Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious XLIV

Guns From 'Fast and Furious' Sting Linked to 11 More Violent Crimes
Weapons from the failed federal operation "Fast and Furious" have reportedly been linked to 11 more violent crimes in the U.S., including in place like Arizona and Texas where a total of 42 weapons were seized. 

 The Los Angeles Times reports that as early as January 2010, guns tied to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions were found at crime scenes in cities like Phoenix, Glendale and El Paso. 

The ATF program was designed to identify cartel leaders in Mexico by allowing for the illegal purchase of weapons and then tracking the firearms. The operation backfired when ATF lost track of the guns.

Under the program, 1,418 firearms were circulated though the number of disappeared guns is still unknown. 
In a letter obtained by the L.A. Times on Tuesday, Justice Department officials say they are cooperating with congressional investigations and the Justice Department inspector general's office. It also acknowledged that ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson "likely became aware" of the operation as early as December 2009. 

Meanwhile, three supervisors in charge of the program are being transferred to Washington for new management positions at the agency's headquarters. The decision to promote William Newell and David Voth, both field supervisors who managed the program out of the agency's Phoenix office, and William McMahon, who was the ATF's deputy director of operations in the West, earned criticism from U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

"Until Attorney General (Eric) Holder and Justice Department officials come clean on all alleged gun-walking operations, including a detailed response to allegations of a Texas-based scheme, it is inconceivable to reward those who spearheaded this disastrous operation with cushy desks in Washington," Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote to Holder. 

Read more:

Senator blasts promotions for ATF’s ‘Fast and Furious’ supervisors

By Jerry Seper

A senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday described as “inconceivable” a Justice Department decision to promote key Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) personnel who oversaw the controversial “Fast and Furious” weapons investigation that allowed hundreds of guns to be walked into Mexico to new positions in Washington.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who last week demanded that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. immediately brief his office regarding the “scope and details of any past or present ATF gun-walking programs” in his state, said until Mr. Holder and the department “come clean” on the gun-walking investigation, “it is inconceivable to reward those who spearheaded this disastrous operation with cushy desks in Washington.”
The ATF has promoted three key supervisors of a controversial sting operation that allowed firearms to be illegally trafficked across the U.S. border into Mexico.
Mr. Cornyn’s comments were in response to a Los Angeles Times‘ story that said three ATF supervisors heavily criticized for pushing the Fast and Furious program forward had been given new management positions at the agency’s Washington headquarters. The three areWilliam G. McMahon, ATF’s deputy director of operations in the West, and William D. Newell and David J. Voth, both of whom oversaw the program out of the agency’s Phoenix office.
Mr. McMahon, who told a House committee he shared responsibility for “mistakes that were made” in the Fast and Furious operation, was promoted Sunday to deputy assistant director of the ATF's Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations — which investigates suspected misconduct by employees.
Mr. Newell, former ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix field division who steadfastly defended the program in his committee testimony, was named as special assistant to the assistant director of the agency’s Office of Management in Washington.
Mr. Voth, ATF Group VII Strike Force supervisor who oversaw day-to-day operations of the Fast and Furious investigation, was moved to Washington to become branch chief for the ATF’s tobacco division.
In an agency-wide memo, Acting ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson said the agents were promoted because of “the skills and abilities they have demonstrated throughout their careers.”
Mr. Cornyn, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security and a former Texas attorney general and state Supreme Court justice, told Mr. Holder in a letter Thursday that the Arizona-based operation and “ill-advised” and had “tragic consequences” in that state. He said his Texas constituents deserved “a full accounting.”
“As a part of that program — ATF agents instructed federally-licensed firearms dealers to illegally sell more than 1,000 weapons to straw purchasers working for drug cartels in Mexico,” he wrote. “These ATF agents were also ordered by their superiors to ignore well-established practice and refrain from interdicting these weapons before they flowed into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
“Sadly, this ill-advised program had tragic consequences, with these ‘walked’ weapons showing up at the scene of multiple violent crimes — including the murder of United States Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry” along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have both investigated the program. They said two AK-47 assault rifles found at the site of the Terry shooting, 10 miles from the Mexico border near Nogales, Ariz., were traced back to a straw buyer who had purchased the weapons as part of the undercover investigation.
Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa have said that Fast and Furious allowed “approximately 2,000 heavy-duty assault type firearms to be illegally trafficked” and that “hundreds of these weapons have already been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico.”
Under the operation, several ATF agents testified they were ordered by their supervisors to “stand down” from surveillance operations and let the straw buyers’ weapons travel across the border intoMexico. The operation was halted in January, shortly after the Dec. 15 Terry killing.

ATF's 'Fast and Furious' firearms tracked to at least 11 violent crimes

By Richard A. Serrano

Firearms illegally trafficked under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program turned up at the scenes of at least 11 “violent crimes” in this country in addition to being involved in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona last year, theJustice Department has acknowledged to Congress.

Although Justice did not provide any details about those crime scenes, it has been learned that the additional violent crimes occurred in cities such as Phoenix,  where Operation Fast and Furious was managed,  and as far away as El Paso, Texas, where a total of 42 Fast and Furious weapons were seized in two separate crimes.

The new numbers, which vastly broaden the scope of the danger the program posed to U.S. citizens over a 14-month period, are contained in a letter Justice Department officials turned over last month to Senate Judiciary Committee members.

Documents: Fast and Furious paper trail

In the letter, obtained Tuesday by The Times, Justice officials also reported that ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson “likely became aware” of Fast and Furious as early as December 2009, a month after the program began, and not after January of this year, as he had said. The July 22 letter was signed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich and sent to Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was in response to questions posed to the Justice Department about Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder and Fast and Furious.

Justice officials were asked how many “violent crime” scenes turned up more Fast and Furious weapons besides the two semiautomatics found after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s slaying last December.

They responded that while the “ATF does not have complete information” on the whereabouts of all the lost guns, “it is our understanding that ATF is aware of 11 instances” where a Fast and Furious firearm “was recovered in connection with a crime of violence in the United States.”

Justice officials did not respond. But a source close to the unfolding controversy said that as early as January 2010, just after the operation was underway, Fast and Furious weapons turned up at crime scenes in Phoenix, Nogales, Douglas and Glendale in Arizona, and in El Paso. The largest haul was 40 Fast and Furious weapons at one crime scene in El Paso.

Documents: Fast and Furious paper trail

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