Friday, September 23, 2011

Holder's Hell Week - More Fast & Furious Fallout

NRA President Wayne LaPierre: "Fast and Furious" biggest cover-up since Watergate

By Emily Rand




National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
 
The American people were "never supposed to find out" about ATF's "Fast and Furious" operation, NRA President Wayne LaPierre told attendees during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today in Orlando.


As CBS News has reported previously, the ATF's controversial "Fast and Furious" operation allowed thousands of weapons to be smuggled into Mexico and into the hands of drug cartels, and the operation is now being investigated by congress.

"This is the biggest cover-up since Watergate and it's time to ask the Watergate question. Who authorized Fast and Furious and how high up does it go?" LaPierre asked during his speech.

In his speech, LaPierre also accused President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of "stonewalling" the two Congressional Investigations into the operation.

"President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder shrug their shoulders and say, "I didn't authorize it. Don't ask me," LaPierre said.

"They ran a massive campaign out the Department of Justice and the White House to manipulate public opinion and encouraged the media to slander the reputations of honest gun dealers---when they knew the truth all along."

Both President Obama and Attorney General Holder have said they had no knowledge operation was underway and did not authorize it.

As he did earlier this month, today LaPierre also called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to conduct the investigation into "Fast and Furious" and "get to the bottom of the scandal".

Earlier this week, CBS News obtained and released a series of secretly recorded audio tapes believe to have been recorded last March, in which an Arizona gun dealer and an ATF agent involved with ATF's "Fast and Furious" operation worried about the unraveling scandal.

CBS NEWS


Thursday, September 22, 2011

ATF Whistleblower Vince Cefalu on the Latest with Fast and Furious

Senator Chuck Grassley on Fast and Furious

Congressman Ted Poe on Fast and Furious

Issa: Fast and Furious probe ‘stonewalled’ by DOJ








By Geneva Sands-Sadowitz - 09/22/11 08:19 AM ET

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he is frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in investigating the "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking program

"We try. We send communications including subpoenas [to the Justice Dept.]. This is one of those situations in which they haven't admitted that they let guns walk even though there's no credible way to say they not only let them walk, they let them run," said Issa on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" Wednesday.

Issa, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been leading an investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' (ATF) operation, which oversaw the sale of thousands of firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels.

He told Fox News that cooperation from the department has been "closer to zero percent."

The DOJ’s inspector general is conducting its own investigation of the operation.

Issa told Fox News that he believes the program had to have been approved at "top levels" within the Justice Dept. He said it was an exercise that required funding and coordination from many levels of law enforcement.

"Ultimately when you delay and deter us getting to the facts it's a cover-up. It's one that can be remedied, but so far we see no willingness by Attorney General Holder to tell his people to cooperate, just the opposite, we're still being stonewalled," Issa said.

ATF Special Agent William Newell Attempts To Make His Statements More Clear And Fails


The Denial Continues
The Lies And Deception Of William Newell

ATF Special Agent William Newell who was the SAC of the Phoenix,Arizona Field Division,was in charge of the Fast N Furious operation.


The documents below is Newells new statement provided by his attorney to House Oversight Committee Chief Investigator trying to explain his non testimony before the House Oversight Committee in July.


Newell pretty much says the same thing just worded different and is still of the mind that Fast N Furious was a good operation.







































House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa On Fox And CNN About Fast N Furious





Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Fast and Furious' Coverup?

Republicans criticize U.S. probe of Mexico gun sting




WASHINGTON
 
(Reuters) - A U.S. Justice Department investigation into a botched operation to track guns smuggled to Mexican drug cartels was criticized by two senior Republican lawmakers who questioned its objectivity and independence.

In a letter released on Wednesday to Acting Justice Department Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar, they expressed deep concern over her decision to turn over to U.S. prosecutors in Arizona audio recordings obtained during her investigation.

Representative Darrell Issa, head of the House Oversight Committee, and Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Schnedar apparently did not consider the significant harm caused by giving the recordings to those under investigation.

They criticized the move as potentially obstructing the congressional probe into the operation because potential witnesses may have colluded about what to tell investigators.

The Obama administration has faced intense scrutiny after revelations that as many as 2,000 guns were sold to suspected gun traffickers, not properly tracked and ended up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico.

The operation, dubbed "Fast and Furious," was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and by the U.S. attorney's office in Arizona. Both are part of the Justice Department.

The botched operation has claimed the jobs of Ken Melson, acting ATF director who moved to another Justice Department job, and the U.S. Attorney in Arizona, Dennis Burke, who resigned last month.
Attorney General Eric Holder asked the inspector general to investigate.

A spokesman for the inspector general said a copy of the recordings were provided to the U.S. attorney's office so prosecutors "could consider them in connection with the government's disclosure obligations in the pending criminal prosecutions of the gun traffickers."

Before getting the tapes, it was made clear that a copy would have to be provided to the U.S. attorney's office "because they would need to review them to satisfy any legal disclosure obligations," the spokesman said.

The lawmakers said recordings given to the U.S. attorney's office were then provided to the ATF public information officer in Phoenix and the ATF case agent on the tape. They then were leaked to the news media.
"Each of these disclosures undermines our ability to assess the candor of witnesses in our investigation and thus obstructs it," Grassley and Issa wrote.

They said the recordings were between the agent and a federal firearms licensee, who alleged that personnel in the ATF and the U.S. attorney's office sought to recruit him in an effort to obstruct the congressional inquiry.

The letter described how an ATF supervisor, in discussing the congressional inquiry, allegedly said, "We are all on the same sheet of music. And if we stay on the same sheet of music, we will be all right."

Grassley and Issa said allegations that the U.S. attorney's office and ATF personnel sought to influence witness testimony deserved "thorough, aggressive and independent investigation."

They asked Schnedar to notify them immediately if she obtained evidence of obstruction of their investigation.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Christopher Wilson)


RUETERS

ATF 'Fast and Furious' secret audio: Murder of Border Patrol agent 'collateral damage'

ATF agent who was killed, Brian Terry (Credit: CBS)
 
By
Sharyl Attkisson, Chris Scholl

 
WASHINGTON - In secretly recorded conversations between two individuals deeply entwined in the ATF's controversial "Fast and Furious" operation, the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is described as "collateral damage."

The recordings were obtained exclusively by CBS News. The man who made them - Arizona gun dealer Andre Howard - ran the Lone Wolf Trading Company and was speaking with Hope MacAllister, the ATF operation's case agent.

Two of the guns Howard sold while cooperating with the ATF that were later found at Terry's murder.
"It happened. It's terrible," Howard said. "That's life ok we move on."


More ATF secret audio coverage
ATF whistle-blower called 'toxic' on secret tapes
ATF Fast and Furious secret audio recordings
Secret recordings raise new questions in ATF 'Gunwalker' operation
 
Both Howard and MacAllister also shared concerns about Special Agent John Dodson who by that point had gone public with allegations about "Fast and Furious" and was assigned to the FBI. It was Dodson who first publicly disclosed allegations about "Fast and Furious" in an interview with CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. That interview took place several weeks before the recorded conversations took place. In his interview, Dodson said thousands of guns had been allowed to "walk" to Mexico - straight into the hands of the cartels - without intervention by ATF.

(Scroll down to listen to the audio and read the text of the excerpts)
 
In the following excerpts, they talk about the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Two weapons purchased by ATF Fast and Furious suspects were found at the murder scene. They also discuss concerns that ATF whistleblower John Dodson, who had then been moved out of the ATF office and tasked to the FBI, has information that could be damaging to the government.
EXCERPT 1
Dealer: Unfortunately a consequence occurred from a weapon shall we say that found its way into the wrong area ok and that was not anticipated. Nobody could foresee that that's collateral damage I think the term is. It happened. It's terrible. That's life ok we move on. Unfortunately, Mr. Dodson with his allegation is a pain in the a--. Now, my understanding now is it will be impossible now that he will be able to substantiate anything directly because that evidence is gone. I want you to know that. It don't exist. Not that one. You understand me?

Agent: MMhmm.

Dealer: Good. I get that.

EXCERPT 2
Dealer: My biggest problem is Dodson. You know this guy has damaged the hell out of me. I mean I walked out of here yesterday.
Agent: Mmhmm.
Dealer: I got it from the tattoo parlor, I got some damn Mexicans and white trash over there.
Agent: Yeah...
Dealer: Yelling across the parking lot: "can i buy 300 AK 47's?? Would you turn me in, over that?" This is the kind of sh-- i'm getting.
Agent: Yeah.


EXCERPT 3
Dealer: The most damning thing that you guys got to be aware of I think hypothetically is was there, you have to ask yourselves this first I'm just throwin this out there, was there a communication that hypothetically the US Attorney's office uh was entertained with the DOJ in reference to any ballistics tests or anything? Is there any way any of these idiots..

Agent: The problem is I mean we're not investigating that case.
Dealer: I know the FBI is.
Agent: And he's (Dodson) assigned to the FBI. I, I have not, I don't have any way of knowing what he has access to. And that's on the FBI. I mean that's on them. If they consider him, don't consider him an operational security issue, that's their f-----g fault. But I don't have access to that sh--, I don't know I have no idea what the FBI.
Dealer: (unintell.) I know you don't...I'm saying that's a whole parallel issue.
Agent: Right.
EXCERPT 4

Dealer: What about the emails copies he's got?
Agent: Those emails are a year ago that's why I wonder what he I mean
Dealer: Let me help you out. Here's what I smell. There's a reason you ran (unintell.) about not talking about any of your other agents out there.
Agent: Yeah.
Dealer: You got some rats in there honey...
(Crosstalk)
Dealer: I'll tell you some of these motherf-----s, I don't know if they're giving it to Dodson, I think they are, somebody's got some inter-agency copies not just this sh--.


Ex-ATF Official Admits His 'Fast and Furious' Tesitmony 'Lacked Clarity'

FoxNews.com





The head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' office in Phoenix during the failed “Operation Fast and Furious” acknowledged Wednesday his earlier testimony to a House panel “lacked clarity” and completeness, and he offered new insight into his own mistakes in the investigation and allegations that officials ignored agents’ concerns.


“After taking time to reflect and review my testimony from the hearing on July 26, 2011, I realize I could have given clearer, more complete and more direct responses to some questions,” former Special Agent in Charge William Newell said in a 12-page document submitted to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee and obtained by Fox News.

In a “supplemental statement,” Newell insisted agents did not knowingly allow thousands of weapons to reach criminal hands. Any concerns raised over the program were never voiced to appropriate authorities, he said, and only once did higher-ups tell agents not to arrest a suspect -- when the safety of the agents was in jeopardy.
He tried to emphasize his points during the July hearing, but even Democrats then described his testimony, under oath, as “quite frustrating.”

Of nearly 2,000 weapons sold to suspected “straw” purchasers over several months, the ATF was notified in time and able to monitor the purchase of only 325 firearms, Newell said. In fact, of the 2,000 weapons sold to suspects, 400 of them were sold before “Fast and Furious” ever launched. Still, Newell acknowledged ATF “was able to proactively and lawfully” seize only a third of the 325 weapons under ATF surveillance.

“With 20/20 hindsight, I now see that I should have conducted more frequent assessments,” Newell said in his filing. “With more regular assessments I could have articulated to my staff the need to be proactive in ascertaining the quantity of guns being purchased that we were not able to intercept.”

In his filing Wednesday, Newell said agents could only track guns when dealers notified them of an upcoming purchase. This was highlighted by the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010 along the Southwest Border. Weapons tied to “Fast and Furious” were found at the scene, and others have surfaced at other crime scenes in the United States. Meanwhile, many of the high-powered rifles lost under “Fast and Furious” ended up in Mexico.

In the case of Border Patrol agent Terry's murder, ATF was notified of the weapons' purchase three days after the sale.

“As such, ATF agents could not have surveilled the purchase, storage and/or transportation of those firearms,” Newell said in his filing.

That is not likely to curb some of the investigation’s most outspoken critics. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who as chairman of the House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into the controversial program, has repeatedly called it “reckless.”

In the filing Wednesday, Newell said any mistakes were “unintentional errors of omission” rooted in, among other things, “the laws we have at our disposal.”

“Fast and Furious” was launched in late 2009 by ATF, in conjunction with Justice Department officials in Arizona. Investigators planned to follow gun purchasers in hopes that suspects would lead them to the heads of Mexican cartels. In his filing Wednesday, Newell said ATF had identified an “expansive and expanding firearms trafficking network,” and it was “important” to “terminate” it. But lower-level suspects “generally refuse to cooperate” and offer law enforcement only limited information on such organizations "due to [their] insular design.” Thus, “Fast and Furious” was born.

Even when ATF agents were able to track a suspect, though, seizure of any weapons purchased was not guaranteed. In one instance, a suspected gun-runner bought 20 AK-47 type rifles, but he “maintained” to law enforcement the weapons “belonged to him,” Newell said. He “was not prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing the firearms,” and ATF agents felt they did not have “lawful authority to seize the weapons,” according to Newell.

A report issued in June by Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the “volume, frequency, and circumstances of these transactions clearly established reasonable suspicion to stop and question the buyers.”

Nevertheless, of the nearly 2,000 weapons sold to suspects, the vast majority of guns have yet to be recovered.
“The deadly consequences of this irresponsible program could last for years to come,” Issa said during the July hearing. “[Weapons] are still out there waiting to kill.”

In his new filing, Newell also tried to push back on suggestions from whistleblowers and others that ATF agents had repeatedly raised concerns about “Fast and Furious,” insisting he was “unaware” of any such concerns until they were voiced publicly on TV.

“To me, the stark absence of contemporaneous documents voicing concerns to supervisors over 'guns walking,' establishes quite convincingly that concerns over alleged 'gun walking' were not raised with the appropriate supervisors in the Phoenix Field Division during the operational phase of this investigation,” Newell said in his filing.
In addition, he said there is a “well-established process” for voicing concerns to ATF's Internal Affairs Division or Office of the Ombudsman, and, “To the best of my knowledge, at no time during the operational phase of the ‘Fast and Furious’ investigation did any of the whistleblowers contact [them] with concerns regarding the investigation.”

In an interview with House Oversight Committee investigators in April, one of the chief whistleblowers, ATF agent John Dodson, told investigators he shared his concerns with several fellow agents and with supervisor David Voth. In addition, he said he remembers a meeting as early as February 2010 in which an unidentified Assistant Special Agent in Charge told agents to, in Dodson’s words, “stand down with our complaints” over “gun walking.”

Meanwhile, questions continued to mount Wednesday over whether a third gun -- not part of the “Fast and Furious” investigation -- may have been found at the murder scene. Some critics have used word of a third weapon to accuse the federal government of covering up evidence in the case.

An FBI spokesman insists reports of a third weapon are “false,” stating emphatically, “There is no third gun.” And Newell's attorney, Paul Pelletier, who recently left the Justice Department for private practice, said he has access to case materials, and there were only two guns found at the murder scene.

The report released in June by Issa and Grassley stated a third weapon was recovered at the scene. In emails Tuesday and Wednesday, a Grassley spokeswoman said her office obtained information of a third weapon from Terry's family, who was told of it by a Border Patrol agent at Terry's funeral. They also learned of a third weapon from newly disclosed recordings of conversations between an ATF agent and an Arizona gun dealer referencing an SKS rifle, and “other documentation.”

In those newly disclosed recordings, the ATF noted that “all [she] can go by is what” the FBI told her. Pelletier, now with Mintz Levin in Washington, said he believes he knows the origin of the three-gun “misperception.” He said the FBI originally identified one of the two guns recovered as an SKS, made in China.

After ATF agents traced the guns' serial numbers back to “Fast and Furious,” they knew that both guns were in fact AK-47s from Romania. Some FBI officials, though, kept referring to an SKS, causing “initial confusion” and leading others to believe there was an SKS in addition to the two AK-47s, according to Pelletier.

Grassley's spokeswoman was skeptical of such an explanation, noting that it would seem “difficult to misidentify one of the AK guns, since they would be identical.” And, she said, the ATF agent in the recordings said the third weapon had been traced to Texas, not Arizona.

In a separate case not tied to “Fast and Furious” -- the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico -- weapons involved were traced to Texas.


Overall, Grassley's spokeswoman said of the Terry murder and weapons recovered at the scene, “Anything is possible with this case.”

Repeated emails to Issa’s office seeking comment were not returned. Asked about Newell’s filing Wednesday afternoon, Grassley’s spokeswoman suggested her office had only just received it, saying his office was “looking over [it] now.”

At least three men have been charged in connection with the murder of Terry, though only one is in U.S. custody. In addition, the Justice Department's inspector general has launched its own investigation in “Fast and Furious,” at the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder.



Petition Calling On The President To Hold Everyone Accountable Who Was Involved In Operation Fast & Furious

 
 
I have a favor to ask you – today I’m launching a petition calling on the President to hold everyone accountable who was involved in Operation Fast & Furious. Will you click on the following link to sign the petition and join me in exposing the truth? And click on the "share" link to spread the word to your family and friends, too! Thanks, Paul
 
SIGN PETITION HERE...THANK YOU. 

Gunwalker’s Body Count Grows, Along with the Obama Administration’s Cover-Up

It seems like only a matter of time before administration officials face felony indictments for their role in Operation Fast and Furious.



House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa was brutally frank in a Tuesday morning conference call with new media representatives dedicated to the ongoing Gunwalker scandal.

The California Republican kicked off the call with a brief statement reporting that Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general, now says that at least 200 Mexican deaths can now be traced to weapons from the gunwalking program.That number has been revised significantly upward from earlier unofficial claims of approximately 150 deaths attributed to Operation Fast and Furious guns.

The revelation of the increased body count comes less than 24 hours after the Los Angeles Times published a story that rightly describes the actions of the Obama administration as an unresolved betrayal.

This betrayal — and Morales pulled no punches in using that exact word — is being ignored by the majority of the U.S. mainstream media, which vacillate from pretending that Gunwalker was just a minor law enforcement snafu to echoing White House-orchestrated attempts to smear the Oversight Committee chairman and obstruct the investigation.

The question-and-answer period that followed Chairman Issa’s statement focused narrowly on Operation Fast and Furious, with only one reporter slipping off-topic to ask a quick question about the breaking Solyndra scandal.
Perhaps the most important clarification to come out of the call was confirmation that the Oversight Committee does indeed intend to call for a special prosecutor once they have completed their own investigation, which they optimistically would like to have wrapped up by the end of the year. Chairman Issa was quick to point out that finishing the House investigation by the end of the year hinged upon a transparent and timely release of information from the executive branch, including the federal law enforcement agencies involved and the Obama White House.


The White House has thus far refused to divulge any of the documentation the congressional investigators have asked for, and the administration’s political appointees are stymieing all attempts to get information out of the Justice Department, Homeland Security, and other involved agencies. Rep. Issa seemed quite aware that his goal of resolving the congressional investigation in 2011 was going to be obstructed by an administration in full cover-up mode.

Issa also revealed that the reason a special prosecutor has not yet been brought in to investigate the plot is that once a special prosecutor begins to investigate, the Oversight Committee has to stop its own inquiry. The committee wants to be certain that they have explored every avenue and leave no source or witness uninvestigated before turning over the case. He also pointed out that a special prosecutor will be a Department of Justice employee investigating his own employer. Thus, Issa wants to be certain that they have enough knowledge to hold the prosecutor accountable.


PJ MEDIA

Issa Says He Wants a Special Prosecutor to Probe 'Fast and Furious'





darrell issa
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

(CNSNews.com) – Skeptical that Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama administration officials did not know about the botched gun-walking operation carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives along the Southwest border, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants to see a special prosecutor appointed to investigate the matter.

“We’d like to have a true special prosecutor, particularly when it’s obvious if Eric Holder didn’t know, it’s because he didn’t want to know or because he wasn’t doing his job,” Issa said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “That creates a clear pattern of we’d like to know who did know and why they didn’t brief the attorney general.”

During May testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Holder was asked when he first became aware of Operation Fast and Furious. He responded, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”


Attorney for Key Fast and Furious Witness Defends Client

Monday, September 19, 2011

Secret recordings raise new questions in ATF 'Gunwalker' operation

(Credit: CBS/AP)
 
WASHINGTON - CBS News has obtained secretly recorded conversations that raise questions as to whether some evidence is being withheld in the murder of a Border Patrol agent. (Scroll down to listen to the audio) The tapes were recorded approximately mid-March 2011 by the primary gun dealer cooperating with ATF in its "Fast and Furious" operation: Andre Howard, owner of Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Arizona. He's talking with the lead case ATF case agent Hope MacAllister.


The tapes have been turned over to Congressional investigators and the Inspector General.


As CBS News first reported last February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to "walk" onto the streets without interdiction into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels in its operation "Fast and Furious."

The conversations refer to a third weapon recovered at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Agent: I was ordered to let guns into Mexico 

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.

Also, a ballistics report turned over to Congressional investigators only mentions the two WASR rifles. The ballistics report says it's inconclusive as to whether either of the WASR rifles fired the bullet that killed Terry.


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. The Inspector General's office had no immediate comment.


(Left, listen to the audio)



In the audiotapes, ATF Agent MacAllister tells Howard that a third weapon recovered at the Brian Terry murder scene last December is an SKS assault rifle. Agent MacAllister claims to know that the SKS "had nothing to do with" the Brian Terry murder and, unlike the WASR's, did not trace back to the Lone Wolf gun store.

It's unclear why a weapon would be, in essence, missing from the evidence disclosed at the crime scene under FBI jurisdiction.

Agent MacAllister and Howard (the gun dealer) also discuss various Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are investigating Fast and Furious. They express concern that whistleblower ATF special agent John Dodson has further evidence that could be damaging to the government.

Transcript of the audio below:

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.

Mexico still waiting for answers on Fast and Furious gun program

By KEN ELLINGWOOD, RICHARD A. SERRANO AND TRACY WILKINSON
Tribune Washington Bureau






Last fall's slaying of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of a Mexican state prosecutor, shocked people on both sides of the border. Sensational news reports revealed that cartel hit men had tortured Gonzalez, and forced him to make a videotaped "confession" that his high-powered sister was on the take.
But American authorities concealed one disturbing fact about the case from their Mexican counterparts: U.S. federal agents had allowed AK-47 assault rifles later found in the killers' arsenal to be smuggled across the border under the notorious Fast and Furious gun-trafficking program.

U.S. officials also kept mum as other weapons linked to Fast and Furious turned up at dozens of additional Mexican crime scenes, with a reported toll of at least 150 people killed or wounded.

Months after the deadly lapses in the program were revealed in the U.S. media - prompting congressional hearings and the resignation of the acting chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - top Mexican officials say American authorities have still not offered them a proper accounting of what went wrong.

Marisela Morales, Mexico's attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told the Los Angeles 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 would represent a "betrayal" of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Concealment of the bloody toll of Fast and Furious took place despite official pronouncements of growing cooperation and intelligence-sharing in the fight against vicious Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. The secrecy also occurred as Mexican President Felipe Calderon and other senior Mexican officials complained bitterly, time and again, about the flow of weapons into Mexico from the U.S.

Patricia Gonzalez, the top state prosecutor in Chihuahua at the time of her brother's 2010 kidnapping, noted that she had worked closely with U.S. officials for years and was stunned that she did not learn until many months later, through media reports, about the link between his death and Fast and Furious weapons.

"The basic ineptitude of these officials (who ordered the Fast and Furious operation) caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims," Gonzalez said.

Fast and Furious weapons have also been linked to other high-profile shootings. On May 24, a helicopter ferrying Mexican federal police during an operation in the western state of Michoacan was forced to land after bullets from a powerful Barrett .50-caliber rifle pierced its fuselage and armor-reinforced windshield. Three officers were wounded.

Authorities later captured dozens of drug-gang gunmen involved in the attack and seized 70 weapons, including a Barrett rifle, according to a report by U.S. congressional committees. Some of the guns were traced to Fast and Furious.

Email traffic and U.S. congressional testimony by ATF agents and others make clear the existence of a determined, yearlong effort by American officials to conceal from Mexico's government details of the operation, launched in November 2009 by the ATF field offices in Arizona and New Mexico.

In March 2010, with a growing number of guns lost or showing up at crime scenes in Mexico, ATF officials convened an "emergency briefing" to figure out a way to shut down Fast and Furious. Instead, they decided to keep it going and continue to leave Mexico out of the loop.

Communications also show that the U.S. Embassy, including the ATF office in Mexico, at least initially, was also kept in the dark.

In July 2010, Darren Gil, the acting ATF attache in Mexico City, asked his supervisors in the U.S. about guns in Mexico, but got no answer, according to his testimony before a U.S. congressional committee investigating the matter.

"They were afraid that I was going to either brief the ambassador, or brief the government of Mexico officials on it," Gil said.

Part of the reason for not telling Mexican authorities, Gil and others noted, is widespread official corruption in Mexico that has long made some U.S. officials reluctant to share intelligence. By late last year, however, with the kidnapping of Mario Gonzalez and tracing of the AK-47s, some ATF officials were beginning to tell their superiors that it was time to come clean.

Carlos Canino, an ATF agent at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, warned headquarters that failure to share the information would have dire consequences for the U.S.-Mexican relationship.

"We need to tell them (Mexico) this, because if we don't tell them this, and this gets out, it was my opinion that the Mexicans would never trust us again," Canino testified to congressional investigators in Washington.
Attorney General 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.

In March, after disgruntled ATF agents went to congressional investigators, details of Fast and Furious began to appear in the Times and other U.S. media. By then, two Fast and Furious weapons had been found at the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. border agent near Rio Rico, Ariz., and a second agent had been killed near the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.

The latter death, of federal ICE agent Jaime Zapata, sent ATF hierarchy into a "state of panic," ATF supervisor Peter Forcelli said, because of fears the weapons used might have arrived in Mexico as part of Fast and Furious. So far, all the U.S. government has said in the Zapata case is that one of the weapons was traced to an illegal purchase in the Dallas area.

In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Attorney General 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 a total of 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 collapse in 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 gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75 percent 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."

(Los Angeles Times staff writers Ellingwood and Wilkinson reported from Mexico and Serrano from Washington.)

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/09/18/3920397/mexico-still-waiting-for-answers.html#ixzz1YNbPcMfG