A collection of relevant and timely media clips and resources.
Posted on January 4, 2012
by Dave Kopel
Feb. 25: President Barack Obama’s new attorney general, Eric Holder, tells Congress that the administration wants to reinstitute the ban on the sale of so-called “assault weapons.” Holder said, “I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico at a minimum.”
William Newell, head of BATFE’s Phoenix office and an advocate of gun control, will later blame the failure of “Operation Fast and Furious” (F&F) on Arizona’s lack of sufficiently severe gun control laws. He finds an ally in his ultimate boss: Attorney General Holder.
March 26: Speaking in Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims, “The guns that are used by the drug cartels against the police and the military, 90 percent of them come from America.”
April 16: At a press conference with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, President Obama asserts, “More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.”
Throughout the spring and summer, the Obama administration repeatedly tries and fails to provide solid evidence for the “90 percent” factoid. Behind the scenes is Dan Restrepo, National Security Council officer in charge of Latin America. He previously worked for the Center for American Progress, a think tank funded by globalist billionaire George Soros. Restrepo has been a key adviser urging Obama to blame Mexico’s drug-cartel violence on the United States’ Second Amendment freedoms. He will later receive memos from BATFE regarding F&F.
September: BATFE’s Phoenix office opens an investigation of several high-volume gunrunners. Soon dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” it is a vastly expanded and even more reckless version of “Operation Wide Receiver,” a “gun walking” program that Newell oversaw in 2006-07.
Oct. 31: The Phoenix Field Division opens an investigation of Uriel Patino, a gun trafficker who lives on food stamps. Under F&F, licensed firearm DEAlers are persuaded by BATFE to become confidential informants by selling guns to obvious straw purchasers (people who are buying guns on behalf of criminals). The DEAlers promptly notify BATFE of the sales, and the serial numbers of the firearms are entered into BATFE’s Suspect Gun Database.
For the majority of F&F purchases, this is all BATFE does. For a minority, BATFE watches the straw purchases take place. For a subset of those, BATFE continues surveillance long enough to watch the straw purchasers transfer the firearms to an intermediary. Throughout, BATFE agents are always forbidden to interdict the guns, and are often ordered to discontinue surveillance. As a result, BATFE soon loses track of virtually all the trafficked guns. Notably, the policy of letting the guns “walk” into the hands of criminals is a flagrant violation of BATFE policy established in 1972.
Nov. 20: Patino brings a new straw purchaser, Jaime Avila, to a gun store. Avila will soon provide the guns found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. In all, Patino will eventually supply 730 guns to criminals.
Also on this date, Mexican law enforcement seized a shipment of 42 guns in Sonora. Thirty-seven of those guns came from F&F. BATFE now knows beyond doubt that many of the “walked” guns are ending up in Mexico.
Of the more than 2,000 guns that BATFE has disclosed through its “gun walking” investigation, more than 70 percent are procured by just five straw purchasers. BATFE also disabled its eTrace system in order to prevent BATFE agents in Mexico from discovering the truth about how the F&F guns are being trafficked into Mexico.
How was putting more than 2,000 guns into the hands of violent criminals supposed to improve public safety? BATFE field agents, such as whistle-blower John Dodson, were told that their supervisors “didn’t have to explain anything. … We were told that we simply did not understand the plan.”
The plan, as Newell later told Congress, was that by recording the crime scenes in Mexico where F&F guns were found, BATFE would be able to identify a Mexican cartel kingpin, then ask Mexico to prosecute him.
One of the main flaws of this plan is that BATFE in Mexico, and the Mexican government, were already well aware of the identities of the Mexican drug kingpins—as BATFE’s attaché in Mexico, Darren Gil, would later testify to Congress.
The absurdity of the “plan” raises questions about whether there were other motives—such as making the “90 percent” falsehood seem closer to true, or even creating a pretext to expand BATFE regulatory powers. If so, the plan worked, as displayed through the new Obama rule (currently being challenged in three nra-backed lawsuits) to require registration of all persons in the four southwest border states who buy two centerfire semi-auto rifles in a five-day period.
December: In a six-day period, straw purchasers buy 212 guns. By now, BATFE has identified a Phoenix man, Manuel Celis Acosta, as manager of the gun-purchasing ring. More than a year later, he will be the highest-ranking person indicted. Over the next 13 months, F&F will place approximately 1,500 more guns into criminal hands, and yet BATFE will be unable to prosecute anyone higher than the manager of a local group of straw purchasers.
Jan. 5: Steve Martin, an assistant director of intelligence operations for BATFE, asks top BATFE officials: “How long are you going to let this go on?” Nobody answers, and several men promptly leave the room.
Jan. 8: BATFE Phoenix Field Division Group VII, the group carrying out F&F, explains in a briefing paper: “Currently our strategy is to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place. …” The briefing paper is indisputable proof that F&F knowingly allowed firearms to continue to go into criminal hands.
The briefing paper reveals that BATFE is working on F&F with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Eventually, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice, part of Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security), the Internal Revenue Service (irs, part of the Treasury Department) and the DEA (part of Holder’s Department of Justice, or DOJ) all become involved in F&F. All are aware of the “gun walking” tactics being used, according to Newell.
Jan. 14: Near Columbus, n.m., a small town about five miles from the u.s.-Mexico border, the Border Patrol stops a car carrying eight guns in the trunk—six of them from F&F—all of which had been bought by Avila. BATFE, however, has yet to enter the serial numbers of those Avila guns into its Suspect Gun Database, so when the Border Patrol checks the guns against the database, they find nothing. The Border Patrol releases the men and the guns.
On Feb. 8, 2011, one of those F&F guns found in the trunk is believed to have been used in a murder in Palomas, Mexico, seven miles south of Columbus, n.m. In March 2011, federal agents bust a gun-smuggling operation of the “Columbus 11,” which includes city officials. Government press announcements about the raid make no mention of F&F.
Jan. 16: Avila buys three Romanian ak variants. At least two of the rifles will be found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Over the next 11 months, Avila will buy 34 more firearms and Patino will buy 539.
March 10: BATFE intelligence analyst Lorren Leadmon conducts a videoconference briefing. Among those present is Department of Justice attorney Joe Cooley, who was personally assigned to be the DOJ point of contact for F&F for Lanny Breuer, Holder’s assistant attorney general who runs all of Justice’s criminal programs. The issue of gun walking is raised, and Cooley says that allowing guns into Mexico is “an acceptable practice.”
March 12: David Voth, supervisor of Phoenix Field Division Group VII, threatens the jobs of agents who object to “gun walking”: “If you don’t think this is fun, you are in the wrong line of work—period! This is the pinnacle of domestic u.s. law enforcement techniques. … Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day. … This can be the most fun you have with ATF, the only one limiting the amount of fun we have is you!”
Voth’s belief that F&F was a lot of fun was not confined to a single day. According to Dodson, BATFE agent and whistleblower, “Whenever we would get a trace report back,” Voth “was jovial, if not giddy, just delighted about that: Hey, 20 of our guns were recovered with 350 pounds of dope in Mexico last night!”
April 2: A Phoenix office e-mail reports that in March 2010, “our subjects” bought 359 guns and 958 people were killed by Mexican drug violence. March was the DEAdliest month in Mexico since 2005. Among the DEAd are 11 policemen in the state of Sinaloa. Many of the F&F guns are going to the Sinaloa cartel.
April: The owner of Lone Wolf Trading Co., in Glendale, Ariz., raises concerns about selling guns in such high volumes to straw purchasers. Voth reassures him by lying: “We are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques.”
June 15: Jean Baptiste Kingery attempts to enter Arizona from Mexico at the San Luis Port of Entry. A search of his vehicle reveals over 100 grenade components hidden in a spare tire. Under questioning, he confesses to manufacturing improvised explosive devices with grenade components for the La Familia Michoacana cartel, teaching cartel members how to convert semi-automatic firearms to fully automatic and delivering instructions (such as assassination orders) to cartel employees. Emory Hurley, the assistant u.s. attorney who is running F&F, orders that Kingery be released rather than arrested. BATFE agent Pete Forcelli strongly objects to Kingery’s release, but Hurley is adamant. Forcelli will later become an F&F whistleblower.
October: Six gunmen from a cartel (probably Sinaloa) abduct Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, brother of the Chihuahua attorney general. The cartel releases three videos showing him being tortured. After he is murdered, Mexican law enforcement raids the kidnappers’ compound and discovers a pair of rifles from F&F, sold in a straw purchase that BATFE agents actually watched but were ordered not to interdict.
Dec. 14: Agent Brian Terry, as part of a Border Patrol Tactical Unit, is conducting a night operation looking for criminals in the very rugged terrain of Peck Canyon, near Rio Rico, Ariz. About 11:15 p.m., the unit encounters five criminals, a “rip off crew” that preys on illegal aliens and drug smugglers. Agent Terry is killed and the criminals flee, except for one who is wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
Dec. 15: At the scene of Terry’s murder, law enforcement recovers two rifles that were purchased as part of F&F by Jaime Avila.
Dec. 16: Hurley, the attorney in charge of F&F, e-mails his boss, Dennis Burke, u.s. attorney for Arizona, that the Terry murder guns were “part of the overall ‘Fast and Furious’ conspiracy.” Gary Grindler (a top Holder aide who will become his chief of staff the following month) receives a briefing that F&F guns were found at Terry’s murder scene.
Dec. 21: Newell e-mails his supervisor, William McMahon, saying, “Guns purchased early on in the case couldn’t have [been] stopped mainly because we weren’t fully aware of all the players at that time, and people buying multiple firearms in Arizona is a very common thing.”
This is patently false. BATFE was well aware that Avila was a serial straw purchaser of dozens of guns who was working with Patino who, BATFE knew, had bought hundreds of guns.
The Terry murder is the last straw for Dodson. He repeatedly contacts the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Justice, but gets nowhere. (This is the office that Holder will later place in charge of the internal DOJ investigation of F&F.)
Dodson contacts the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Eventually, at least a dozen whistle-blowers will speak with congressional investigators. A half-dozen of them will testify before Congress in June and July 2011.
Dec. 23: FBI ballistics experts file their “Report of Examination” determining that Terry was killed with a bullet from a semi-automatic rifle. However, “due to a lack of sufficient agreement in the individual microscopic marks of value” on the rifles, “it could not be determined” which particular rifle killed Terry. BATFE then tells the public: “We’re not aware of any forensic evidence that would link these guns to the homicide.”
Jan. 25: Burke and Newell hold a press conference to announce indictments from F&F. Newell describes the indictments resulting from F&F as “phenomenal cases,” although they amount to nothing more than a bunch of straw purchasers and their manager. F&F failed in its purported objective of taking down an entire gun-trafficking ring. Asked if F&F allowed guns to go into Mexico, Newell answers, “Hell no.” Agent Peter Forcelli, a BATFE group supervisor in the Phoenix office, is watching the press conference on television. As he later tells Congress, “I was appalled, because it was a blatant lie.”
Jan. 27 and 31: Sen. Grassley, whose staff has been talking with the whistleblowers, sends two letters to BATFE Acting Director Kenneth Melson. On Jan. 31, Grassley hanD-delivers the letters to Melson’s boss, Attorney General Holder.
Feb. 4: Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sends a reply to Grassley: “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transport into Mexico.” Further, “the allegation … that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico—is false.” The latter statement is used to mislead but is somewhat true in a “Clintonian” sense: The straw purchasers did not personally take the guns into Mexico; the guns were handed off to other people for this purpose. Breuer, who later admits that he has known about “Wide Receiver” since April 2010, does nothing to correct the false letter.
The Department of Justice also denies that F&F guns were “used” in Agent Terry’s murder. This, too, is technically true in the Clintonian sense. The guns were found where he was murdered, but it has not been conclusively determined that the fatal shot was fired from one of those guns.
When the deceit in this letter is uncovered, Congress tries to find out who at the DOJ reviewed and approved the content of those drafts. Holder refuses to release the information.
Feb. 15: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata is murdered in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, most likely by the Los Zetas cartel. Among the killers’ firearms is a Romanian handgun purchased in Dallas the previous October by a known firearm trafficker, Otilio Osorio, whom BATFE did not arrest.
Feb. 28: Holder tells the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General to investigate F&F. The internal investigation immediately becomes the pretext for the DOJ to attempt to shut down all outside investigations.
March 30: Sarah and Jim Brady visit the White House for a meeting about gun control. President Obama tells them, “I just want you to know that we’re working on it.” He adds, “We just have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.”
May 3: Holder testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Issa asks Holder, “When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called ‘Fast and Furious’? To the best of your knowledge, what date?”
Holder answers, “I probably heard about ‘Fast and Furious’ for the first time over the last few weeks.” The answer is later revealed to be false. Holder and his top deputies had received numerous reports on F&F since Spring 2010. The heavily redacted versions of these reports, which the DOJ has provided to the Oversight Committee, do not conclusively prove that top DOJ officials were told about the “gun walking,” but they do mention “Fast & Furious” by name.
Issa tells Holder, “There are DEAd Americans as a result of this failed, reckless program.”
Holder retorts: “I take exception to what you just said. The notion that somehow, rather, this Justice Department is responsible for those DEAths that you mention, that assertion is offensive.”
May 29: Mexican federal police use four helicopters to attack a cartel’s mountain hideout. They are driven away by heavy fire, which punches a hole in the plate glass window of one of the helicopters. A u.s. House Oversight Committee report, released in June 2011, concludes that the rifle probably came to the cartel via F&F.
June 13: At a House Oversight hearing, legal experts unanimously agree that the Office of Inspector General self-investigation (Feb. 28) does not justify the DOJ trying to block a congressional investigation. Gun-ban Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Charles Schumer, D-n.y., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-r.i., successfully divert media attention by issuing a report blaming American gun stores for Mexican gun crime. The report does not mention F&F.
June 14: The House Oversight Committee releases a report on F&F. By this time, the committee has sent BATFE and DOJ seven letters and a subpoena demanding cooperation with the investigation.
June 15: The New York Times claims that multiple gun sales are so common in Arizona that it is impossible to identify the straw buyers. At a House hearing, Agent Dodson rebuts the Times, explaining that straw purchasers such as those in F&F are perfectly obvious.
Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich is asked who authorized F&F. He replies, “We don’t know.”
Issa castigates Weich for the DOJ coveR-up, such as turning over a document in which all the words are blacked out, or responding to a document request only by supplying documents that were already available on the Internet.
June 16: BATFE Acting Director Melson tells Acting Deputy Attorney General Cole that Melson has discovered that some of the F&F targets were unindictable because they were paid informants of the FBI and DEA.
June 18: The Wall Street Journal reports that Melson is about to be fired. Other media reports indicate that he may be replaced as acting director by Andrew Traver, an anti-gun activist whom Obama has nominated to be permanent director.
June 21: BATFE has been keeping up the distraction campaign with a new report about American guns in Mexico. In response, Sen. Grassley releases data showing that fewer than a quarter of guns in Mexico were traced to an American gun store.
June 29: BATFE fires whistle-blowing special agent Vince Cefalu.
June 30: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking minority member on the House Oversight Committee, holds a forum in which anti-gun lobbies argue that F&F proves the need for more gun-control laws.
Thirty-one pro-gun congressional Democrats send Holder a letter criticizing his efforts to thwart the congressional investigation.
July 3-4: Melson is secretly interviewed by House committee staff. He says that from the very beginning, DOJ has run a coveR-up in order to protect political appointees. He further reports that the DOJ has not told the truth about how much DOJ officials learned about F&F starting in March 2010, when staff for Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, including Breuer’s deputy Jason Weinstein, approved F&F wiretap applications. Since wiretap applications must provide an explanation of all other investigative techniques used or considered, these applications would very likely have detailed the gun walking in F&F.
July 6: Mexican federal police release a video of their interrogation of Jesus Rejon Aguilar, who is believed to be wanted in connection with Zapata’s murder. He says that “all the weapons are bought in the United States” and that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons.”
July 11: The Obama administration announces new registration requirements for all persons in the southern border states who buy two semi-automatic centerfire rifles with detachable magazines in a five-day period. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, calls it “the height of hypocrisy” since “the administration knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico.”
July 15: Issa and Grassley write to Holder, telling him to stop “withholding what Mr. Melson described as the ‘smoking gun’ report of investigation”—the wiretap applications showing how much Holder’s DOJ knew about “gun walking.”
Anti-gun Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-n.y., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., introduce new gun-control legislation, which they say is proven to be necessary by F&F.
July 26: The House committee and Grassley release a joint report, “Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence.” Carlos Canino, acting BATFE attaché in Mexico, describes F&F as “the perfect storm of idiocy.” “We armed the [Sinaloa] cartel,” he says in the report. “It is disgusting.” According to the report, so far “there have been 48 different recoveries of weapons in Mexico linked to ‘Operation Fast and Furious.’”
At a new round of House committee hearings, Newell is subpoenaed and forced to testify. He refuses to say who authorized F&F and claims that there was never any “gun walking.”
Newell is forced to admit that from July to September 2010, he sent several updates about F&F to the White House, received by National Security Council staffer Patrick O’Reilly. The reports include a detailed map showing how the F&F guns were showing up at crime scenes all over Mexico.
BATFE intelligence specialist Leadmon testifies that there are still more than 1,400 F&F guns in the hands of violent criminals in the u.s. and Mexico.
Aug. 1: BATFE staff involved in F&F are shuffled, but none are demoted or censured. William McMahon, who was in charge of BATFE’s western operations and was Newell’s supervisor, moves to Washington as deputy assistant director of the BATFE Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations. In other words, McMahon is now responsible for ethics enforcement at BATFE. In his new job, McMahon is also a BATFE point of contact with the Office of Inspector General, which is supposed to be conducting an investigation of F&F at Holder’s order.
Several days later, BATFE acting director Melson sends out an e-mail announcing the reassignments, praising McMahon and Newell (who was also moved to d.c.) for “the skills and abilities they have demonstrated throughout their careers.” The memo does not mention F&F.
Aug. 30: Dennis Burke, the u.s. attorney for Arizona, resigns. Before becoming u.s. attorney for Arizona, Burke had served as senior advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Melson resigns as acting director of BATFE. He is given a newly created job as senior advisor on forensic science at the DOJ.
So, despite Obama and Holder’s promises that action would be taken regarding the people responsible for F&F, the only person who has lost his job is Burke.
Sept. 8: CleanUpATF.org, a website for ethical BATFE agents, asks: “Does anyone here actually buy Holder’s claim that he and DOJ’s senior leadership were entirely ‘unaware’ of an operation that deliberately allowed thousands of assault rifles, fragmentation grenades and other military grade weaponry to cross an international border? … This is clearly either an incredibly brazen cover up of Watergate significance, or Eric Holder is among the most incompetent attorney generals ever to disgrace the office.”
Sept. 20: In a conference call with journalists, Issa reports, “The attorney general in Mexico is so concerned, she’s made the point that at least 200 Mexicans have been killed with these weapons and probably countless more.”
Oct. 4: In early 2011, cbs News reporter Sharyl Attkisson began investigating F&F before anyone else in the national media. In an interview on the Laura Ingraham radio show, Attkisson recounts that White House press flack Eric Schultz “literally” had cursed and “screamed” at her, and that DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler had “yelled” at her. They both had the same message: “The Washington Post is reasonable, the Los Angeles Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.”
Oct. 7: Attkisson reports that cbs News investigators have found “examples of alleged gun walking in 10 cities and five states. … a number of them we found were still ongoing when ‘Fast and Furious’ was exposed, and ATF quickly drew them to a close.”
Twelve of Arizona’s 15 sheriffs call for Holder to resign or be fired and for a special counsel to be appointed to consider criminal prosecutions in F&F.
Holder sends an angry letter to congressional committee leaders. He implicitly chastises Congress for not enacting new gun control laws, because “additional tools are needed to stem the flow of guns to Mexico.” He demands that Congress denounce persons who have pointed out that government officials who deliberately facilitated guns being placed in the hands of violent criminals might be guilty as accessories to murder.
Oct. 11: At a press conference, when a reporter asks if Holder knew about the “controversial tactics” employed in F&F, he leaves the room.
Oct. 14: Dennis Henigan, acting president of the Brady Campaign, blames the gun lobby for making F&F “necessary.”
Oct. 18: By a 99-0 vote, the Senate adopts an appropriations amendment by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, barring funding for BATFE operations that place guns in the hands of drug cartels without keeping the guns under surveillance.
Oct. 22: “I feel like I’m not getting the truth,” says Mary Zapata Muñoz, the mother of slain ice agent Zapata.
Oct. 25: Issa and Grassley send Holder a letter pointing out that DOJ has still refused to answer the questions that were asked about why the people who supplied the guns to the Zapata murderers were not arrested before the killing.
Nov. 2: The office of Pinal County, Ariz., Sheriff Paul Babeu announces that two guns found at the scene of a major Sinaloa cartel drug bust in Pinal County were provided through F&F. Babeu states, “This has never happened before in the history of our country. We may have given armaments and weapons to our allies who may have later become our enemy, but we’ve never given them directly to our enemy.
“These are the most violent criminals in North America and we facilitated and gave weapons, weapons that my deputies don’t even have, to these cartels,” he adds. “It’s more than insane, it is horrific to think that our own government did this.”
Nearly a year after Obama nominated Andrew Traver to be permanent BATFE director, no hearings have been scheduled by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some congressmen and BATFE agents believe that the Obama administration is afraid that confirmation hearings could bring attention to F&F.
Nov. 8: Holder testifies before Congress, denying all responsibility for F&F and saying American gun control laws are not strict enough. When offered the opportunity to apologize to the Terry family for the DEAth of Brian, Holder answers, “It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistakes that happened in ‘Fast and Furious’ directly led to the DEAth of Agent Terry.”
Nov. 15: There are now 43 members of Congress calling for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation. As you can see, for nearly three years now, the Obama administration—since its first days in office—has made a concerted effort to attack the rights of American gun owners through “Operation Fast and Furious.”
That it has chosen an operation of such magnitude, and the resulting coveR-up equal in scope, to wage war against the Second Amendment speaks of the loathing this administration harbors for your freedoms; that it would take lying to Congress and the American people, and placing countless lives on both sides of the border in danger, is of little consequence to them.
Now imagine what a second Obama term will mean for your Right to Keep and Bear Arms. That’s why the 2012 elections are so critical, and why gun owners must support the NRA now more than ever before.
BATFE/Federal Firearms Law Reform, Fast and Furious, Dave Kopel
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