Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious LXIII

More Fast and Furious hearings could come as early as next month

More Congressional hearings in the Fast and Furious case could come as early as next month, meanwhile hearings could be starting up right here in Arizona.
Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and committee member, Rep. Paul Gosar, were in Phoenix over the weekend, talking to the ABC15 Investigators about the future of the controversial case, which involves the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
More hearings will come, they said. The next people called to testify will likely do so in front of both the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform committee, jointly.
“We want (the House Judiciary Committee) who has direct oversight over the Attorney General and of (the Department of Justice) to take a more active role, and we believe they will,” Issa said. Eventually, Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer will be called to testify, he said.
“This is the kind of thing that threatens the fabric of how America trusts law enforcement,” he said. “So, [the investigation] goes on until we get a real understanding that this can never happen again.”
Issa said the people involved in the Fast and Furious case must be either “punished legally or are at least dismissed.” He called the recent resignations and transfers of a handful of leaders within the Department of Justice a “good start.” 

Gosar, meanwhile, said he would like to see District of Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke deliver a public testimony about his involvement in the Fast and Furious case. Burke recently resigned after giving a private testimony in front of Congressional leaders.
“I’d like to know where the checks and balances are because I’m failing to see that,” Gosar said.
“I’d like to ask him his involvement,” Gosar said. “Did you know this was wrong? Why didn’t you speak up? Would you have done this all over again?”
Gosar said some local Arizona state legislators are considering holding state hearings to get up to speed on how the case was able to develop so quickly.
“I think we need to find out because we seem to have a problem with the Justice Department or the Justice Department has a problem with Arizona,” Gosar said.
Gosar and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu are participating in a Tucson Tea Party town hall meeting about the Fast and Furious case at Canyon del Oro High School from 6pm to 8pm Monday night.

Does Fast and Furious Put Impeachment on The Table?

by Ben Shapiro

"The story is one of not covert activity alone," intoned Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, "but of covert foreign policy .... It is a tale of working outside the system and of utilizing irregular channels and private parties accountable to no one, on matters of national security, while ignoring the Congress and even the traditional agencies of executive foreign policy making. The story is both sad and sordid."
Sen. Inouye was speaking not of the biggest scandal of the Obama administration, but of the biggest scandal of the Reagan administration -- the Iran-Contra scandal. In that scandal, the United States sold weapons to parties in Iran in an attempt to free Lebanese-held hostages, then funneled the weapons cash to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. The outcome of that scandal: indictments against the secretary of defense, the national security advisor, the assistant secretary of state, the chief of covert ops at the CIA and several others.
That scandal pales by comparison to the so-called Fast and Furious scandal now bubbling in Washington, D.C. In fall 2009, Eric Holder and the Department of Justice decided on a strategy supposedly designed to combat gun trafficking on the Mexican border. They didn't want the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seize illegal firearms anymore; instead, they wanted them to give firearms to members of the Mexican cartels.
According to the Congressional report, "ATFs Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns .... This shift in strategy was known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department." One goal was to identify "straw purchasers" -- legal gun purchasers who hand off those guns to illegal owners. Instead of arresting the straw purchasers and their contacts, however, ATF was to allow the guns to continue to flow to the Mexican drug cartels. "ATF and DOJ leadership were interested in seeing where these guns would ultimately end up," the report states. "ATF would only see these guns again after they turned up at a crime scene."
That's exactly what happened. The entire operation ended with only 20 indictments of straw purchasers -- indictments that could have happened immediately upon transfer of the weapons, stopping the flow. In fact, the straw purchasers, at issue, were known to be straw purchasers from the get-go. The indictments only took place at all because U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered using the weapons authorized for free flow by ATF and DOJ. Terry wasn't the only person killed because of Fast and Furious -- the weapons OK'd by the DOJ and ATF were used in three murders, four kidnappings and an attempted murder in Mexico. They've been identified at 11 other crime scenes in the United States.
So what was the real goal of the DOJ and ATF? It certainly wasn't to shut down access to arms for the cartels -- the ATF was agreeing to such access. It wasn't to stop straw purchasers -- the ATF was signing off on the straw purchasers. It wasn't to track the movements of the cartel -- there was no way to do that. It was, very simply, to establish for political reasons that American guns were being used in crimes by foreign cartels.
This was the Reichstag fire of the Second Amendment. By authorizing the passage of weapons to America's enemies, President Obama and his administration clearly wanted to set up a narrative that America's lax gun laws were killing American troops and law enforcement officers. They wanted their misuse of law enforcement authority to create the impetus for a crackdown on gun sales in the United States.
How high does this go? Apparently, all the way to the top. The attorney general of the state of Arizona, a Democrat operative, has already resigned in an attempt to avoid the consequences of participating in this fiasco. Middle management at DOJ and ATF has already been thrown under the bus. The acting director of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, has already been defenestrated.
For his part, Obama has denied that Attorney General Eric Holder green-lit the operation, stating, "My attorney general has made clear he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico." This is less than credible -- how could the head of the DOJ not know about an operation of this magnitude handled by the DOJ? And how could President Obama not know? And why, if the DOJ is uninvolved, do they want a copy of Melson's confidential interview with Congressional staff?
If this scandal runs all the way up the chain of command -- and by all indicators, it could -- it is certainly an impeachable offense. This is a high crime, not a misdemeanor. Pushing an operation designed to undercut American freedoms that ends with the death of Americans is not only illegal, it is unconscionable. And unlike Iran-Contra, it wasn't done for the right reasons.

Informant helped smuggle guns to Mexico, investigators say

by Richard A. Serrano

Weapons recovered from suspects accused of trafficking illegal firearms to Mexican drug cartels.(Joshua Lott, Reuters / September 28, 2011)

An FBI/DEA confidential informant helped smuggle firearms from the ATF's Fast and Furious gun-trafficking surveillance operation to drug cartels in Mexico, according to evidence compiled by congressional investigators.

The investigators said the informant obtained the weapons from Manuel Celis-Acosta, considered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be the "biggest fish" of 20 individuals indicted in Fast and Furious. At the same time the informant was receiving large amounts of "official law enforcement funds as payment" for his services, they said.

Congressional investigators believe the informant was working with U.S. law enforcement over a two-year period, beginning in early 2009, and often contacted DEA agents such as Jim Roberts, the resident agent-in-charge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to "pass on information to these agents about Mexican drug cartels."

The revelations were contained in a letter Tuesday from Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. They contend that had the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration told the ATF about the informant, Fast and Furious would have been shut down much earlier.

Holder has said he learned of Fast and Furious after it was shut down, and did not know that ATF agents allowed more than 2,000 weapons to be illegally purchased in the Phoenix area. Many turned up at violent crime scenes in Mexico; two were recovered in December after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in Arizona.

The letter signals that the congressional investigation is looking beyond the ATF operation and into the possibility of a major breakdown in law enforcement cooperation on the border.

Fast and Furious ran for 15 months, from fall 2009 to last January, and culminated in indictments in Phoenix. Among them was Celis-Acosta. Documents show that when Fast and Furious was first proposed, the ATF targeted Celis-Acosta because they said he was "believed to be supplying firearms" to a drug cartel.

Congressional investigators have learned that the DEA was aware of Celis-Acosta's alleged drug trafficking activity as early as late 2009, just when Fast and Furious was getting underway, and that he was "providing hundreds of firearms to members of Mexican drug cartels." In fact, they knew Celis-Acosta allegedly was moving guns to Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, "but that he was uneasy about taking the guns across the border himself."

The FBI and DEA also knew that the informant, identified as "CI#1," was ordering weapons from Celis-Acosta and smuggling them into Mexico. That informant, "apparently the financier for Celia-Acosta's firearms trafficking ring, later began cooperating with the FBI and may have received additional government payments as a confidential informant."

In one payment, the investigators learned, the U.S. government gave the informant $3,500 for his services.

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