Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious LV

Operation Fast and Furious: An Obama Foreign Policy Disconnect

by Ray Walser

During the past week, the U.S. and Colombia indicted and arrested more than 50 individuals charged with organizing maritime and aerial smuggling of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. via Central America and Mexico. The arrests again reflect the sustained nature of close law enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia. This cooperation has been nurtured patiently over more than a decade.
By stark contrast, cooperation between Washington and Mexico has been harmed as a result of Operation Fast and Furious, the botched law enforcement operation that allowed more than 2,000 guns to “walk” from straw buyers into the hands of criminals—Mexican and American. It also appears that an Arizona man believed to have supplied grenades to Mexican criminals may have slipped through the fingers of U.S. law enforcement.
As in the case of cooperation with Colombia, the rationale behind Operation Fast and Furious was to develop cross-border cooperation and prosecutions against higher-ups in criminal organizations. Defenders of Operation Fast and Furious say it was a way of getting around weak or ineffective U.S. laws regulating the sale and export of high-powered firearms, by going after gun-trafficking networks.
In a briefing paper in January 2010, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) explained:
The ultimate goal is…to identify and prosecute all co-conspirators of the DTO [Drug Trafficking Organizations] to include the 20 individual straw purchasers, the facilitators of the distribution cell centered here in Phoenix, the transportation cells taking firearms South, and ultimately to develop and provide prosecutable information to our Mexican law enforcement counterparts for actions.
Agents running the operation claimed they stood on the cutting edge of law enforcement.
Wrote a lead ATF agent, David Voth, in early 2010 to quiet doubters in the wisdom of the operation: “This is the pinnacle of U.S. law enforcement techniques. After this, the tool box is empty. 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.”
On April 2, 2010, Voth again urged zeal in pressing ahead with the operation even when massive quantities of weapons seemed to be walking away:
Our subjects purchased 359 firearms during the month of March alone, to include numerous Barrett .50 caliber rifles. I believe we are righteous in our plan to dismantle this entire organization and to rush in to arrest any one person without taking in to account the entire scope of the conspiracy would be ill advised to the overall good of the mission.
The disconnect between “gun-walking” and effective law enforcement widened. The Mexican cooperation piece is still missing.
In hearings before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on July 27, Carlos Canino, ATF acting attaché in Mexico, painted a grim picture: “I have reason to believe that we were kept in the dark because the ATF leadership in Phoenix feared we would tell our Mexican partners.” Asked former ATF agent Darren Gil, “Why were ATF personnel in Mexico kept in the dark on this operation, which has now imperiled cooperation…at a time when that trust and cooperation is more essential than ever?”
Now it appears members of President Obama’s national security staff who deal with sensitive Mexican issues—Dan Restrepo and Kevin O’Reilly—were also in the loop but took no action. The Los Angeles Times reports that the supervisor of ATF in Phoenix “specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official.”
It is the National Security Council’s job to make sure domestic actions with foreign policy consequences—like the gun-walking of Operation Fast and Furious—are in sync with U.S. anti-crime and anti-drug efforts abroad.
As in the case of Colombia, the bottom line for Operation of Fast and Furious should have been building more effective cross-border cooperation with Mexico. Yet the opposite occurred. This foreign policy disconnect is worrisome and is another important reason for Congress to press its investigation to avoid a dangerous repeat.

Report: Justice Department Let IEDs ‘Walk’ Into Mexico

by Lachlan Markay

Officials from the U.S. federal government have admitted to arresting, then releasing mere hours later, a man who admitted to manufacturing hundreds of improvised explosive devices for a Mexican drug cartel, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The man was arrested last week in Mexico, where authorities reportedly seized materials that could be used to manufacture 500 grenades.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix, AZ, declined to charge Jean Baptiste Kingrey, the Wall Street Journal reported, despite the strenuous objections of at least one agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who was leading the ATF’s investigation into the grenades case.
The U.S. Attorney’s office sought to enlist Kingrey as an informant against the La Familia Michoacana cartel. Kingrey “maintained contact with agents for several weeks,” according to the Journal, “then disappeared, the U.S. officials familiar with the case said.”
But while the ATF apparently insisted on charging Kingrey when he was arrested in June, the man was also part of an ATF operation earlier this year that involved allowing him to “walk” explosives over the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the Bureau’s efforts to investigate drug cartels, federal prosecutors claim. ATF agents hoped to track Kingrey’s movements, but apparently lost track of him before he arrived at the border, where Mexican authorities failed to prevent his entry.
The ATF operation appears to have taken place parallel to – and not an official part of – the Bureau’s Fast and Furious gun-running operation. But it bears some striking similarities to the scandalous operation that has come under fire since Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in the line of duty in December. Guns identified as part of that operation were found at the scene.
Peter Forcelli, the ATF agent who reportedly pushed to charge Kingrey when he was arrested in June, was also involved in Fast and Furious, and has testified before Congress on the botched operation. Forcelli claims that Justice Department officials authorized the Bureau’s attempt in February to track Kingrey across the border. “Agree [with] the course of action as the variables play out,” read one internal email from the U.S. attorney, according to the Journal.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been leading the investigation into Fast and Furious from his post as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a brief statement on the revelations regarding the ATF’s February operation, calling the information “disconcerting.”

Source: ATF Gunwalker case to be transferred out of Arizona

by Sharyl Attkisson

In a move that signals more trouble for the US Attorney's office in Arizona, sources tells CBS News the Department of Justice is transferring two controversial weapons cases and a murder case to other districts. The cases are the Fast and Furious "gunwalker" case, a major grenade case, and the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. "The Department of Justice is giving a no-confidence vote to the US Attorney's office in Arizona," says one law enforcement source.
Both weapons cases involve the trafficking to drug cartels in Mexico. In both instances, ATF agents accuse  the lead prosecutor in Phoenix of wrongfully allowing suspects to remain on the street as they continued to traffic weapons without interdiction. The Justice Department did not confirm the case transfers, and provided no immediate comment.
A law enforcement source says Fast and Furious will now be prosecuted in San Diego instead of Phoenix. In that case, 20 suspects were charged last January with conspiracy, gun running and other charges. One suspect allegedly trafficked assault rifles found at the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. ATF allegedly let the suspect and weapons "walk" onto the street without interdiction a year before Terry was killed. ATF whistleblowers and Congressional investigators say the Arizona US Attorney's office attempted to conceal the connection between Fast and Furious and Terry's death, because people might fault them for letting the weapons "walk" and the suspect remain on the street until Terry was shot. Terry's murder case, under the FBI, will also be moved from Phoenix to San Diego, sources told CBS News.
In the grenade case, suspect Jean Baptise Kingery was arrested last week in Mexico. Mexican authorities said he had enough components to make 500 grenades, and allegedly transported materials from the US. Kingery was arrested in Arizona more than a year ago but let back on the street without being charged. That's despite that he allegedly confessed to operating a factory that produced explosive devices made from US supplies for drug cartels. 
The lead ATF agent in the investigation, Pete Forcelli, told Congressional investigators he objected vehemently to Kingery's release last year, but was overruled by the US Attorney's office. Forcelli was a whistleblower to Congress in the Fast and Furious gunwalking investigation. He had no comment today except to say he'll "gladly discuss it under oath before a Congressional committee." Officials say they don't know how many grenades Kingery allegedly could have made in the year since his US release, before his arrest in Mexico last week. The Kingery case has been moved from Phoenix to the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Arizona US Attorney's office acknowledged Kingery was freed in 2010, but said prosecutors planned to follow the case and possibly bring charges later. The Journal says prosecutors claimed some inside ATF also wanted Kingery freed at the time to make him an informant, but that Kingery disappeared.
For months, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) argued it's a conflict of interest for the US Attorney's office in Arizona to prosecute Fast and Furious, because whistleblowers implicated the US Attorney Dennis Burke and his lead prosecutor on Fast and Furious, Emory Hurley, in alleged poor judgment and possible misconduct.
Mexico Says U.S. Man Smuggled Grenade Parts for Sinaloa Cartel

Police have arrested a U.S. man for smuggling American grenade parts into Mexico for use by the Sinaloa cartel, and a U.S. official said the case has now been included in investigations into flawed law enforcement operations aimed at gun-trafficking networks on the Mexican border.
The arrest of a man who Mexican police identified as Jean Baptiste Kingery has provided details on a network that allegedly supplied hundreds of hand grenades to Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel. Such grenades have been blamed in the injuries or deaths of dozens of civilians in Mexico, where grenades have been tossed into public squares, streets, bars and nightclubs.
A U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation, known as Fast and Furious, was designed to track small-time gun buyers at several Phoenix-area gun shops up the chain to make cases against major weapons traffickers. But a congressional investigation says ATF agents of lost track of about 1,400 of the more than 2,000 guns whose purchase they had watched.
In Washington D.C., Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department's inspector general has expanded that investigation to include the Kingery case.
"The department is aware of concerns raised" about the Kingery case "and has been looking into it," said Schmaler. "We have notified Congress about this operation and offered to brief them on it."
Schmaler did not say specifically why the greande-smuggling case was being investigated, but the Wall Street Journal reported that Kingery had been detained in Arizona in June 2010 and then released, purportedly because officials wanted to use him as an informant or in a sting operation.
The ATF refused to confirm that report. ATF spokesman Drew Wade said "we can't confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation."
Mexico's Attorney General's Office said Kingery had been the subject of "a bilateral investigation" between Mexico, the U.S. government and the ATF.
The office said Kingery, 40, allegedly bought weapons parts and grenade casings in U.S. stores and even over the Internet, and smuggled them into Mexico through the border city of Mexicali.
The office said Kingery was arrested late last week in the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan, in Sinaloa state, in a raid on a house where five guns were found. He is being held under a form of house arrest.
Police also raided five other homes, and found what appeared to have been facilities for assembling grenades, including gunpowder and grenade triggers, pins and caps.
In April, two men were arrested with 192 grenade casings in Baja California, the state where Mexicali is located. They told police they were part of the grenade smuggling ring, and that led to the detention of another American man, who led police to Kingery, prosecutors said.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City would not confirm the man's name, hometown or nationality, citing privacy concerns.
Mexican drug cartels have frequently used hand grenades in battles with police and soldiers, and occasionally against civilians.
A cartel-related grenade attack in the western city of Morelia killed eight people during the 2008 independence celebrations, when suspects tossed grenades into the city's crowded main square.
On Aug. 14, gunmen tossed a grenade onto a busy tourist boulevard in the Gulf Coast city of Veracruz, killing a man and seriously wounding his wife and their two young children.

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