Evidently not all weapons being smuggled into Mexico are coming from the ATF and its infamous Gunrunner program.
The former mayor of a New Mexico border town pleaded guilty to gun smuggling charges four months after he was arrested in a federal sting.
On Tuesday, Eddie Espinoza, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of making false statements, and three counts of smuggling firearms from the United States.
Turns out, this guilty plea could land the former mayor in federal prison for up to 50 years. Also implicated in the crime is the Chief of Police and the Village Trustee.
Federal documents state the group smuggled more than 200 guns from New Mexico to the streets of Cíudad Juárez and Palomas, Chihuahua. The documents further state that at times the group used unmarked police cars registered to Columbus to smuggle the guns across the border. Agents had been following the illegal operation for more than a year.
Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives connected some of the guns to at least eight murders in those cities.
Odd that the ATF would be so interested in assisting in the prosecution of individuals making false statements, smuggling firearms from the United States and conspiracy, when the Bureau has been actively engaging in this type of stuff for quite some time.
The question that remains unanswered, well many questions remain unanswered, is who came up with the bright idea to smuggle weapons into Mexico in the first place, how many federal agencies are involved, who will be the fall guy and will any end up in prison for facilitating the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jamie Zapata along with many innocent Mexican civilians.
Bob Owens, blogging at Confederate Yankee calls it "Watergate, with a body count". Others have described it as Iran/Contra, redux and it is already reaching the upper echelon of the Department of Justice and potentially the White House.
Eric Holder has already lied to Congress, that seems equal parts cover up and CYA, when in May of this year he state that he "probably" learned about his agencies involvement in gun running only "in the last few months". This statement however, is preceded with a speech Mr. Holder gave in Mexico where he referenced the program by name. "My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 10o days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion. DHS is making similar commitments, as Secretary Napolitano will detail."
Statements like that would seem to implicate all sorts of departments and their leadership, including Janet Napolitano, the head of Homeland Security and previous Governor of Arizona.
President Obama, for his part, told Univision that his administration had nothing to do with distributing arms to Mexican cartels.
"I did not authorize it; Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. He's been very clear that our policy is to catch gun-runners and put them into jail," Obama said.Obama said that he would hold someone responsible if, indeed, a mistake was made."We have to make sure that we're enforcing the kinds of measures that will stop the flow of guns and cash down south that is helping to fuel these transnational drug cartels," he said."There may be a situation here in which a serious mistake was made," he said. "If that's the case, then we'll find out and we''ll hold someone accountable."
That's all well and good, but it is hard then to justify funding of the program to the tune of $10 million dollars allocated in the President's stimulus bill. Or the $12 million the White House has requested to fund the program for fiscal year 2011.
That kind of cash will buy a lot of guns!
This week Investors Business Daily published an editorial adding an additional White House connection.
A 2-year-old video shows a high Justice official saying "the president has directed us," including the attorney general, to speed up Project Gunrunner and the offshoot that got a border agent killed.
This tape has no 18-minute gap, and while it does not feature the president himself, the March 24, 2009, video may rival the tape that turned a "third-rate burglary" into a presidential resignation. No one died at Watergate. Agent Brian Terry lost his life in the administration's obsessive pursuit of gun control.