Boar Down!

Herschel Smith · 30 Oct 2022 · 11 Comments

Readers may have noticed I was absent the last several days.  It was a good time away.  A very good buddy and neighbor of mine, Robert, and I went hunting courtesy of the fine folks with Williams Hunting in South Carolina. I was shooting a 6mm ARC rifle with a Grendel Hunter upper, Aero Precision lower, Amend2 magazines, Brownells scope mount, Radian Raptor charging handle, Nikon Black scope, and a Viking Tactics sling.  I have no complaints about the gun.  It's at least a 1 MOA gun…… [read more]

Police Designated Marksman?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

Richard Fairburn, writing at, gives us this remarkable portrait of his vision for the police state in America.

I saddled up my first patrol rifle, a Colt AR15, in a Chevrolet Blazer 4×4 patrol vehicle in 1985. The other two patrol deputies in my county had their own semi-auto rifles in locking racks, one carried a Beretta AR70 (also in 5.56mm caliber) while the other had a H&K Model 91 chambered for the much more powerful 7.62x51mm NATO round (.308 Winchester). While more than one potential human target saw the business end of our rifles over the years, no one ever challenged their authority.

Now we see patrol rifles in the hands of many U.S. police officers, generally a variation of the AR15/M16/M4 system. I have long believed a rifle is the long gun “answer” to most police shooting situations, now it seems most agencies agree. So, I’ll try to stay one step ahead by suggesting we now need to move a few of our officers “beyond the patrol rifle.”

The other dominant rifle form in U.S. police usage has been the sniper rifle, generally referred to as a counter-sniper rifle in its earliest days following the “Texas Tower” massacre committed by Charles Whitman in Austin, Texas on August 1, 1966. What I propose now is that we equip and train a percentage of our patrol officers to a capability midway between those equipped with a patrol rifle and snipers who generally only deploy as one element of a SWAT team. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps are fielding these intermediate-level marksmen in significant numbers and they are proving to be extremely effective in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military refers to them as “Designated Marksmen,” and I propose we adopt similar terminology and the same weaponry for perhaps one in 10 patrol officers.

In February 2009, only a few months after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, PoliceOne ran my three-part series on how we should be training and preparing to counter terrorist teams of active shooters. In the development of that series of articles, I ran the drafts by LTC Dave Grossman, noted SWAT trainer Sgt. Ed Mohn, and a couple of military SpecOps dudes I know, adding their valuable input to the final product. I was more than a little gratified when I saw the Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York City police departments and the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) organize and train officers in ways that paralleled our early recommendations — the most common program being Multiple Attack Counter Terror Action Capabilities training, or MACTAC. It was in part three of that series that I first suggested the need for Designated Marksman (DM) capabilities when responding to a Mumbai-style attack.

The most simple and inexpensive way to improve on our existing patrol rifles is to upgrade existing 5.56mm carbines with low- to medium-power optical sights. This enhances the shooter’s ability to deliver precise fire at longer distances than we can generally muster with iron sights. In addition to optics, any 5.56mm DM rifle should be coupled with a heavy 5.56mm projectile like the 77gr MHP bullet in the Mk262 load. Most Army DMs are equipped with an M16 variant using a 4x optical sight and the Mk262 load. Many patrol rifle shooters can already quickly mount scopes or 3x magnifiers for low power optical sights.

But ideally, I think our Designated Marksmen should be equipped with a more powerful rifle to deal more effectively with both distance and light intervening cover. The AR15 platform can be upgraded to larger cartridges like the Remington .30 AR or the 6.8mm SPC, but stepping up even further makes more sense. The USMC Designated Riflemen generally shoot an updated M14 chambered for the 7.62x51mm (.308 Winchester). Our LE-type DMs should also opt for the 7.62mm/.308 round, but instead of firing the 168gr Match Hollow Point (MHP) round our snipers use, we should opt for a 150 grain expanding projectile. The sniper’s match hollow points are designed primarily for accuracy and give erratic terminal performance. Choosing a round like Federal Ammunition’s P308E, which uses a 150 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet, or Black Hills Ammunition’s Black Hills Gold load that uses a Hornady 155 grain A-Max projectile, would provide devastating terminal performance and a reduced chance of over-penetration, coupled with the ability to switch interchangeably to military M80 Ball ammunition. The M80 Ball load is a trajectory match for a 150-155 grain expanding bullet and allows both reduced cost training as well as better penetration against barricaded targets.

The Marine Corp’s modified M14 DM rifle can be duplicated with an M1A rifle from Springfield Armory, their Scout Squad model is particularly handy. If you would prefer a semi-auto rifle with the same operating controls as your AR to simplify training, a number of AR makers offer a variation of the AR10 which is chambered for the 7.62mm round. A police DM rifle should be equipped with a scope sight of about 4x magnification (or a variable-power scope that will zoom up to at least 4x).

Analysis & Commentary

Despite his having invoked the U.S. Army, the classification of DM is primarily found in the U.S. Marine Corps (my son was a DM in his platoon).  The training for DM is much the same as the training for Marine Corps Scout Snipers, except for the stalking, evasion, and other things that make a sniper unique.

The writer invokes the memory of the shooter at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966, but Charles Whitman was killed on the observation deck at close range by a police officer using a shotgun.  Furthermore, it was a basic lack of plant security that allowed Whitman to be there at all.  The next data point in his scare tactics to pressure the reader into accepting a militarized police is the Mumbai attacks in India.  But there isn’t any indication that long range standoff weapons were used in ending the Mumbai attacks.  In fact, the notion the writer promulgates is more one of a paramilitary style force.

He specifically alludes to the DM designation, with police officers envisioned as using long range standoff weapons such as a sniper rifle.  Make no mistake about it.  Mr. Fairburn is quite literally advocating a higher ratio of snipers / DMs for the police than we typically find in Marine Corps infantry units.

Given the horrible state of no-knock raids in America (see Jose Guerenna raid among many others), the proliferation of these military tactics across the law enforcement community (see Department of Education affiliated officers and the raid on Kenneth Wright), and the common practice used by felons of announcing themselves as police officers, there isn’t any prima facie reason to entrust the police with high power weapons used in a standoff fashion.

The track record of police offices behaving as military operators (as they wish to be called) isn’t very good.  They haven’t earned the title, they haven’t deployed on combat tours, and their job function is to be peace officers.  In my own hometown I have noticed an increasing inconsistency in uniform among police officers, from cargo pants and tee shirts to formal uniforms, from OWB handgun holsters to drop holsters with tactical belts, and on and on the list goes.

While there is a need for access to more than just side arms (and training to use them in limited circumstances), police departments needs to work more towards less militarization of tactics and uniforms, less use of no-knock raids, and certainly as limited use as possible of long range standoff weapons.

Mr. Fairburn is pressing towards the increased militarization of U.S. police, while the optimum goal should be the decreased militarization of tactics.  But the troubling thing  about Mr. Fairburn’s argument is its wide acceptance within the law enforcement community.  It’s not uncommon now to find this attitude within police departments.  It’s easy to understand the interest in the so-called “black guns” (ARs) with close to two decades of war flashed across our TV screens (I have one), and I am certainly a defender of the right to bear arms as my readers know.  I regularly engage in both open and concealed carry.

But interest in tactics, dress, weapons, and so on, isn’t the same thing as behaving like military operators around the public where innocent bystanders can be injured, and where we have the bill of rights to protect us from the state.  Mr. Fairburn should rethink his position, but common citizens should become engaged in their local communities to ensure that the police aren’t in fact becoming too autonomous.

Iranian Snipers in Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

Iran is increasing support for the Shi’ite militias in Iraq.

“Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups which are killing our troops,” said Adm. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there…that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that.”

Of course, we have known since the inception of Operation Iraqi Freedom that the Iranians were killing Americans in Iraq.  Now, we learn of strong supicions of Iranian snipers in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the top Marine general in Afghanistan, told National Journal that the sniper threat was particularly acute in contested regions of Helmand like Sangin and Garesh, where NATO forces are battling Taliban fighters trying to reclaim some of their former strongholds. Despite a counter-offensive from insurgents, the military said coalition troops control most of Helmand and the level of violence there is declining.

Toolan, who runs NATO’s Regional Command Southwest, said many of the snipers attacking his troops speak Farsi or Arabic, meaning that the fighters likely come from Iran and other neighboring countries. Other U.S. officials in Afghanistan say Iran has significantly escalated its support for militants there, providing long-range rockets, money, and technical assistance. Tehran denies the charges, but Toolan said some of the snipers appear to have been trained outside of Afghanistan.

The military leaders have no problem saying that Iran is at war with America.  Why can’t our civilian leadership just simply admit and publicly state that they know that Iran has been at war with the United Stated for at least a quarter century?  Wouldn’t it do our civilian leaders some good to engage in a little truth telling – good for international relations, good for the American public, and good for their souls?

The answer, of course, is what I have advocated for several years.  No open war (just yet), no happy talk with the Iranians.  Engage in a campaign of targeted assassinations against military leaders, foment an insurgency within Iran, and support the Green movement.  An Iran that is worried about its own government being toppled hasn’t the time to waste causing trouble in the rest of the world.

Interpreting and Analyzing Project Gunrunner

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

Media Matters excoriates those who traffic in confusion over Project Gunrunner.

This is starting to get pathetic.

Right-wing media outlets keep dishing out new “evidence” for why senior Justice Department leaders must have known about Fast and Furious, a failed operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). All they keep proving is that those officials knew about Project Gunrunner, the high-profile effort begun under President Bush of which Fast and Furious was one small part.

They’ve already used this conflation to baselessly claim that the stimulus included funds for Fast and Furious (the funds were earmarked for Project Gunrunner and were not distributed to the ATF office that handled Fast and Furious) and that a 2009 Holder speech proves that he was aware of the program (the speech references only Gunrunner and was given before Fast and Furious was initiated).

In their latest effort, these outlets are pointing to a two-minute clip of a speech that then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden gave on March 29, 2009. In the speech, Ogden said:

DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is increasing its efforts by adding 37 new employees in three new offices, using $10 million in Recovery Act funds and redeploying 100 personnel to the Southwest border in the next 45 days to fortify its Project Gunrunner, which is aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico.

ATF is doubling its presence in Mexico itself, from five to nine personnel working with the Mexicans, specifically to facilitate gun-tracing activity, which targets the illegal weapons and their sources in the United States.

Let’s go over this again: Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious are not the same thing, and Fast and Furious wasn’t reportedly begun until six months after Ogden gave this speech.

Nonetheless, in an editorial comparing Fast and Furious to Watergate, Investor’s Business Daily claims that the Ogden video “may rival the tape that turned a ‘third-rate burglary’ into a presidential resignation.” IBD also claims that both the Ogden clip and Holder’s speech show the speaker “taking credit” for both Project Gunrunner and Fast and Furious. They provide text from both speeches in which the speaker references the former and not the latter, because they are lying (and embarrassingly bad at it).

Meanwhile, Andrew Breitbart’s cites this clip to claim that Ogden left DOJ in late 2009 because he “wanted to reduce his chances of becoming the ‘fall guy’ for the Obama Administration after news of this doomed-from-the-start gun-running operation became public.”

Analysis & Commentary

David Codrea and Bob Owens have both had this in their sights.  David does legitimate reporting as well as analysis and commentary, while I mostly focus on analysis and commentary.  So at times I speculate or infer, usually based on a string of evidence or reports (some published, some maybe not).  But regardless of however much we might like the reporting at Big Government, or Salem News, when they link up video or cite documents demonstrating that so-and-so was aware of Project Gunrunner, and flatly assert that he or she is admitting complicity in the smuggling of weapons to the cartels, it is both sloppy and not necessarily correct (note that I said not necessarily, and I’ll return to this later).  It isn’t necessarily correct, not yet, and not exactly.

We know that Project Gunrunner began in Texas in 2005, and was designed primarily during the Bush administration to include the training of the Mexican authorities in the use of eTrace to track weapons.  It involved a handful of ATF field agents, but until late in the Bush administration it wasn’t heavily resourced or funded.  The Merida Initiative changed that.  There were a number of problems with this initiative, but at the moment, I’m just relaying the facts.

The stimulus of 2009 sent more money in the direction of Project Gunrunner.  When the Obama administration took office, there was increased attention on Project Gunrunner, and most astute readers are aware of Operation Fast and Furious which focused on the Southern border and which was run primarily out of the Phoenix office of the ATF.  Fewer people are aware that there was a similar companion operation (called Operation Castaway) in which weapons were released to MS-13 in Honduras, run primarily out of the Tampa office of the ATF.

More recently, there is e-mail evidence indicating that the ATF was searching for anecdotal support for a demand letter on long gun sales in July of 2010.  And only a few days ago David Codrea published a letter he received concerning the illegality of the trafficking of weapons, a point I have made (albeit not as clearly) 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.”

There is indeed illegality involved for knowledgeable individuals (the executive branch of the government cannot willingly violate laws legitimately enacted by Congress any more than can I).  So there is a lot at stake to protect information and identities.  It will be some time before everything is uncovered in this scandal.

But if there is sloppiness in some conservative commentary concerning the conflation of Project Gunrunner and Fast and Furious (or Castaway), and even if Media Matters got this one at least partially right, there is another perspective.

There is a lot of dissimilarity between Project Gunrunner during the Bush and Obama administrations.  Project Gunrunner was small during the Bush years, and doesn’t appear to have included any illegal trafficking of weapons.  The Obama administration oversaw a significant expansion of the program, with strategic studies, Office of Inspector General recommendations for more expansion, the training of corrupt Mexican police, involvement of the FBI and DEA, etc.

We know all of these things based on irrefutable evidence.  We can assess, or speculate, that there is cohesion of intent and knowledge of the operations up the chain of command within the administration.  In other words, we can speculate that weapons trafficking was a subset of Project Gunrunner, as it morphed during the Obama administration into something much larger and organized than it was in the Bush years.  Another way of saying it is that equating Project Gunrunner during the Bush and Obama years is inaccurate.  Same words, different meaning.

We can speculate that since Mr. Obama is a statist, or Fabian Socialist in his thinking, his slip concerning bitterly clinging to guns and religion wasn’t really a slip.  It was a glimpse into his soul, the very core of his being.  I tend towards this interpretation, and thus I have no problem surmising that the chain of evidence plus what I know about Mr. Obama and his administration points towards complicity and prior knowledge within his administration.  Mr. Obama is no friend to firearms.

But it’s important that this be stated as surmising at the moment.  There is much investigative work to be done, and hunting for evidence from amongst this administration will be like pulling teeth.  Finding the truth will be hard.  Commentators are best advised to do better research before conflating phrases and terms, and get busy researching and digging.  Personally, I believe that Project Gunrunner isn’t the same thing it once was.  As I said before, same words, different meaning.  But I’m unwilling at the moment to flatly assert much more than what I have said thus far.

British Soldiers Told Not To Shoot IED Emplacers

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

This remarkable report comes from The Telegraph.

British soldiers who spot Taliban fighters planting roadside bombs are told not to shoot them because they do not pose an immediate threat, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

They are instead being ordered to just observe insurgents and record their position to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

The controversial policy emerged at an inquest into the death of Sgt Peter Rayner, 34, a soldier from the 2nd Batallion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who was killed in October last year by an improvised explosive device as he led a patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Wendy Rayner, 40, disclosed that in the days leading up to his death her husband been told that it was not his job to attack insurgents laying bombs.

Mrs Rayner, who lives with their young son in Bradford, told the inquest that the insurgents were being allowed to get away with the murder of British troops.

She said: “They are not allowed to fire on these terrorists. If they can see people leaving these IEDs, why can’t they take them out? One officer even told him ‘I am an army Captain and you will do your job’.

“We have lost too many men out there, they had seen people planting IEDs yet could not open fire or make contact with them. I believe strongly if people had taken on board what he was saying more he might have been here today.”

Under the Geneva Convention and the nationally administered Rules of Engagement the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan are told they can only attack if there is an immediate threat to life.

A key part of the MoD’s counter-insurgency theory holds that it is more important to win over civilians by not killing innocent people than it is to eliminate every potential insurgent.

Analysis & Commentary

The penultimate paragraph is total crap, and the MoD knows it.  IED emplacers are combatants, and the British Soldiers no more have to wait for a gun to be pointed at their heads than a sniper has to wait for the same thing from a Taliban fighter 1000 yards away.

So that excuse is just a ruse.  The final paragraph outlines the real reason for the problem.  The British military doctrines for counterinsurgency, taken primarily from their experience in Northern Ireland, includes almost at every step of the process the de-escalation of violence no matter what the cost.

It not only loses counterinsurgencies, but it loses the support of the public (and in part, the later causes the former).  It’s what the British did in Basra, and it’s what they did in Musa Qala.  The enlisted men in the British Army are brave and well-trained, and the U.S. Marines have the utmost respect for the British Royal Marines.  But there is a doctrinal sickness in the officer corps of the British Army.  Not the British public, and not the British enlisted man.  The officer corps.  The officer corps of the British Army needs a gut check before it ever attempts another war of any kind, conventional, hybrid or counterinsurgency.

Prior: True Confessions of British Counterinsurgency

Congressman Bilirakis Questions Holder On Tampa ATF Office Gunwalker Allegations

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

David Codrea is reporting that Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) wrote a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder and Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Kenneth Melson, expressing deep concerns over the allegations of release of guns to MS-13 from the Tampa ATF office.

“These reports,” Bilirakis writes, “raise troubling questions about the motives, intentions, and competency of the ATF and DOJ.”

“In recent days,” he notes, “it has come to light that the ATF and DOJ may have participated in the act of ‘gun walking’ beyond the acts conducted within the scope of “Operation Fast and Furious’…and that similar programs included the possible trafficking of arms to dangerous criminal gangs in Honduras with the knowledge of the ATF’s Tampa Field Division.”

The complete list of questions is as follows:

1. Can you confirm whether or not the ATF Tampa Field Division and/or the Department of Justice’s Middle District of Florida participated in a “gun walking” scheme that allowed weapons to be trafficked to Honduras?

2. If so, does the ATF or the DOJ have knowledge of any of these firearms ending up in the possession of the notorious MS-13 gang?

3. How many guns have been allowed to pass into Honduras and how many have since been accounted for?

4. Were trafficked weapons subject to any special monitoring processes once they left the United States?

5. Has “Operation Castaway” been terminated? If not, does the DOJ or ATF plan to terminate this program or urge its termination?

6. Has the DOJ or the ATF established any criteria or guidance pertaining to what is admissible for future operations aimed at preventing firearms from being obtained and used by dangerous foreign criminal organizations in crimes similar to the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry?

David Codrea enters a detailed discussion about whether this facet of the scandal is subdivided into “Operation Castaway.”  I think that this is unimportant, and the important thing to follow is David’s reporting on the events and people.  Don’t miss what’s happening here.  It has been said that “Fast and Furious” was separate from Project Gunrunner (or at least, a subset of it).  “Operation Castaway” is supposed to be another subset of Project Gunrunner.  These details will all come to light in the coming days if Congress probes deeply enough, but the important thing now is that their own reporting claims that there is coherence and consistency of effort, a common strategy, and approval of the project – taken as a whole – from the very top levels of the administration.  The subdivided operation at the field offices under which each illegality falls is not currently important.

The scandal deepens and widens, and the depth and extent of the illegalities is only beginning to emerge.  Perhaps Congressman Bilirakis can get to the ATF before they shred all of the pertinent documents.

Prior: Project Gunrunner category

Gunrunner Comment of the Day

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

Comment of the day:

The Obama administration, charged with and sworn under oath to the task of enforcing the laws of this country, used a federal agency for the purpose of allowing the laws to be violated, so as to effect changes in the laws they don’t like.

And if they don’t get the law changed, they’ll just unilaterally change it themselves through agency regulation?

[ … ]

This is the gravest dereliction of sworn duty I have witnessed in my lifetime. Almost directly, it led to the death of an agent under their control.

And it deserves at least 20 years with no parole in Leavenworth prison.

And it has expanded to the Tampa ATF Office, which is currently engaged in a coverup.

How Democracy Crumbles: Implosion of the Jury System

BY Glen Tschirgi
12 years, 5 months ago

By now, almost everyone is aware of the controversial acquittal of Casey Anthony in Orlando, Florida.

Unlike many people (and despite being a lawyer by trade), I did not follow this case and I have been only casually following its results.

But there are two, critical points that need to be made and understood here.

First, in our system of criminal justice, the State must prove its case.  This is such a fundamental concept for the American system that it is almost embarrassing to mention.   Nonetheless, it seems that many people in the media and protesters outside of the courthouse have forgotten that all-important concept.   But this idea that the State must prove the guilt of the accused, and prove it beyond a “reasonable doubt” to a jury of peers is the key stone that protects us from arbitrary oppression by the State.  The Founding Fathers considered this an essential bulwark of liberty.   So when the jurors in the Casey Anthony case explain that they could not convict Ms. Anthony because the State had not proven the allegations, that is an extremely serious charge and one that indicates that the system is working.

The fact that the public perceives that “justice” was not carried out illustrates: (A) that the public is never shy about condemning people without all the facts that were available to the jury, and; (B) that the public has lost sight of this key responsibility of the State to prove its case.   As Americans, we must accept that there will be cases where, for whatever reason, the State cannot meet its burden to prove guilt and a criminal may escape punishment for a crime committed.   That is the serious price of liberty, however, and until someone devises a better method to protect us from the oppressive force of the State, we run a grave risk when we undercut that protection by demanding the condemnation of persons that the State could not prove were guilty.

Which brings me to my second point, as illustrated by this article in The Daily Mail.

A juror in the Casey Anthony trial has told how she received death threats and has been unable to work since she was cleared of murder.

The woman, known only as juror number 12 left her job and went into hiding fearing co-workers would ‘want her head on a platter’.

Her husband said before leaving she told him: ‘I’d rather go to jail than sit on a jury like this again.’

And this:

One, Jennifer Ford, 32, said there was not evidence to convict the 25-year-old mother.

She said: ‘I did not say she was innocent, I just said there was not enough evidence.

‘If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be.’

The nursing student told ABC news: ”Everyone wonders why we didn’t speak to the media right away.

‘It was because we were sick to our stomach to get that verdict.

Another, Russell Huekler said the jury only saw evidence that Anthony was a good mother.

He said: ‘The first number of witnesses were Casey’s friend and every time that they said they saw Casey with Caylee, it was a loving relationship and no one provided evidence to the contrary.’

When we reach the point that jurors cannot serve without fearing for their lives if they dare to hold the State accountable for proving guilt, the jury system collapses.  At that point, jurors compelled to serve will become little better than rubber-stamps for the State, voting to convict out of fear of mob violence and the complete disruption of their lives.   And when the State can count on guilty verdicts, no matter how sloppy or non-existent the evidence, the door is wide open to tyranny.   And, lest anyone think that tyranny cannot happen in these United States, just look at the Fast and Furious/Gunwalker scandal for a sample of government run amok.

Tampa ATF Office Gunrunner Coverup

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

It has been pointed out that there is a difference between Project Gunrunner and the subset of this project that involved the release of firearms to members of the Mexican drug cartel, or so-called “Fast and Furious.”  The point is taken, but I think that it is easy to press this point too far.

I have pointed out that the ATF’s strategy expanded and had to be modified based on guidance from the White House and Department of Justice.  There was knowledge of the operations and consistency of efforts up the chain of command.  What under President Bush required only a handful of ATF agents to interdict weapons, suddenly became an operation funded with stimulus money, involving some 100 additional ATF agents at the Southwest border, according to Eric Holder’s own statements.  Project Gunrunner without “Fast and Furious,” or the intentional, illegal transport of weapons across the border, is like a football camp without scrimmages.

The sordid details include the deaths of law enforcement officers on both sides of the border, but as the scandal grows, the list of consequences does as well.  We have recently learned that the ATF helped to train corrupt Mexican police officers in the use of electronic tracking and detection techniques (with such training coinciding with the intentional release of weapons to the Mexican drug cartels as part of “Fast and Furious”).

But the scandal grows worse just in the last couple of days.  Some 1000 weapons had been released to Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in Honduras.  This was done not through the Phoenix office of the ATF, but through Tampa office.  David Codrea reports on the coverup currently going on.

The source reporting Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Tampa Field Division Virginia O’Brien “ran a gun-running investigation that was walking guns to Honduras using the techniques and tactics identical to Fast and Furious” contacted these correspondents again this evening with this follow-up report:

O’Brien is in full meltdown.  She ordered supervisors from around the Division to report immediately to division offices and to plan on working through the entire weekend on the coverup.

Her partner in the bungle was ASAC Scott McCampbell.  At one point the case was ready to be wrapped up with arrests and remain relatively efficient but O’Brien and McCampbell decided on their own to keep it going to “get more” against the advise of thier (sic) field employees and the walked guns numbers got out of control.

OB is terrified that her intentional concealing of her walked guns is going to do her in since she disregarded orders to report to DOJ and Congress.

Nearly the same culprits above her are on the hook for this.  Chait knew about it so did Hoover and Melson.  The new player is DAD East Julie Torres.  She took O’Brien’s old DAD job when OB went to Tampa and has given OB carte blanche to do whatever she wants with little oversight.

Reportedly the shredders are buzzing.

Thus the scandal – and coverup – expands to the Tampa office, and yet responsibility finds no home at the top of the administration (or even in the middle).

Prior: Project Gunrunner category

General Rod’s War

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

Surprisingly, no military blog of which I am aware picked up and commented on a Newsweek article on General David Rodriguez.  Part of this article is repeated below.

If the past 18 months of U.S. military gains withstand the upcoming troop drawdown in Afghanistan, people can thank Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez. Few Americans are likely to do that. In fact, not many even know the publicity-shy general’s name. “He’ll never tell you that this whole thing was his baby,” says his top aide, Col. Kimberly Field. “But it was.” Although Rodriguez’s mediagenic boss, Gen. David Petraeus, gets most credit for the Afghan surge’s success, it was actually Rodriguez—General Rod, his troops call him—who drafted the operational plan even before President Obama announced the executive decision to send in 30,000 additional U.S. troops in November 2009. “You never hear of General Rod as long as General Petraeus is within a hundred miles,” says one of Rodriguez’s staff officers. “But he could care less.”

You wouldn’t think the 6-foot-5 paratrooper was easy to ignore. “He looks kind of scary,” one of his officers confesses. But his staff officers describe him as gentle, low-key, even humble. And low-maintenance: in contrast to some three-stars, they say, Rodriguez doesn’t demand to be treated like royalty. In fact, his unassuming nature is one of his most valuable strengths: he knows how to listen. “I tell everybody, ‘If we used our two ears and one mouth in the same ratio we had them, we would be better off,’ ” he told NEWSWEEK in an exclusive interview. As Rodriguez drew up and refined his plans for the surge, he took the unconventional step of consulting civilian and military Afghan officials, who helped him identify the key terrain that had to be secured. “We have all the technology and skills, but they know the human terrain,” he says. “You just have to ask them and listen. They know what they have to do to win this fight.”

Rodriguez called his plan Operation Omid (the Dari word for “hope”), and it has centered from the very start on enabling the Afghan government forces to stand on their own. The country’s security forces have grown by 94,000 new police and soldiers since the surge began, Rodriguez says, and their total strength is expected to reach 350,000 by next year. Afghanistan’s highly regarded chief of Army staff, Gen. Shir Mohammad Karimi, credits Rodriguez with building professionalism and loyalty in the Afghan National Army (ANA). “He’s patient and tolerant,” says Karimi, “but most important, he listens to Afghan ideas, suggestions, and recommendations.” For one thing, Karimi says, Rodriguez is now paying closer attention to sparsely populated Nuristan province, where the Americans pulled out in late 2009. “Rod frankly says that Afghan proposals are sometimes better than those he worked on with his own staff,” he adds.

[ … ]

Rodriguez says he’s confident that Afghan soldiers at the platoon and company level are up to the job of taking over from U.S. forces. “We’re going to get them in the front line from the bottom to the top,” he says. “We’ve got to keep the momentum going while we are doing less and less.” Still, he acknowledges, building up the ANA’s command-and-control capacity will take a little longer. His friend and counterpart General Karimi promises that the ANA will be ready to replace the withdrawing U.S. forces—as long as his men have what he calls “enablers”: artillery, air, helicopter gunship, medevac, and logistical support from the Americans, together with U.S. intelligence feeds. Rodriguez says Karimi can count on all those until at least 2014, the deadline President Obama has set for a final withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. The backup Karimi’s men need will leave only at the tail end of the pullout, at the same time as U.S. Special Operations troops and a quick reaction force, Rodriguez says.

Newsweek is certainly feeling the general-love in this piece.  The fawning nature of this article really is objectionable, and it isn’t clear why Newsweek would have felt the freedom to go to the general’s top aide to get the perspective that “this whole thing was his baby” without any balancing opinions.

I don’t get into the general-love that most Americans feel.  Throughout history, we have set our generals on pedestals, in positions of higher honor that they usually deserve.  As for this piece on Rodriguez, after reading how we have him to thank for our military gains, and after listening to the description of him (6′-5″ paratrooper, “he looks kind of scary …”), I found myself waiting for the account of how Babe the blue ox drags his gigantic axe behind him, you know, the one he uses to fell giant trees.

As for that notion that the ANA are “up to the job,” I guess General Rod isn’t referring to those ANA boys at Kamdesh who curled up in a fetal position on their bed to wait out the fight.  As for General Rodriguez himself, recall that he and his staff were the ones who decided that they wanted to micromanage every aspect of the Marines’ engagement in the Helmand Province, including ROE.  As for Nuristan, I guess General Rodriguez was the first out of the gate to describe how it was important.

Whatever else one thinks of General Rodriguez, let me make one thing absolutely clear (and this is one thing that sets me apart from his staff, all of whom who should be spending more time carrying a rifle on patrol).  If there is any success in Afghanistan, to the extent that there is success in Afghanistan, it shouldn’t be ascribed to General Rodriguez or his staff (any more than it should be ascribed to General Petraeus).  There is no debate about the contributions of Generals Petraeus or Rodriguez on the pages of The Captain’s Journal.  Any success redounds from the blood, sweat and tears of Army specialists and Sergeants and Marine Corps Lance Corporals and Corporals in the field under fire.

No one in their right mind would argue this last point.

Surprise July 4 Kenneth Melson Deposition to Congress

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months 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

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