Saturday, August 6, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious XXXVII

Or higher. An informed examination of the facts leaves no other answer.

by Bob Owens

Now that the debt ceiling debate is over and done, let’s turn our attention back to Operation Fast and Furious and its alleged sister operations. The multi-agency operation (or operations) of the U.S. government allowed thousands of guns to be supplied to Mexican drug cartels, while American federal law enforcement effectively provided the straw purchasers and smugglers with the cover to operate with impunity.
Despite the tens of thousands of words of outrage written about the Obama administration’s botched Operation Fast and Furious, most of the focus has been on the horrific impact of the program as measured by the number of firearms smuggled over the border and the number of lives lost. Some attention has been consequently paid to the potential political and criminal impact of the operation and cover-up within the Department of Justice.
Sadly, the media has focused very little attention on the probable origins of the plot, or why Gunwalker was created as an adjunct of the longer-running and more successful Gunrunner campaign.
Of course, that may not be entirely true. The crack investigative reporters of print, network, and cable news organizations may very well have done the research and followed the various clues about the origins of Gunwalker to their logical conclusion, and then simply decided that the most probable story was one they not dare tell.
The story is this: no competent federal law enforcement officer would ever have concocted an operation as obviously doomed to catastrophic failure as Operation Fast and Furious.
Let us count the reasons why:
  1. Federal law enforcement agents don’t let guns “walk.” A gun that is allowed to flow into criminal hands is a gun that could end up killing a fellow cop or citizen. As a result, all prior known operations under the long-running and successful Gunrunner program ended when a straw purchaser was allowed to make the purchase, and then arrested on the spot or shortly thereafter. Throughout the process of these stings, the suspects were under constant surveillance whenever they had firearms in their possession, and officers considered it catastrophic failure if surveillance was lost.
  1. Federal law enforcement agents knew that this operation would not lead to cartel kingpins. The profiling of criminal activity has become a blend of art and high science in recent decades, and when combined with the intelligence provided by informants and a history of thousands of arrests, the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and IRS agents assigned to the task force knew from the beginning that cartel leaders could not be implicated in Fast and Furious, because they simply aren’t involved. Obtaining weapons for cartel gunmen is a problem for the lower to middle ranks of a cartel’s hierarchy, no different than acquiring vehicles or safehouses. The most commonly used cartel weapons are viewed by the organizations as consumable commodities to be bought, used, and discarded. Do CEOs, company presidents, and vice presidents, or even middle managers go out shopping for paper clips and pens?
  1. Federal law enforcement agents knew from the outset that they could never arrest their targets, who were outside of their jurisdiction. Jurisdictional battles between federal, state, and local agencies are legendary, and sensitivity to jurisdictional issues is something every law enforcement agent learns, often with frustration. Knowing for a fact that the individuals running cartel gun acquisition would be based in Mexico, and staying in Mexico, agents would have realized from the mission planning phase — well before operational implementation — that effecting arrests of the operation’s stated targets was nearly impossible.
  1. Middle managers in government would never dare to try such a dangerous, high-risk operation without express orders from above. All agencies — public or private — are saddled with bureaucracy, internal politics, and institutional inertia, which forms a powerful and pervasive cultural force that significantly inhibits change. Changes that threaten the equilibrium of agencies are viewed as a threat, and the more radical the proposed change, the more resistance there is to block it from occurring. Resistance to change occurs even when change is thought to be strongly beneficial.From the ground up and at the very beginning, Fast and Furious was a radical and dangerous proposal that would threaten the very existence of the ATF.
There is no way a politically experienced operative like Phoenix Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Bill Newell would have offered up such a plan merely out of the self interest of furthering his own career. Federal law enforcement officers never would have conceived of and did not support the implementation of Operation Fast and Furious. Agents fought tooth and nail with supervisors over the plot, as has been documented extensively in congressional testimony.
Operation Fast and Furious would not have come from agents in the field.
Operation Fast and Furious could not have come from regional SACs.
The one and only way that this multi-agency operation could have been organized and forced into action against the wishes and better judgment of seasoned professionals is through a top-down push from high-level executives within the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Treasury, which all played a role in the plot. Four executive branch departments, led by cabinet-level political appointees loyal to the Obama administration, worked on an operation together that was explicitly doomed to failure from the outset.
Was the goal of the project ever law enforcement?
The most logical explanation for Fast and Furious and related operations was that it was not a law enforcement operation, but a political operation designed to advance an anti-gun political agenda that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have been pursuing since the beginning of this presidency.
This explosive scandal at the heart of Gunwalker isn’t a matter of “what did he know and when did he know it?” It now instead seems to be a matter of who will come forward, and how much evidence will they provide to implicate officials at the highest levels of a lawless government.

Fast and Furious Official No Longer Going to Mexico as Attache; Mexican Govt. Asks for Transcripts of His Testimony

by Allan Lengel

William Newell, who headed ATF’s Phoenix Division during the controversial operation dubbed Fast and Furious, won’t be going to Mexico as ATF’s attache after all.
The agency has decided to to nix that assignment before he even heads south. Instead, he’s been named special assistant to the ATF Assistant Director for the Office of Management in Washington.
The reassignment comes at a time the Mexican Justice Department known as the PGR is reportedly conducting a criminal probe into the Fast and Furious Operation.  It has also requested transcripts of Newell’s recent testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Concern had surfaced recently within ATF that the Mexican government might arrest Newell if he came down there as the attache.
Lydia Antonio, a press officer for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, declined to comment for this story. An ATF official familiar with the matter confirmed the reassignment, but declined to speculate on why Newell’s Mexico City assignment was changed.
The move to keep Newell in Washington is direct turn about for the agency, which up until recently, had insisted that Newell was  still going to Mexico City as the ATF attache even as the  Mexican government fumed over Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers or middlemen, with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. Some of the guns have surfaced at crime scenes.
ATF first announced internally last Fall that Newell, who is fluent in Spanish, would become the new attache in Mexico City. But after the controversy broke over Fast and Furious, ATF delayed his departure to Mexico and sent him on a detour to Washington to help Congressional investigators and the Inspector General investigate the faulty Fast and Furious operation.
Agents around the country, according to one person, were angry over Newell’s testimony at a Congressional hearing last month when he denied that ATF let guns walk.  During his testimony, he admitted there had been some mistakes, but essentially defended the operation.
In a phone interview Thursday with, Newell’s attorney Paul Pelletier of Washington, a former federal prosecutor,  commented on  Newell’s  job change by saying:  “Going to Mexico, given the way his public service has been unfairly portrayed, would not be prudent.”
But Pelletier said Newell has been extremely dedicated to fighting gun trafficking to Mexico.
“Bill’s career with the ATF has been mostly on the Southwest border and he’s made his career literally preventing guns from going to Mexico” he said. “That’s what his career has been based on. He’s done a lot. He’s been a strong advocate of stopping the flow of guns into Mexico.”
He said  Newell volunteered to take his family to Mexico City to take on a dangerous assignment so he could continue addressing the problem.
“The public theater has not been fair to him and has not been fair to ATF.”
Pelletier also noted that Newell was instrumental in getting a member of the Mexican Justice Department stationed in the Phoenix Division.

DEA acknowledges supporting role in Operation Fast and Furious

By Richard A. Serrano

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration has acknowledged to congressional investigators that her agency provided a supporting role in the ill-fated Operation Fast and Furious run by the group's counterparts at the ATF.

Michele M. Leonhart, the DEA administrator, said DEA agents primarily helped gather evidence in cases in Phoenix and El Paso, and in the program's single indictment last January that netted just 20 defendants for illegal gun-trafficking.

The development marks the first time another law enforcement agency has said it also worked on Fast and Furious cases other than the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is under two investigations into why it allowed at least 2,000 firearms to be illegally purchased and then lost track of the guns’ whereabouts.

Nearly 200 of the weapons showed up at crime scenes in Mexico, and two semi-automatics were recovered after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was slain south of Tucson.

Leonhart made the acknowledgement in a letter to Rep.Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A copy of the letter was obtained Friday by The Times.

Leonhart wrote that her agents in Phoenix and El Paso were "indirectly involved in the ATF operation through DEA-associated activity. "

She added, "the DEA El Paso Division responded to a duty call in March 2010 from ATF for assistance in conducting an ongoing surveillance operation in the El Paso area as part of Operation Fast and Furious."

But she said her agents in Phoenix "had the most notable associated investigative activity, though DEA personnel had no decision-making role in any ATF operations." That included helping obtain phone numbers and addresses, issuing subpoenas for information on the phone subscribers, and paying linguist costs of $128,000 to help translate intercepted calls.

Her agency further helped in the "round up phase of the case with the execution of search warrants, participated in debriefing some of the 20 gun-smuggling defendants who were arrested in the Phoenix area, and attending the Jan. 25 press conference announcing those arrests.

Dawn Dearden, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington, declined to comment further Friday on the DEA’s role in Fast and Furious. "The letter stands on its own," she said. "We’re still in a fact-finding mode, so there’s not much more we can say."

Document: Read the letter

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