5 years, 9 months ago
The laser focus of a Congressional investigation is deepening the Obama administration gunrunner scandal. From The Los Angeles Times:
Mexican officials now believe that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded with guns smuggled in the operation, code-named Fast and Furious. Less understood is what happened to guns that slipped into the hands of suspected criminals in the U.S.
By the ATF’s own estimates, at least 372 guns sold to suspect purchasers have been recovered in Arizona and Texas, mainly at crime scenes. ATF Agent John Dodson has estimated that about a third of the guns sold as part of the operation remained in the U.S.
“These firearms will continue to turn up at crime scenes on both sides of the border for years to come,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which heard testimony from disgruntled ATF agents, the Justice Department and the family of former Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who died in a December shootout with Mexican bandits in southern Arizona. Two weapons sold under the operation, run out of the Phoenix ATF office, were found at the scene of the shootout.
Faced with the agents’ testimony, Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich backtracked on a letter he wrote in February asserting that “the allegation … that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico is false.”
“Obviously, there have been allegations that call into serious question that particular letter … [although] everything we say is true to the best of our knowledge at the time we say it,” Weich told the committee. “Some of the testimony that was provided today is of great concern to the Justice Department,” he added. “We share the committee’s interest in getting to the bottom of these allegations.”
A series of emails released as part of the hearing show that acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson and deputy Bill Hoover were getting weekly briefings on the operation. Melson also had requested and been supplied with log-in information that would allow him to monitor the video surveillance of an Arizona gun dealership supplying weapons under the ATF’s watch.
“With this information … Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and, himself, watch a live feed of the straw buyers entering the gun stores to purchase dozens of AK-47 variants,” Issa’s office said in a statement accompanying the emails.
“Every agent from outside of the Phoenix field division, sir, as well as many in it, as soon as they came in, were appalled as soon as they learned” about the operation, Dodson said.
The documents to which Weich refers can be found here, and demonstrate conclusively that acting director Melson knew about and approved of the program. But in sworn testimony, the counsel for the ATF has now said before a Congressional investigation that these revelations “call into question that particular letter,” referring to his letter of denial.
No lawyer wants to be in this position, but the ATF hung him out to dry. The ATF wasn’t honest with him, and sent him out to deflect criticism with material false information. This is not a trivial matter.
The scandal is deepening, and even the counsel for the ATF can’t defend their position any longer. The acting director apparently knew about and approved of the program, a program that knowingly and intentionally violated federal laws. The regulators can no more violate laws than can ordinary citizens, and this video seems to support Dodson’s testimony that other agents, when they found out about the program, were appalled. And the following testimony conclusively demonstrates that the ATF knew that the weapons would be involved in multiple crimes before being retaken by the ATF.
With the highest levels of the administration being aware of the program, there is obviously criminal intent and prosecutable activity. It’s time for a special prosecutor.