Archive for the 'Project Gunrunner' Category



Surprise July 4 Kenneth Melson Deposition to Congress

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

I enjoyed the largest citizen (non-professional) fireworks display on earth on July 4th at Myrtle Beach, S.C., with my oldest son, grandchildren and dog (74 pound red and rust Dobie), up and down the coast, literally as far as the eye could see at dusk and just after.  Thankfully, Congressional investigators were busy with other things.

In a secret deposition on the Fourth of July, the embattled head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed to congressional investigators new potential lapses in a bungled U.S. gun trafficking sting  that has stirred controversy on both sides of the Mexican border, according to people familiar with the interview.

While many Americans celebrated over barbecues and fireworks, acting ATF director Kenneth Melson arrived Monday with a private attorney on Capitol Hill for the interview, the sources said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity.

During hours of questioning, Melson told investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he has recently learned that other federal agencies may have withheld crucial information about possible drug cartel connections to the gun trafficking ring that his agency had tried to crack during a 15-month operation that used controversial tactics, the sources said.

[ ... ]

In his interview, Melson said most of the operational decisions for the Fast and Furious operation were approved by the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, which was leading a special strike force on gun trafficking, and that even he didn’t know about the specific orders to let straw buyers walk off with guns until after the controversy erupted, according to the sources.

He told the investigators he has subsequently learned that ATF agents during the operation did observe straw buyers transferring guns they had purchased to third parties, a possible legal violation, but did not interdict the weapons at the instructions of their immediate supervisors, the sources added.

[ ... ]

Melson also disclosed the existence of documents about the ATF case that have not yet been turned over to congressional investigators, the sources added.

Melson has decided to play ignorant.  So be it.  Let’s allow the evidence to play out and see where the blame lies.  Whatever the end result, either Melson is lying, or he isn’t lying and he was truly ignorant.  In the former case he has perjured himself.  In the later he is merely incompetent.  In both cases, the finger of blame is still pointing higher.  We’re nowhere close to being done with this investigation.  We’re just getting started.

But one thing stands out in the testimony above, albeit from this brief and stilted report.  Melson is playing a card from a successful hand post-9/11, i.e., the “federal bureaucracy didn’t work well together” meme.  The right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing, there wasn’t information sharing, if we had only known more we could have … this, that and the other, on and on, so on and so forth, ad nauseam.

No, and a thousand times no.  The ATF isn’t some international intelligence organization that should be bent on mitigation of terrorist threats.  If it sees itself that way, then the argument for dismantling the ATF has just grown stronger by an order of magnitude.  A decision was made to violate the National Firearms Act and the Arms Export Control Act, and that’s not acceptable regardless of the decision maker(s).  I cannot violate those laws, and so the ATF cannot do it either.  Period.  There is culpability, and it must be followed through to its completion.

To simply assign blame for failure to share information is cheap, and this excuse wore out ten years ago.  Let me issue a warning on behalf of me and my dog to would-be finger pointers concerning Project Gunrunner: That dog won’t hunt.

Prior: Project Gunrunner Category

Obama Defends Holder in Gunrunner Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Today Obama spoke ever so carefully concerning Eric Holder and his involvement in Project Gunrunner.

“My attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun-running to be able to pass through into Mexico,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF, and we’ve got to find out how that happened.  As soon as the investigation’s completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken.”

Obama owns Eric Holder in this remark.  “My attorney general …”  But more questions are raised than answered.  If Holder had not ordered it, and Obama himself doesn’t think that Project Gunrunner “would [be] an appropriate step by the ATF,” then what does it mean when their own report claims that?

Initially implemented in our four primary Southwest border field divisions, Project Gunrunner has evolved into a national strategy … Over the past few years the White House, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and even the U.S. Northern Command have developed various strategies and policies designed to leverage the full capabilities of the U.S. Government in this effort. It is essential that our efforts support the strategies and policies of the President and the Attorney General and where possible, complement the strategies of other agencies.

[ ... ]

… 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.

When everyone else is responsible, no one is responsible, which in fact might be the Obama strategy.  The ATF field agents and mid-level managers had better be looking for gainful employment.  At least for the moment, Obama is defending Holder.

Prior:

Defendant’s Attorney Seeks Discovery in Project Gunrunner

ATF’s Kenneth Melson to Testify Before Congress

Project Gunrunner Update: FoxNews, LA Times and Washington Post

Washington Post Wrong on Issa Knowledge of Project Gunrunner

Gunrunner Investigation Points Much Higher Than ATF Director

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

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

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

Defendant’s Attorney Seeks Discovery in Project Gunrunner

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

From The Daily Caller:

Texas criminal defense lawyers are investigating the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious investigation of cross-border gun smuggling, using routine “discovery” rules that allow defendants to look for flaws in prosecutors’ evidence, statements and purpose.

“As the lawyer for Jose Sauceda–Cuevas, I’ve got to look at every possibility,” including agency misconduct, that would help him in the courtroom, said David Dudley, a Harvard-trained criminal defense lawyer based in Los Angeles.

The U.S. Attorney for the Arizona district is charging Dudley’s client with 25 counts related to gun trafficking. The charges include 10 false statement made during gun purchases, five identity theft charges, five counts for felony possession of a gun, and “five counts of Illegal Alien in Possession of a Firearm,” according to a May 19 press statement.

“The defendant orchestrated straw purchases of over 110 assault rifles and pistols in a multi–state enterprise to provide weapons for the drug war” in Mexico, the statement said.

The case is one in set of prosecutions covering 17 defendants charged in five separate cases that involve more than 300 weapons, most of which are “AK–47–type rifles and automatic pistols that were recovered in Mexico, Arizona and Texas,” read the statement.

[ ... ]

Dudley is working with another client’s attorney to launch the discovery investigations. But neither will get to investigate the investigators unless the trial judges approves their request for discovery.

“I have no idea” if the judges will grant discovery, Dudley said. But, he said, “I assume [prosecutors] will anticipate that we will look at every possibility for our client.”

“Anything he files in court, we’ll respond to appropriately in court,” said Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the Arizona prosecutor, based in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I think there’s a pretty good chance of getting discovery if they show it is relevant to a defense,” said Dick DeGuerin, a Houston-based lawyer who persuaded the federal government last year to quit its gun-trafficking investigation of the Carter’s Country, a four-store chain of hunting shops in Texas.

“Orders from either a Justice Department official or from supervisors in ATF to allow the sale to go forward … will be relevant” to a defense, he said. “It certainly might be used in mitigation” of a tough sentence.

The abbreviated charges outlined above track with the original indictment of Jose Sauceda-Cuevas.  I would be willing to place a wager on the term “automatic pistols” (in both the article and the indictment) being false information, and that the pistols are in fact semi-automatic.  At least part of Dudley’s defense will be that Mr. Sauceda-Cuevas attempted to do something illegal, and would have been denied that chance had the gun shop owners been allowed to do what they wanted to do in the first place, which is refuse to sell.  As it was, illegaility on the part of the ATF played a role in Sauceda-Cuevas’ crime[s].

Entrapment has been successfully argued in similar and other circumstances.  Without knowing the outcome of the case, it is true that Project Gunrunner has not only placed weapons in the hands of criminals in Mexico, it has also made the case against legitimate targets such a firearms trafficker less certain.  The consequences of Project Gunrunner just keep rolling.  We are only at the tip of the iceberg.

Prior:

ATF’s Kenneth Melson to Testify Before Congress

Project Gunrunner Update: FoxNews, LA Times and Washington Post

Washington Post Wrong on Issa Knowledge of Project Gunrunner

Gunrunner Investigation Points Much Higher Than ATF Director

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

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

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

ATF’s Kenneth Melson to Testify Before Congress

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

The Daily Beast is reporting that a deal has been brokered between Congress and the administration concerning testimony in the Project Gunrunner scandal (and illegalities).

The head of the embattled federal agency that combats gun trafficking has agreed to talk with Senate investigators, a potentially important breakthrough as Congress tries to determine whether higher-ups in the Obama administration knew about a controversial sting that let assault weapons flow across the border into Mexico’s drug wars.

The testimony—expected next month from Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—was brokered as part of a deal between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley. Grassley and his fellow Republicans were given full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses; and in return, Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees he had been blocking, according to correspondence obtained by NEWSWEEK and THE DAILY BEAST.

Grassley had been fighting to get full access for months. He finally got it with a letter Leahy wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting access for both his staff and Grassley’s investigators to the evidence and witnesses in the gun-sting investigation. In return, Grassley agreed to let proceed the nominations of Jim Cole to be deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco to be assistant attorney general for national security, and Virginia Seitz to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the letter shows.

So in order to get access to investigate the various illegalities and corruption involved with Project Gunrunner, Senator Grassley had to agree to open the floor for nominations from the same adminstration who gave us Kenneth Melson at ATF and Eric Holder at Justice, and who wants to give us Andrew Traver at ATF, so that they can fill the ranks of the executive branch of government with more people who would presumably do more of the same kind of thing (note that David Codrea finds Traver’s fingerprints on Project Gunrunner).  We simply cannot have any confidence at all in this administration’s nominees.

We’re pulling weeds in a very sick and dying garden, and the time has come for a complete overhaul as called for by the Beaufort Observer.  They’re right.  Sometimes an organization becomes so corrupt that it’s no longer effective simply to revamp it from within.  It must be dismantled from without.  This post by Vincent Cefalu seems to indicate a very ailing organization, with maladies that cannot be treated with a few medicines, even if those medicines include a new director.  If that new director is Andrew Traver, we will have gone from bad to worse.

As we move forward with this investigation, the corruption will become ever more manifest, and the ATF should be expected to body slam whistleblowers and participants in its own demise.  This all just gets worse and worse.

UPDATE: Make sure to check out what Congressman Issa says he found out on his recent trip to Mexico.  This operation could never have succeeded, and the folks at ATF knew it, all the way to the top.  Not only does the ATF not have any jurisdictional authority in Mexico, the Mexican authorities were intentionally uncooperative.  The scandal deepens even further.


Prior:

Project Gunrunner Update: FoxNews, LA Times and Washington Post

Washington Post Wrong on Issa Knowledge of Project Gunrunner

Gunrunner Investigation Points Much Higher Than ATF Director

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

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

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

Project Gunrunner Update: FoxNews, LA Times and Washington Post

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Glenn Reynolds links a Fox News report on the illegal termination of ATF whistleblower Vince Cefalu.  This news is a couple of days old, but this interesting (and heretofore unknown) fact is revealed in the report.

Cefalu first told FoxNews.com about the ATF’s embattled anti-gun smuggling operation in December, before the first reports on the story appeared in February. “Simply put, we knowingly let hundreds of guns and dozens of identified bad guys go across the border,” Cefalu said at the time.

Indeed.  So Fox News first learned of this illegality in December.  Actually, David Codrea was among the first to report on this back in December of 2010.  But if Fox News learned of this in December, why did they wait to begin reporting on the corruption?  Why did ABC News report on this in early February, and then several days later CBS News (all around the same time that Fox News began running reports on gunrunner)?

Next, take note of an editorial in the LA Times.

Congress is rightfully angry that the operation went awry, and it should demand an explanation. The ATF must be held accountable and must provide answers.

But it is worth noting that the ATF is charged with an impossible mission: enforcing weak laws in a nation awash in firearms, where even the most modest attempts to regulate or prevent mass straw purchases invite accusations of infringements on 2nd Amendment rights from the gun lobby.

Consider that in 2006 the ATF came under congressional scrutiny for attempting to crack down on straw purchases at Virginia gun shows. That operation had been launched in response to a rise in homicides in the state. Agents traced about 400 guns recovered from crime scenes back to Virginia gun shows, according to congressional testimony. ATF officers who attended the shows and conducted residency checks to verify that interested buyers provided accurate information were later accused of harassing legitimate gun owners.

If Congress wants to stop mass straw purchases and stem the flow of guns to Mexican drug cartels, it ought to begin by confirming a permanent ATF director. The agency has been rudderless for nearly five years, largely because the National Rifle Assn. has publicly opposed nominees, including President Obama’s pick, Andrew Traver, who currently heads the ATF’s Chicago field office.

Federal lawmakers might also consider limiting the number of guns an individual can buy. In California, for example, a person can only buy one handgun a month.

The ATF should be held accountable for Fast and Furious, but Congress and the White House are responsible for letting the agency drift, and for failing to adopt sensible laws to prevent mass straw purchases.

The editorial board for the Washington Post must have had a conference call with the editorial board of the LA Times.

THE GUN RIGHTS lobby has spent considerable time and energy in pursuit of one goal: crippling the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It has largely succeeded — and with dire consequences.

Concerned to the point of paranoia about the erosion of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, the National Rifle Association and far too many lawmakers have fought against virtually every proposal to empower the bureau to better track and crack down on illegal firearms. They have won reductions in the ATF’s already meager budget. They have restricted the bureau’s ability to share information with other law enforcement agencies. They have kept the bureau rudderless for the past six years by blocking confirmation of new directors. And they continue to fight new rules that would allow the bureau to track bulk sales of long guns that have played a major role in the drug-fueled violence in Mexico.

Now, the very critics who have tied the bureau’s hands are expressing outrage over a novel, and we would agree questionable, ATF operation intended to curb gun smuggling into Mexico.

[ ... ]

Lawmakers should give the ATF the tools it needs to fight illegal gun trafficking. They should enact stronger penalties for straw purchases and craft a federal gun-smuggling statute; close the gun-show loophole, which allows buyers under certain circumstances to purchase weapons without a background check; resuscitate the ban on assault weapons; and give the ATF the authority to collect data on multiple sales of long guns in border states. The Senate should move quickly to confirm a director for the long-leaderless bureau.

So according to the LA Times and the Washington Post, the problem is the NRA and the fight to protect second amendment rights, and the remedy is to close a gun show loophole through which the Mexican drug cartels do not purchase firearms, and enact stronger penalties for the very illegality in which the ATF was themselves engaged.

Sounds a bit like Senator Feinstein’s talking points, no?  And it also sounds a bit like the Justice Department fed them this perspective, just like they fed the Washington Post incorrect information on Congressional knowledge of Project Gunrunner.

Washington Post Wrong On Issa Knowledge Of Project Gunrunner

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

I read a Washington Post article on Wednesday in which someone at the Justice Department claimed that Representative Darrell Issa had been briefed months ago on Project Gunrunner (more on my views on this in a moment).  The Daily Caller reports on Issa’s denial.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told The Daily Caller that the Washington Post is the only news organization to bite on new misleading sentiments from the Justice Department.

A Wednesday Washington Post story used anonymous Justice Department sources to bash Issa’s investigation into Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious.

The anonymous sources claimed that Issa attended a classified April 2010 briefing for members of Congress and their staffers about the programs that have allowed American guns into Mexican drug cartels’ hands.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told The Daily Caller the Post is the first newspaper to run these DOJ claims, but not the first one the Justice Department went to with them.

“We have had people who have contacted us before the Washington Post,” Hill said. “They told us people in the Justice Department were trying to push this story and I think a number of publications didn’t think it was credible or, for whatever reason, decided not to run it.”

Hill said there was a briefing that Issa attended back in April 2010 on a similar subject. “There were questions at the time about the number of U.S. weapons that were ending up at Mexican crime scenes,” he said. “Basically, [it was about] the efforts of the ATF to stop cartels from doing this.”

Did Project Gunrunner or Operation Fast and Furious come up at that briefing at all? Hill says “they certainly did not.”

When I read the Washington Post article I considered it so unlikely that I didn’t bookmark it or send myself the URL for later use (I normally send myself dozens of URLs per day for potential later use).  I have on rare occasion used anonymous sources, an example of which might be when someone who is deployed is providing a perspective that may reflect on his chain of command.  I routinely receive notes from people I never use (for instance, I exchanged e-mail with a lawyer who knew facts about the Jose Guerena SWAT raid that couldn’t be shared with my readers).

But bloggers must have some sort of protocol for what may be used and what may not.  If someone at the Justice Department, even with legitimate e-mail, phone number, title and name, had told me that Representative Issa had been briefed on Gunrunner in April of 2010 and said nothing about the approach, I would have rejected this source immediately and with prejudice if they had demanded to remain anonymous.

Let me be clear.  Even if this report was correct, it doesn’t exonerate the ATF from wrongdoing.  As I have pointed out before, “[it] isn’t okay for the ATF to violate the National Firearms Act or the Arms Export Control Act if I must live within its stipulations.”  But since the report has no name attached to it, let me offer some counsel to this supposed anonymous source at the Justice Department. 

Have some balls.  I don’t use a pseudonym.  I put my name on everything I write, and I back it up or retract it.  If you want to be taken seriously, don’t go around whispering secrets to the media.  Step forward, bring your evidence, and stand by your account.  Otherwise, you’re just a coward.  As for the Washington Post, it really looks awful for you to be in bed with cowards.

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the attention.

UPDATE #2:  Hmmm … did the DoJ begin almost immediately trying to walk this back?

Prior:

Gunrunner Investigation Points Much Higher Than ATF Director

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse On Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking To Mexico

Project Gunrunner: Whitehouse and DoJ Knowledge And Oversight

Gunrunner Investigation Points Much Higher Than ATF Director

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

The Daily Caller quotes a staffer for Congressman Darrell Issa as saying that the Gunrunner investigation points much higher than acting director Kenneth Melson.

Even if Melson resigns, Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said the Committee expects to find much more and continue with investigations. “The investigations are far from over,” Hill told TheDC. “It’s quite certain that Kenneth Melson was not the principal architect of this plan nor was he the only high-ranking official who knew about and authorized this operation.”

As I have pointed out before, their own documents say that the White House knew about the strategy.  So this goes higher than even the Department of’ Justice.  That’s why it isn’t for Kenneth Melson simply to resign.  A special prosecutor is needed to get to the bottom (and top) of this crime.  There is apparently pushback from Melson, who believes he has done nothing wrong.  But it isn’t okay for the ATF to violate the National Firearms Act or the Arms Export Control Act if I must live within its stipulations.

And while we’re focused on this issue, the unrepentent Obama administration is busy going from bad to worse.  Andrew Traver, Obama’s pick to head the ATF, is scheduled to meet with Justice this week.  The NRA strongly opposes the appointment of Traver, and for good reason.  He is associated with the leftist Joyce Foundation’s Study, Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in our Communities.  Among other ridiculous things, they advocated that the Centers for Disease Control take a role in the regulation of the firearms industry.

This administration sees this as an opportunity to slip in their man at the ATF, and it’s time to gear up for the next anti-firearms battle that Obama wants to wage.

UPDATE #1: The NYT has done their expected puff piece shilling for Senator Feinstein, et. al.

If Congressional Republicans are really intent on getting to the bottom of an ill-conceived sting operation along the border by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, they should call President Felipe Calderón of Mexico as an expert witness.

Mr. Calderón has the data showing that the tens of thousands of weapons seized from the Mexican drug cartels in the last four years mostly came from the United States. Three out of five of those guns were battlefield weapons that were outlawed here until the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. To help him stop the bloody mayhem, he is pleading with Washington to re-enact the ban and impose other needed controls.

Such horrible analysis work!  They are propagating the 90% myth, just as did the St. Petersburg Times.  And just like Bono.  That’s what happens when opinion gets in the way of facts.  But at least the NYT has more people on staff than Bono to cipher the data, and so while Bono might be just responding emotionally, the NYT is showing how shoddy and lazy they have become in their analysis.

Prior:

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

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

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

According to the WSJ, acting director Kenneth Melson’s head may be on the chopping block over the AFT gunrunner scandal.

The Justice Department is expected to oust the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to people familiar with the matter, amid a troubled federal antitrafficking operation that has grown into the agency’s biggest scandal in nearly two decades.

Moves toward the replacement of Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director since April 2009, could begin next week, although the precise sequence of events remains to be decided, these people said.

The shakeup shows the extent of the political damage caused by the gun-trafficking operation called Fast and Furious, which used tactics that allowed suspected smugglers to buy large numbers of firearms. Growing controversy over the program has paralyzed a long-beleaguered agency buffeted by partisan battles. The ATF has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2006, with both the Bush and Obama administrations unable to overcome opposition from gun-rights groups to win approval of nominees.

In November, President Barack Obama nominated Andrew Traver, the head of the ATF’s Chicago office, as permanent ATF director. The nomination stalled in the Senate after the National Rifle Association said Mr. Traver had a “demonstrated hostility” to the rights of gun owners.

Mr. Traver is set to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the people said. The administration is weighing whether to name Mr. Traver as acting director or choose another interim chief while awaiting Senate action on his nomination, they said.

The administration is attempting to handle three issues with one move.  First, the Obama administration is attempting to salvage what it can from the horribly failed project gunrunner and throw out a sacrificial lamb to the Congress.  We all know this.  Second, they are attempting to conduct another battlefield ruse.  This is merely a flanking action designed to help stop the Congressional frontal assault on the administration and justice department.  The WSJ article quotes Jim Carney again denying that Mr. Obama knew anything about the project.  But there is indication that there was understanding and approval not only from the justice department but also from the White House.  How high does the knowledge go?  Who knew about this in the White House, and when did s/he know it?  A special prosecutor is needed to flesh out these details.  It simply isn’t acceptable to throw Kenneth Melson under the bus and walk away from this.  Accountability must start at the very top and go to the very bottom of the chain of command on this.

Third – and perhaps more significant than any of these goals – the administration sees this as a timely opportunity to slip in Andrew Traver to the ATF.  Andrew Traver’s views are extreme, and he even wants the Centers for Disease Control to have oversight of the firearms industry.  If the administration cannot get what they wanted out of gunrunner, they intend to install someone else even more anti-firearm than Melson at the head of ATF.  Not only is there no repentance for sins committed, there isn’t even the hint of an attempt to change.  Several dead ATF agents and Mexican authorities, Melson thrown under the bus, a Congressional investigation, international embarrassment, and firearms flooding Mexico from this whole ugly affair – they are all just a few “broken eggs” for real change this administration intends to bring.

Prior:

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

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

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month 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.

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

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month 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


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