Monday, March 25, 2013

Fast & Furious

Despite the fact that the “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling scandal broke prior to 2012, the sheer magnitude of the scandal assured it would spill over and likely far beyond by the end of the year.

Sure enough, more innocent people became victims of guns that were handed to Mexican drug cartels by the ATF in 2012 and despite what looks to be obvious misrepresentations of the circumstances by mid to high level officials under oath, very few have truly yet to be held accountable for their involvement in an operation that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent citizens on either side of the Mexican-American border.

“Fast and Furious” refers to the Arizona Field Office of the
United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) series of "gunwalking" sting operations between 2006 and 2011. These operations were done under the umbrella of Project Gunrunner, a project intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico by interdicting straw purchasers and gun traffickers within the United States. "Gun walking" or "letting guns walk" was a tactic whereby the ATF "purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders."

 The stated goal of allowing these purchases was to continue to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels, with the expectation that this would lead to their arrests and the dismantling of the cartels. The tactic was questioned during the operations by a number of people, including ATF field agents and cooperating licensed gun dealers. During Operation Fast and Furious, by far the largest "gunwalking" probe, the ATF monitored the sale of about 2,000 firearms, of which only 710 were recovered as of February 2012. A number of straw purchasers have been arrested and indicted; however, as of October 2011, none of the targeted high-level cartel figures have been arrested.

 Guns tracked by the ATF have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the Mexico–United States border, and the scene of the death of at least one U.S. federal agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The "gunwalking" operations became public in the aftermath of Terry's murder. Dissenting ATF agents came forward to Congress in response.  According to Humberto Benítez Treviño, former Mexican Attorney General and chair of the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, related firearms have been found at numerous crime scenes in Mexico where at least 150 Mexican civilians were maimed and killed. As investigations have continued, the operations have become increasingly controversial in both countries, and diplomatic relations have been damaged as a result.

 As a result of a dispute over the release of Justice Department documents related to the scandal, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in criminal contempt of Congress on June 28, 2012. Earlier that month, President Obama had invoked executive privilege for the first time in his presidency over the same documents.

"One 20-year veteran of ATF’s Tucson office told us that before Operation Wide Receiver, all of ATF’s trafficking cases were very similar in their simplicity: ATF would get a tip from an FFL [Federal Firearms License] about a buyer who wanted a large number of firearms and information about when the transaction was scheduled to take place, and would set up surveillance and arrest the buyer when he headed southbound or at the border. Sometimes the initial buyer would cooperate with ATF, and agents would arrest the actual buyer when he showed up to take possession of the guns. If the guns went to a stash house, agents would speak with subjects at the stash house or conduct a search of the stash house. This agent told us that ATF interdicted guns as a matter of course and had been “content to make the little cases,” but that Wide Receiver represented a “different direction” from ATF’s typical practice." --Report by the Office of the Inspector General on the Review of ATF's Operation Fast and Furious and Related Matters September 2012

As if that weren’t enough to get the blood boiling, the Obama administration pulled the same executive privilege style political chicanery as did the final Bush administration, whenever it came time to unearth documents that likely led to knowledge that the highest levels in government were likely either aware of or were directly involved in the operation and/or responsible for its existence to begin with.

Although the media refuses to call it anything other than a “botched” operation, as if it was originally a well-intended attempt at rooting out drug smugglers, the fact that the cartel that received the guns was magically taking out rival cartels with those guns that weren’t laundering their drug money through Wall Street banks in the US, automatically brings the realization that it wasn’t actually a “botched” operation after all strait into the realm of sheer likelihood.

When will we take a stand against the government money-for-bodybags programs?

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