexico. This result was regarded with giddy optimism by ATF supervisors hoping that guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico would provide the nexus to straw purchasers in Phoenix.
That last finding is sure to anger Mexico, which has so far been muted in its criticism. In a March 2010 memo, ATF says it allowed gun smugglers to buy 359 guns while 958 people died in Mexico the same month. Internally, the agency was “trumpeting up the violence that was occurring as a result of an ATF sanctioned program
Prior to the hearings and Agent Terry's murder, a number of gun stores in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico went to the ATF with their concerns about suspicious transactions and concerns that the guns could be used against Border Patrol agents and other lawmen. However, the ATF assured dealers that the suspected straw purchasers and the guns purchased were being 'continually monitored'.
[Cross Posted at Not Another New England Sports Blog!]