Archive for the 'Mexico' Category



Mexican Cartels Are Warlords and Insurgents

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 6 months ago

But a State Department official doesn’t think so.

A State Department official resisted pressure from congressmen to call Mexican drug cartels “terrorist” or “insurgent” organizations during a Oct. 4 joint hearing of subcommittees from House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security.

“I agree with virtually all of the suggestions that the facts are consistent with the label [terrorist group],” said William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

But so labeling Mexican drug cartels could have unknown implications, Brownfield said. “What does it give us that is more than we already have?” he asked.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland subcommittee on oversight, investigations and management, contended that the designation would “provide additional authorities to help Mr. Calderón win this war,” referring to Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan suggested in a April 11 Dallas Morning News letter to the editor that a consequence of calling the cartels terrorist would be “to start calling drug consumers in the U.S. ‘financiers of terrorist organizations.’”

But the degree of psychological [un]appeal of a conclusion is no excuse for not completing the syllogism.   This is logic 101.  As to what would be accomplished were we to treat the Mexican cartels as warlords and insurgents as I have recommended, we could unleash the U.S. military and unshackle their efforts from the constraints of the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner.  As for decriminalizing drugs as a solution, I continue to claim that it is a Potemkin solution.  Further, it isn’t legitimate to discuss this issue unless and until the legal and political framework is in place where I am not required to pay for the food, housing, medical care or any other cost associated with drug users.  Reconstruct this framework and we’ll talk.  Until then, as long as my tax dollars go to support half of the country (and could support more if drugs are legalized), I have the right to say how they live.  You can’t have partial libertarianism.  It’s all or nothing.  Continuing with the report:

“Our interest is less in the semantics, less in the label but what the label implies operationally for us. And for us we find that the law enforcement tools that we have are best-suited for the job,” said Mariko Silver, acting assistant secretary within the Homeland Security Department office of international affairs.

“I believe our authorities, our federal narcotic laws are sufficient to address the trafficking problem that exists now,” said Rodney Benson, Drug Enforcement Administration chief of intelligence.

Thus is Rodney Benson an idiot.  No one goes on record saying that everything is just fine and all the tools necessary to secure the border and fight crime are available.  Some people want to legalize drugs, some people (me) want to treat this as a war (no, not with some ridiculous “war on drugs” slogan, but a real war against warlords and insurgents, killing the bad guys with robust rules of engagement), and some want to increase law enforcement assets.  But no one says that every thing is fine.  Except for Rodney Benson, who thinks that everything is just fine, and who is an idiot.

Prior: Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Border Security and Potemkin Solutions

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 6 months ago

Dan Riehl conveys a report on one of Governor Rick Perry’s solutions to the war at the border.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said on Saturday that as president, he would consider sending American troops into Mexico to help defeat drug cartels and improve border security. He indicated that any such action would be done “in concert” with the Mexican government.

“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their network,” Mr. Perry said during a campaign appearance here.

Dan observes that:

As I suspect there’s little to no support across America for deploying troops to Mexico under any circumstances – and it would likely never happen in the first place – it was, in a word, dumb to even bring it up. Pssst, Rick, if you have to cross the border to deal with a problem, maybe the border IS the problem to stay focused upon if you’re running for President of a, you know, sovereign nation? Imagine that. Suggesting sending troops into Mexico only reinforces the idea of a reluctance, or inability to deal with the core issue – sealing the border. It may even be somewhat honest on his part. But it’s simply not good politics. Perry may not only be in Texas right now. But if this keeps up, he will be and will remain there after 2012.-

I suspect that Dan is right and there is no stomach for sending troops of any kind into Mexico.  I have advocated some variant of what Perry is suggesting, although it’s difficult to know exactly what he is suggesting since he has given no detail.  In Texas Border Security: A Strategic Assessment (and also previously) my advocacy has included (but has not been restricted to) the following:

  1. Searching every vehicle that crosses the border checkpoints.
  2. Increased sting and undercover operations by law enforcement to root out corruption.
  3. Sending the U.S. Marines to the border to (a) construct and occupy combat outposts and observations posts, (b) conduct regular foot patrols of the border, and (c) be allowed (by the U.S.) to cross the border if necessary to chase Mexican insurgents.
  4. Taking Congressional action to remove legal requirements such as the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner, thus allowing the Marines to conduct combat operations at the border rather than law enforcement operations.
  5. U.S. Special Operations Forces raids against Mexican cartel high value targets inside of Mexico (with or without the permission of the Mexican government, unilaterally, and without Mexican involvement).

Several military and former military friends and contacts have weighed in with me recently with the view that the gravest national security risk faced by America today comes from South of the border, not Pakistan or Yemen.  I have recommended treating this as a war against warlords and insurgents rather than a law enforcement operation, and my sense of things is that the American public, even if they don’t support sending U.S. troops into Mexico in companion operations with Mexican troops, support some sort of militarization of the border.

For the American public, however, it always seems a legitimate solution to send the National Guard to the border.  We tried this, and because of lack of training, the application of Tennessee v. Garner to their operations, arming orders that focus on prevention of incidents, misunderstanding of the Posse Comitatus Act and why it doesn’t really apply to border troops, and host of other problematic bureaucratic entanglements, a National Guard outpost was overrun by Mexican fighters partly because the troops didn’t even have weapons.

Sending National Guard troops to the border is a Potemkin solution as we have previously demonstrated.  But military operations alongside Mexican troops – as Perry has suggested – will be equally ineffective while the border isn’t secure.  There is absolutely no replacement for securing the border, regardless of how the solution might be dressed and served up.

Another Potemkin solution is given to us by Terry Goddard, Attorney General of Arizona (lengthy quote).

As the Attorney General of Arizona, I have been part of law enforcement on the southwestern border for most of the past decade. My office confronted border crime on an almost daily basis. From that view, it is clear that much of the “secure the border” debate is nonsense. Again and again, symbols trump reality, misinformation buries the truth. Programs like building a bigger border wall or enlisting police in the local enforcement of immigration laws are sold as ways to make the border more secure. They will not. In the latter instance, the “cure” could actually make the crime problem worse. Equally misguided is the idea that a force buildup alone can keep the border secure in the face of increasingly sophisticated smuggling organizations—the cartels.

Since improved border security is a common denominator in the immigration debate, both sides should be anxious to know what actually works. This paper is based on the assumption that sincere parties on both sides want to go beyond the rhetoric and the symbols. I believe a more effective border defense is possible, but not on the present course. Not by the Administration’s defense-only buildup of Border Patrol and National Guard on the border, and not by the huge investment in bricks and mortar or the quasi-military responses proposed by the Administration’s critics.

A more effective border strategy starts with the money; the torrent of cash pouring across the border into the cartel pocketbooks. Cartels are, first and foremost, business enterprises.  Sophisticated cartel organizations are formed not for any lust for power or to employ the bosses’ relatives, but because they maximize profits. Cartel agents do not threaten, terrorize, and kill because they love the work, or out of religious zeal. They do it because they are very well-paid. So, go after the money. Taking away the profit cripples the organization. Conversely, as long as the money from drug sales and human smuggling—which may total more than $40 billion a year—flows to the cartels, the violence in Mexico, the sophisticated smugglers crossing our border, and the perception that nothing is being done to defend the border will continue.

We can also do a much better job of taking the fight directly to the drug cartels using the full arsenal of law-enforcement methods. We can significantly reduce the number of illegal crossers and the amounts of illegal drugs smuggled, as well as the violence in Mexico. The answers are straightforward; the mystery is why they have not been taken up long ago.

Read all of his report.  We should indeed use all tools at our disposal, including freezing assets and other tools mentioned by Goddard.  But this notion that “force alone” cannot secure the border is juvenile, and similar to the population-centric counterinsurgency mantra that “you cannot kill your way to victory.”  Of course you can, and of course force can make the border secure.  And of course the involvement of local law enforcement can help federal efforts (if such efforts exist at all).

It strikes me as silly and and stolid to suggest that something we have never tried won’t work.  It also strikes me as silly and stolid that Perry’s advisers haven’t to this date informed him that he cannot score the nomination while holding his current views of immigration and the border.  Finally, it strikes me as particularly dangerous for the American voting public not to be informed enough to know when a recommendation (such as sending National Guard troops to the border, or going after cartel assets to the exclusion of all other efforts, including border security) is a Potemkin solution.  It’s the sovereignty and security of America that is at stake.

Prior: Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 6 months ago

Two very important individuals in the military (and now consulting) community, Barry McCaffrey and Robert Scales, have penned a much-anticipated study entitled Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.

The state on the ground in the war with the Mexican cartels is remarkable.  We’ve already discussed how the Mexican cartels have adopted military-style tactics, techniques and procedures.

Mexican drug cartels are using military weapons and tactics while also recruiting Texas teenagers to carry out their operations, which are evolving into full-blown criminal enterprises, experts said.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw said last week in a report given to Congress that the cartels “incorporate reconnaissance networks, techniques and capabilities normally associated with military organizations, such as communications intercepts, interrogations, trend analysis, secure communications, coordinated military-style tactical operations, GPS, thermal imagery and military armaments, including fully automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.”

There is apparently massive corruption in the U.S. border patrol, and the Mexican cartels have law enforcement officials at the local, state and national levels on their payroll.  In order to combat the smuggling operations across the Rio Grande, Texas is creating a marine division.  The reach of the cartels goes into the High Schools in Texas where they are recruiting children for cartel work.

McCaffrey and Scales add to the bleak picture by showing how the cartel strategy has changed from control through locations South of the border to control via operations at least one county deep into Texas, and they discuss the increased criminalization and violence associated with the cartels.  The bleak picture dovetails with an assessment by Robert Bunker at Small Wars Journal.

Ten years after the 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda, the United States has reached a pivotal strategic decision point in our national policies. Are we to continue with our national security policy of focusing on that terrorist entity (and its group of networks) as the dominant threat to the US and the homeland or will the Mexican cartels (and their supporting gang networks) now be recognized as replacing Al Qaeda as the number one threat to our government and safety of our citizens? While the violence potentials of Al Qaeda are universally recognized— we will never forget the thousands of our dead mourned after 9/11— the violence associated with the criminal insurgent potentials of the Mexican cartels and their ability to corrupt and undermine governments in the Western Hemisphere must now be considered far more threatening to our nation.

The cartels’ influence expands to thousands of U.S. cities and communities, and there are on the order of 18,000 cartels members or associated workers in Texas alone.  The ability to intimidate and corrupt is unmatched in U.S. history – there is no national analogue to which the U.S. can refer to combat this menace.

The task for McCaffrey and Scales is big, and the bar set high.  As for their recommendations?  They sweep across a range of options, coordinated relationships, and increased efficiency in law enforcement.  Counterintelligence and sting operations are of course important, as is rapid response capabilities and increased manpower.

McCaffrey and Scales do recommend the involvement of state troops (i.e., National Guard), but all efforts in this program are seen as led by Texas Rangers.  It is fundamentally a civilian-led operation.  Perhaps this focus is in deference to the Posse Comitatus Act (Section 1385, Title 18 U.S.C.), but it isn’t at all clear that U.S. troops should be forbidden or even could be forbidden from participating in border security under this act.

Furthermore, McCaffrey and Scales have a problem with their recommendation to use National Guard under the current circumstances.  Recall that in Arizona, a National Guard-manned post was attacked and overrun by cartel fighters.  Immediately after this, the following assessment was proffered.

Unfortunately, I must report that “Armed does not always mean “armed” as most Americans would understand. There are various states of being “armed.” These are called “Arming Orders (AO)” which define where the weapon “is,” where the magazine “is,” where the bullets “are” and where the bayonet “is.” They start at Arming Order One which could best be described as a “show of force” or “window dressing” in the worse case.

After considerable searching, I was able to find a complete copy of the Memorundum of Understanding/Rules of Engagement pertaining to the National Guard Deployment (“Operation Jump Start”), which I could then review.

After reviewing the MOU/ROE, I contacted several senior “in the loop” National Guard Officers that I have previously served with, to determine how many soldiers would be “armed” and their Arming Order number. After confirming The El Paso Times article that “very few soldiers there would carry weapons,” I was advised that during the next 90 days, amongst the few soldiers that have weapons, no soldier will have an Arming Order greater than AO-1, which means that an M-16 will be on the shoulder, there will be no magazine in the weapon (thats where the bullets come from), and the magazines stored inside the “ammunition pouch” will in most cases have no ammunition, they will be empty.

It was also conveyed to myself that in the unlikely event that a soldier is ever harmed on the border, the Arming Order will not be raised. Every individual I spoke to envisions no circumstance where there will ever be soldiers at AO-3/4, where a magazine with ammunition would be immediately available. Instead the soldiers will simply be kept farther away from the border if needed. They will be deliberately kept out of harms way.

I know you are thinking (maybe screaming), “but Why?” The easy public relations answer is that a soldier could kill someone. The National Guard is going to ensure that there is not a repeat of the incident in which Esequiel Hernández was killed by a US Marine along the Border.

There are also numerous regulations pertaining to weapons. There is a requirement that a soldier must qualify with his weapon on an annual basis. Reasonably, you must be “qualified” with your weapon before you may carry a weapon. However, ranges for weapons qualification are extremely limited. National Guard soldiers normally perform their once a year required qualification when they go to Annual Training at Ft. Stewart, Ft. McCoy…… This year they are going to “the border” and unless there is a “regulation M-16 qualification range” down the road, they will not be able to get qualified. There is also the question of weapon storage and how do you prevent theft.

Even disregarding all of this, the rules for the use of force will prevent the effective use of the National Guard to accomplish border security.  That is, unless something drastically changes.

I have recommended that we view what is going on as a war against warlords and insurgents who will destabilize the state both South and even North of the border.  I have further recommended that the RUF be amended and the U.S. Marines be used to set up outposts and observation posts along the border in distributed operations, even making incursions into Mexican territory if necessary while chasing insurgents (Mexican police have used U.S. soil in pursuit of the insurgents).

While militarization of border security may be an unpalatable option for America, it is the only option that will work.  All other choices make the situation worse because it is allowed to expand and grow.  Every other option is mere window dressing.

While McCaffrey and Scales have done a service in their outline of the scope and magnitude of the problem, their recommendations are, needless to say, underwhelming.  They kick the can down the road, and the road only becomes more dangerous with time and distance.  Above it was said that there is no national analogue to the menace at the border.  The only analogue to this problem is the most recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The problem has exceeded the ability of law enforcement to cope.

Obama Allows Mexican Police To Violate U.S. Sovereignty

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

From St. Louis Today:

President Barack Obama’s administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the U.S., assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the U.S. side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Former U.S. law enforcement officials who were once posted in Mexico described the boomerang operations as a new take on an old strategy that was briefly used in the late 1990s when the DEA helped Mexico crack down on the Tijuana Cartel by letting the specially vetted Mexican police to stage operations out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Recall that I recommended combined and even unilateral military operations against the cartels by U.S. forces.  Do you reckon that Mr. Obama bargained for unilateral U.S. operations against the cartels?  Or perhaps was it just a one-way agreement?  Which is most likely?

Expansion of Mexican Drug Cartel’s Area of Influence

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

So do you think that the insurgency in Mexico, and not coincidentally, in the border states of the U.S., is related only to drugs and the war on drugs, rather than to insurgents, warlords and criminals?  Think again.

The Salvadoran single mother was hoping to support her children in the United States. Instead, gunmen from the Zeta drug cartel kidnapped her in Mexico and forced her to cook, clean and endure rapes by multiple men.

Now the survivor of this terrifying three-month ordeal is a witness for a growing group of legislators, political leaders and advocates who are calling for action against the trafficking of women in Mexico for sexual exploitation.

As organized crime and globalization have increased, Mexico has become a major destination for sex traffic, as well as a transit point and supplier of victims to the United States. Drug cartels are moving into the trade, preying on immigrant women, sometimes with the complicity of corrupt regional officials, according to diplomats and activists.

“If narcotics traffickers are caught, they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity,” said Rosi Orozco, a congresswoman in Mexico and sponsor of a proposed law against human trafficking.

In Mexico, thousands of women and children are forced into sex traffic every year, Orozco said, most of it involving lucrative prostitution rings.

“It is growing because of poverty, because the cartels have gotten involved and because no one tells them no,” said Teresa Ulloa, the regional director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are fighting so that their lives and their bodies are not merchandise.”

“This is an inferno of sexual exploitation for thousands and thousands of women,” President Felipe Calderon told officials in mid-July after they heard the testimony of a young survivor. “With this new law, we will all be obliged to act, and no authority can say it’s not my responsibility or turn a blind eye to the terrible crime of human trafficking.”

More laws.  The ultimate, always-ready progressive answer to crime and sin.  Except it won’t work.  Not with warlords who routinely behead their enemies and gun down women and children without so much as a blink.

And do you believe that they aren’t in central, everyman’s-town, U.S.A.?  Think again.

Many of the nation’s top lawmen have been in Idaho this week. More than 150 federal and state prosecutors are wrapping up a convention of the National District Attorneys Association in Sun Valley. And while the DAs heard from a number of speakers this week, a bit of a bombshell was dropped in an address from El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparaza.

In today’s Idaho Mountain Express, officials are quoted as saying that one of the most dangerous gangs in the Western world has made its way to Idaho. The so-called Barrio Azteca, which works with Mexican drug cartels primarily at the U.S.-Mexico border, is now present in Idaho, according to Esparaza.

And in spite of the legalization of Marijuana in California and other states, cartel business is booming.  That’s because this isn’t about the legalization of drugs.  That’s a tangential issue, and you can take whatever position you wish on that.  This is about warlord-ism South of the border, and it will ultimately affect every man, woman and child in the U.S.  No amount of silly gun tracking programs will end the insurgency.

Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse on Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

Background

We all know about Project Gunrunner, as it is formally called by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).  We also know about the scandal it has been and is steadily becoming, with Congressional hearings pending and the bureau still stonewalling and using delaying tactics over Congressional inquiries.  We don’t know yet what will come of the hearings, but the BATFE and administration support troops have tipped their hand concerning their strategy.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse have issued a report entitled Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico.  Within a few days of releasing this study, The Washington Post and CNN parroted the talking points in respective articles.  The study itself is as remarkable for the misrepresentation of the facts concerning firearms trafficking to Mexico as it is for its recommendations for statutory remedies.

Analysis & Commentary

Before discussing the Feinstein recommendations it’s necessary to rehearse the demolition that Scott Stewart at STRATFOR performed of the myth that 90% of the weapons seized in Mexico were of American origin.

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels, and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The most recent data that Feinstein cites, given to her by the BATFE, makes the same observation of the data, and that, by acting director Kenneth Melson.

There are no United States Government sources that maintain any record of the total number of criminal firearms seized in Mexico.  ATF reports relate only to firearms recovered in Mexico that were subsequently traced by ATF based upon firearms identifiers submitted to ATF by the Mexican government.  The Mexican government does not submit every recorded firearm to ATF for tracing …

Which point therefore makes the conclusions one can draw from the data very limited.  But that’s not how the Feinstein report paints the picture.  Right in the background statement, we read that “In a June 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office stated that around 87% of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the previous five years originated in the United States.”  The Washington Post was quick to pick up on the deconstructed meme, saying that “Of the 29,284 firearms recovered by authorities in Mexico in 2009 and 2010, 20,504 came from the United States, according to figures provided to the senators by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”  This is clearly not factually correct, as many more firearms were seized by the Mexican authorities than 29,284.

In testimony to the dictum that if you repeat a lie enough times it will eventually be taken as truth, the 90% myth is now mainstream, and I have called out The St. Petersburg Times for relying on the myth for their editorials (with no response).  Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse must be relying on the same dictum, because their wish list of increased firearms control measures is so expansive and draconian that it seems ridiculous to have connected all of this to a single effort.  The senators recommend:

  1. Closing the so-called gun show loophole in the laws.
  2. Redoubling efforts to enforce an import ban on weapons that fall into the category of military style weapons (e.g., with features such as pistol grip, forend grip, rails for tactical lights, high capacity magazines, etc.).  I have previously covered and commented on this ATF effort for shotguns.
  3. Reinstating the assault weapons ban.
  4. Multiple sales reporting to the federal government.
  5. Ratification of the The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

And the justification for all of this?  Earlier in the report, Feinstein and staff discuss the laudable job that the ATF did with project gunrunner, but lament the fact that it alone cannot curb the trafficking of firearms to Mexico.

And now the loyal troops tip their hands.  To be sure, for a progressive, any increase in the power of government is a good thing.  All societal problems stem from a lack of regulation and oversight, all evil has its solution in more laws.  So the senators (and the administration) want what they can get out of this effort, if anything.  But something in the wind is foul.

With the coming Congressional investigations of project gunrunner and the illegality and inappropriateness of such a program, the administration and its troops see vulnerability.  Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse are snipers picking at the advancing Congressional column with enfilade fire.  This effort is likely a decoy, a hastily designed effort to squeeze what they can from the failed gunrunner project, protect their flanks and split the advancing column.

Second amendment advocates must be diligent, and Senator Feinstein’s efforts should be monitored, analyzed and opposed.  But the real purpose of this report and its recommendations is to be a battlefield ruse.  With its lack of substantiation of the data, the lack of a basis for the recommendations, and the lack of analysis of the information, it’s as much of an admission of vulnerability and culpability as it is a last gasp effort to deny second amendment rights to American citizens.

Prior:

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

Analysis of ATF Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns

Legislation on High Capacity Magazines

Cost Cutting Ideas for the Federal Government

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

In what is apparently a newly discovered document concerning the scandal involving the BATFE and weapons trafficking to Mexico, MSNBC has released Project Gunrunner: A Cartel Focused Strategy, September 2010, U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

World Net Daily points out that:

Gunowners of America President  Larry Pratt says that the official U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, document linked on MSNBC suggests a coordinated effort between the bureau, the Department of Justice and the White House.

“In the Gunrunner document, they talk about the need to have policies that are consistent with policies directed by the White House and the Department of Justice,” Pratt explained.

I concur, but I think that the word “suggest” is too weak.  Page 5 contains the following.

… over the past few months enforcement strategies (and other guidance) that address firearms trafficking to Mexican cartels have been developed and released by the White House and the Department of Justice. It is essential that ATF efforts support strategies promoted by the White House and Department of Justice. An examination of these and other strategies reveals similarities among the strategies, but also suggests that some revisions to ATF’s current strategy are necessary.

The context is that the report doesn’t claim to supersede project gunrunner, but to incorporate and expand it.  The report is not a request for consistency (that would be the function of an interdepartmental memorandum), but a claim of consistency.  The BATFE is following the direction of the DoJ and ultimately the White House.

So ends the possibility that this administration can claim plausible deniability.  Whatever else we know about this scandal, we know that the highest levels of the administration approved the use of federal resources to catalyze violation of federal law concerning straw purchases.  We also know that Mexican drug cartels have weapons that they otherwise wouldn’t have all because of this project.

The administration must answer for this malfeasance.

The report can be found here: Project Gunrunner.

St. Petersburg Times Propagates the American Weapons – Mexican Violence Myth

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

To the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times, I noticed that you weighed in with a rather rambling and far-reaching editorial on gun control, stating the following:

America’s gun culture is taking its toll on the nation’s police departments. In its latest annual report, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence recorded a 24 percent jump in the number of police officers killed by gunfire between 2009 and 2010. And 2011 is on track to be even deadlier; already, at least 33 officers have been killed by gunfire this year — including three in St. Petersburg. Policing is a dangerous, difficult job. But it is made riskier by politicians who are cowed by the gun lobby from even discussing sensible gun controls.

The Brady report paints a grim picture of how routinely officers are facing deadly gunfire, and in today’s Perspective section bay area officers talk about the work they do to protect the rest of us. Often, officers are killed responding to everyday situations from road rage and traffic calls to drive-by shootings to reports of a prowler that St. Petersburg police officer David S. Crawford responded to when he was shot and killed in February. Multiple officers are being killed or injured by gunshots at the same incident, such as when St. Petersburg Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were killed in a shootout in January. Law enforcement said 2010 was the deadliest year for police in two decades. Three officers have been killed in the cities of both Tampa and St. Petersburg within the past two years. This is a national and local problem that lawmakers up and down the line must address.

It is no mystery what it would take to start better protecting police and the public. Congress should reimpose the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and restricted the sale of military style assault weapons and the high-capacity magazines that enable shooters to peel off dozens of rounds of ammunition without stopping to reload. The only use for such firepower is to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time. Lawmakers also should close the so-called “gun show” loophole that allows unlicensed dealers to act as private sellers and avoid subjecting buyers to a criminal background check. And federal authorities need more resources to crack down on sellers who flout the weak gun laws and on straw buyers and traffickers who act as mules for felons, gangs and criminal organizations.

The nation’s police are seeing the effect in the rising use of assault weapons against law enforcement. Police officials call these weapons the criminals’ armament of choice, which is why the International Association of Chiefs of Police has made gun control a political priority this year. It is calling on Congress to renew the ban on assault weapons and large clips and for new tools to track and share data on firearms used in crimes.

America’s lax gun control laws have also escalated the security threat in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Nine of 10 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities in recent years came from the United States. The danger America has exported is now turning against the nation, presenting even more risks to local law enforcement. It is time Congress found the backbone to consider serious and sensible ways to better balance the right of gun ownership with the societal obligation to protect the police and the public.

One might expect the editorial board of a newspaper to at least feign fairness and objectivity, which is why you might have cited not only the International Association of Police Chiefs, but also the Fraternal Order of Police which is opposed to the kinds of gun control you discuss (see Chris Cox interview of President Chuck Canterbury in American Rifleman, June 2011, page 80).  But regardless of our expectations, if you cannot feign fairness we should demand honor and integrity.

You say that “Nine of 10 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities in recent years came from the United States.”  This is simply incorrect.  It isn’t true.  STRATFOR has published an unmitigated takedown of this myth, a complete destruction of the lie.

Even if use of the lie was spurious rather than intentionally misleading, this points to sloppiness in analysis, and you have a chance to correct your error.  I call on the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times to publish a retraction of this error and correct the record.  Absent this, we can only conclude that the board has the same analytical skills as Bono of U2 and less than exemplary morals.

Bono: Propagating The 90% Mexican Violence From American Weapons Myth

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

Bono treats us to some of his wisdom.

“I want you to send a message to people of conscience,” he said.

“Ask them to answer the question. Why is it that all we hear on the news is how drugs are smuggled through Mexico to the United States?

“‘And we don’t hear about all the automatic weapons that are being smuggled into Mexico from the United States. Nine thousand registered arms dealers on the other side of the border. Nine thousand.

“Most of the murders committed here are from weapons sold in the United States of America,” he said.

‘We sing this for the innocents who have lost their lives in the violence here,’ he said, before continuing the song with an alternate lyric:

Late in the evening, April 15
Automatic round takes a mother and child.
Free at last, they took your life
A lioness and her pride In the name of love….’

That’s special and everything, but I guess Bono has never heard of the BATFE gunrunner scandal.  Either way, he is propagating the myth that 90% of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels comes from the United States.  But STRATFOR, whom I customarily do not reference (for reasons too complicated to explain here – perhaps I will explain later), has done a magnificent take-down of this myth.

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels, and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

Oh well.  I never liked U2′s music anyway, and I guess you don’t have to be a genius to be in a rock band.


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