Three White House officials were told about the existence of a gun trafficking investigation in Arizona that led to the replacement of the administration’s top firearms official, according to newly disclosed e-mails the Justice Department sent to Congress this week. But the e-mails do not contain any discussion of the tactics of the investigation — called Operation Fast and Furious — that have made it the subject of a heated Congressional inquiry. The authorities monitored suspected “straw buyers” in an effort to identify who they were working with, rather than moving quickly to arrest them and take their guns off the street.
The documents, first disclosed on Friday by The Los Angeles Times, emerged days after a major shakeup related to the Fast and Furious oversight investigation. On Monday, the Justice Department announced the resignation of the United States attorney in Phoenix and the replacement of the acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
After the shakeup, the two Republican lawmakers leading the oversight investigation — Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Representative Darrell Issa of California — said they would press on. One aspect of their inquiry has been an effort to identify any high-level Obama administration official who sanctioned or knew about the investigative tactics used in Fast and Furious.
No evidence has emerged that there was any high-level authorization for the tactics, however, and A.T.F. supervisors and higher-level Justice Department officials have said they did not know about the tactics at the time, let alone brief their superiors about them.
While the newly disclosed e-mails do not supply evidence to the contrary, they do shed new light on a back-channel communication between the A.T.F. supervisor on the case and a White House official that included some discussion of the existence of Fast and Furious.
The bureau supervisor, William Newell, testified in July that he occasionally spoke about Southwest border gun trafficking with Kevin O’Reilly, a member of the White House’s national security staff who handled North American issues. The two were old friends, and Mr. O’Reilly was then on detail to the White House from the State Department, where he has since returned.
The newly disclosed e-mails show that their conversations about gun trafficking issues were more extensive than previously known. Mr. Newell made passing reference to the existence of a case that appears to be Fast and Furious, although he did not name it, in two e-mail chains in July and August 2010. In a third exchange, from February 2011, he named the case, which had just been unsealed.
All three sets focused on matters other than the operational tactics of Fast and Furious, however. Mr. Newell discussed the difficulty of getting access to evidence in Mexico, statistics of overall gun trafficking investigation efforts in the region and how to get media attention in Mexico to the newly unsealed case.
The e-mails also indicate that this past July, after Mr. Newell told Mr. O’Reilly that a temporary “surge” of additional A.T.F. agents to the Phoenix division was helping them to catch up with a backlog of leads on several investigations, Mr. O’Reilly passed on that information to two other national security staff officials: Dan Restrepo, the senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Greg Gatjanis, the director of counterterrorism and counternarcotics. Mr. Newell had described one of the investigations as a “very large” case involving the Sinaloa cartel, apparently a reference to Operation Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious, which was led by the Phoenix division of the federal firearms bureau, ran from late 2009 to early 2011. Its strategy of putting suspects under surveillance in an effort to identify a larger network is commonly used in drug trafficking cases. But it ran against the tradition of the A.T.F. for gun trafficking cases, where the priority has instead been on moving as soon as possible to get weapons off the street.
And, it appears there was a huge coverup in the death of Border Patrol Agent Terry. From the same article:
Other documents released late Thursday by Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa shed new light on the reaction by A.T.F. officials in Phoenix and a federal prosecutor working on the case after Mr. Terry was killed. The agents arrested the suspected straw buyer who had originally acquired the weapons within hours of the discovery of the guns near the scene.
However, the documents show, A.T.F. officials and the prosecutor decided to charge the man in connection with his purchase of a different set of weapons. One of the bureau officials wrote that doing so would avoid divulging the existence of “our current case (Fast & Furious) or the Border Patrol shooting case” and “not complicate the F.B.I.’s investigation.”
In a letter to the new acting United States attorney in Phoenix, Ann Scheel, that accompanied the newly disclosed documents about the reaction to Mr. Terry’s death, Mr. Issa and Mr. Grassley demanded internal e-mails from her office and interviews with three prosecutors who work there.
“Since your office directed and approved the daily tactical decisions in Operation Fast and Furious, it is hard to avoid the perception that a conflict of interest exists,” they wrote.
They covered it up. The family heard nothing about this until recently when Operation F and F hit the news. They were not alerted. This is a travesty.
This whole op has been one major screw up. We disrupted the law enforcement of Mexico and Honduras by allowing these guns to go into their countries. And for what? What was the reason? The reason under Obama, where the guns were allowed to be used in crimes, rather than picking them up after they were bought and before they were used (as Bush officials did), was to try to stick it to gun shop owners and turn public attention to gun control issues to appease the gun control left. And what has this political attempt at entrapment accomplished? Death and destruction across three countries. But wait, there is more.
It now appears that Team Obama not only let guns, but grenades, bombs, and IEDs to be "walked into Mexico and other nations. Wow, talk about irresponsible:
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.
Kingery’s release is now the subject of an internal probe by the DOJ inspector general. The findings in the DOJ probe were a major catalyst in the recent staff shakeup that ousted Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennie Burke and Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson from their posts.
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.
…The Congressional Oversight Committee has also expanded its Fast and Furious investigation to include the Kingery case. The Committee is investigating who in the Obama administration knew about the gunrunning program, under which ATF agents allowed more than 2,000 guns to “walk” across the border.
So, not only are we letting guns go across, but explosives? This is ridiculous! It is a national disgrace. I mean, this makes Iran/Contra look like nothing. Other people have thought of that connection as well:
The Arms Export Control Act prohibits US arms merchants and defense manufacturers from selling lethal weapons and sensitive or dual-use technology to people who may want to use those weapons and technology to fire back at US citizens—at the military, law enforcement agents, and more and more often, a lot of just plain Americans who routinely miss those signs 80 miles inland on the US side of the Mexico-Arizona border warning tourists to go no further–Mexican gunmen on the prowl.
US weapons cannot be sold and shipped to countries that support terrorism, or nations, states, groups, or other entities deemed unfriendly to the United States.
I’d say Mexican cartels, especially the violent assassination squads that comprise Los Zetas, fall into that category, wouldn’t you?
Even more importantly, the Arms Export Control Act is, in fact, a servant to Article Three of the United States Constitution, which defines the act of selling weapons to those who would ‘levy war against the United States’ or ‘giving aid and comfort to our enemies’ as treason. No kidding. Treason.
If a US law enforcement agency wants to involve itself in the sale of weapons purchased from US gun dealers for export purposes–sales that may be part of an legitimate enforcement or military operation–that agency, let’s say ATF, must apply to the State Department for an exemption from the licensing requirements normally imposed on the commercial sale and export of such weapons. If an enforcement agency or military entity intent on running a covert op involving the export of lethal weapons does not obtain the necessary exemptions from State, for–listen carefully–each weapon or bundle of weapons purchased, that agency or military purchaser has committed a crime. Consider. ATF sent more than 1700 weapons across the border into Mexico–that could translate into 1700+ violations of the Arms Export Control Act.
…Forced resignations, diversionary political rationales, debates about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law—none of this speaks to the central question. Did ATF, under advisement of its political administrators, break the laws of the United States of America?
I believe they did, and if Team Obama knew even ancillary details, as reports started to percolate at higher levels, someone high up in Justice knew. And for that, there should be criminal charges, not just reshuffling job positions. The Terry family and the victims killed by this incompetence deserve justice.
But wait....Team Obama has armed street gangs, too! From the same people who gave us Gunwalker....we present, Operation Gangwalker! In Indiana of all places:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has acknowledged an Indiana dealer’s cooperation in conducting straw purchases at the direction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Exclusive documents obtained by Gun Rights Examiner show the dealer cooperated with ATF by selling guns to straw purchasers, and that bureau management later asserted these guns were being traced to crimes.
From the confidential source providing the documents:
The dealer…was sent a "demand letter," based on the number of traces to him, which was retracted after his attorney pointed out they resulted from his cooperation with ATF. (Strangely, he got two voicemails from two different ATF people, both saying they were the head of the tracing operation).
Some of the straw men turned out to have felony convictions, the agents called the FBI background check system and fixed it so the transactions would be approved, something which may also have happened in Phoenix. (The attorney wasn't clear as to whether the guns were actually delivered to the gangs).
If the guns did not make it to criminal end users, why the demand for the reporting requirement was made remains unexplained: A demand letter, dated February 14, 2011 and signed by Charles J. Houser, Chief, National Tracing Center Division, informed the dealer he was required to provide acquisition and disposition information on firearms obtained from non-licensees, as well as to provide quarterly reports, based on ATF’s assessment that the dealer “had an unusually high number of traces of new crime guns with a relatively short ‘time-to-crime’…”
In a response dated March 10, 2011, attorney Brent R. Weil of Kightlinger and Gray, LLP, informed Houser:
Specifically, my client participated with and cooperated in certain law enforcement operations during 2009/2010 at the behest of ATFE enforcement officers from the Evansville, Indiana office (Agent Kevin Whittaker) and in the course of doing so, followed their instructions regarding the completion of certain transactions and the delivery of firearms to purchasers who did not clear the standard NICS [National Instant Check System] background check and were suspected of being involved in the purchase and transportation of handguns out of state despite passing NICS’s background checks.
In order to verify ATF claims, Weil requested they “be given a list of the ‘ten or more crime guns with a “time-to-crime: of three years or less’ so that we can satisfy ourselves that we are not being improperly included in this program because of our cooperation with and/or involvement with ATFE enforcement activities.”
The response letter resulted in a voice mail from Houser to Weil on March 15, 2011, ignoring his request for the list of guns, but promising:
If…that count is composed of firearms that were, where your client was working in conjunction with ATF, we will get your client removed entirely from the program.”
That same day, another voice mail was received, this time from Brenda Bennett, also identifying herself as “Chief of the National Tracing Center,” who informed Weil:
I have verified the information in the letter. I talked to law enforcement and they confirmed what he had to say. Therefore, he is being removed from the demand list.
At the very least, as with “Project Gunwalker,” they indicate straw purchased guns ended up in crime traces, something those directing surveillance were well aware of. It also indicates the FBI and ATF were once again involved with allowing transactions rejected by NICS to proceed, indicating this practice could be more widespread than has been previously documented, and not confined to Southwest border operations.
It’s fair to ask at this point what Robert J. Browning knows about this. He’s the Special Agent In Charge (SAC) of the Columbus Field Division, which directs Indiana and Ohio field offices. Also worth questioning: Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, specifically about what he has directed and approved that has any bearing on “crime guns” making their way to the street followinghttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif law enforcement firearm transfer approvals to straw purchasers within his jurisdicition.
So, what did Obama buddy and heir apparent to ATF head spot Traver know about all this. From :
Fact is, if the the ATF was worried about "crime gun traces," they WERE in fact actually delivered to the gangs.
Fact is, the principal market for straw-purchased weapons in Indiana is Chicago.Fact is, Andrew Traver, Obama buddy and still declared heir-apparent to the ATF mini-throne would have known about any such gunwalking operation involving his area of operations. He would have had to have been briefed.
Why does the Obama administration love gangs and hate regular citizens, since they give such easy access to guns and explosives to criminals and seek to limit purchases by law-abiding citizens? Why does Obama hate poor people, since the poor are often the most victimized by drug cartels and gangs?