August 1, 2011

Enemy Of The State

This article was originally published as the cover story in the August 1st issue of Human Events newspaper.
Within months after Barack Obama​ became President, a covert operation was launched to allow gun sales to people with ties to the Mexican drug cartels, ostensibly in hopes that those guns would lead agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to cartel members in Mexico.  The name of the operation was “Project Gunrunner,” and the details of it included allowing straw purchasers to buy not hundreds but thousands of guns, approximately 2,500, which they were then to walk into Mexico while having their movements traced by the ATF.  The problem is that the ATF was not able to keep track of the weapons, and to date only 1,300 of the approximate 2,500 have been recovered.

An even bigger problem is that at least one federal officer, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, lost his life in a shootout with an individual armed with a weapon sold during Gunrunner, and violence in Mexico jumped exponentially when the weapons made their way into that country.  For example, 958 people were killed in Mexico during the month of March 2010 alone, and at least 150 Mexican law enforcement officers have been killed since early 2009.  (A little-known fact is that many of the guns sold during Gunrunner were assault rifles and similar weapons that are easily converted from semiautomatic to full-auto.  In other words, our ATF looked the other way while men with criminal ties entered gun stores in Arizona and purchased weapons that are now de facto machine guns on the streets of Mexico and the U.S. Southern border.)

At the outset it is important to note that as this operation moved from one of overseeing the selling and subsequent international transport of weapons, to one in which law enforcement was supposed to trace the guns back to cartel members and make arrests, its name changed from Gunrunner to "Fast and Furious.”  Yet they are not so much two separate operations as they are two parts of one large covert action.  Thus it’s not uncommon to hear people use the labels Gunrunner and Fast and Furious interchangeably.

The beginnings of Gunrunner can at least be traced back as far as Feb. 15, 2009, when President Obama​ authorized $10 million for it via the stimulus package.  His signature on that document renders his subsequent denials of any knowledge of Gunrunner questionable at best.  And on April 2, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at the Mexico/United States Arms Trafficking Conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in which he boasted of overseeing the implementation of Gunrunner.

Holder said:  "Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels.  My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion.
At the time of Holder’s speech, the mention of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI seemed to slip right past the news commentary, so that even as reporters and bloggers began focusing attention on Gunrunner and Fast and Furious in the spring of 2011, they referenced them solely in relation to the ATF.  But in testimony before Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) over the Fourth of July holiday (2011), Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director, broke ranks with Obama and Holder and talked at length about how Gunrunner and Fast and Furious were interagency operations to a certain degree.  In particular, Melson testified to how the involvement of so many different agencies at so many different levels mangled an already wounded plan, resulting in the fact that some of the cartel members being sought via Gunrunner and Fast and Furious turned out to be paid informants for one federal agency or another.

No comments:

Post a Comment