By Tanya Metaksa
I summarized last September’s editorial on Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (BATFE) gun running scheme as, “The current administration has put a substantial amount of effort into trying to frame its gun control agenda as being necessary to quell the violence that results from illegal gun trafficking between the United States and Mexico.” What we have learned from several hearings before Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s March 2009 statement that “our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians” is not true. We have learned without a shadow of a doubt the BATFE’s Fast and Furious has been responsible for allowing hundreds of weapons to fall into the hands of Mexico’s drug cartels.
In a publicity stunt in February, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderone unveiled a sign on the Texas-Mexico border that faced north and read “No More Weapons.” To illustrate his point, he spent Mexican taxpayer dollars to build the sign from destroyed weapons. Although the stunt got a smattering of press in this country, its objective of pushing for more U.S. gun laws failed. Calderone should have erected a sign with the words, “No More Fast and Furious,” to emphasize that Mexican officials had never been informed about the gun running scheme.
One of the reasons President Calderone’s stunt got very little American attention was that Richard A. Serrano of the Los Angeles Times had been following the Mexican gun trafficking story since early summer of 2011. On February 1, 2012, Serrano’s headline read, “Slain border agent’s family alleges lies over ATF gun program” and then on February 7, 2012, the LA Times printed “REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Mexican authorities have arrested a reputed enforcer for the country's most powerful drug cartel -- a man also alleged to have amassed weapons from the U.S. government's failed Fast and Furious gun-smuggling operation.” The story went on to say that Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, 33, was a well-known smuggler known by both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials.
Also on February 1, 2012, Chairman Issa and Senator Grassley produced a memorandum that concluded:
- ATF blames Main Justice for encouraging Fast and Furious. The Justice Department blames ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office for the use of misguided tactics. Those who were in a position at Main Justice to stop the program blame their staffs for not bringing issues regarding Fast and Furious to their attention. U.S. Attorney’s Office personnel have either taken the Fifth Amendment or refused to discuss the issue with Congress, or have been stopped by the Justice Department from talking to Congress altogether. As the former ATF Acting Director testified in July 2011, it appears very clearly that the Department is circling the wagons to protect its political appointees. The family of Brian Terry, the families of countless citizens in Mexico slain by weapons purchased through Fast and Furious, and the American people deserve to know the truth. The Justice Department’s failure to be forthcoming and cooperate with the Committee’s investigation is unacceptable. The Justice Department’s failure to fully comply with congressional subpoenas only prolongs the inquiry and damages the public’s trust in the Department’s leadership.
Just days later more news surfaced about “who knew” and “when they knew it.” William La Jeunesse of Fox News wrote a story that Fast and Furious was not only about BATFE’s illegal gun walking but that three other federal agencies were also complicit in knowing about it and not reporting it to the proper authorities. The Fox News piece quoted Tony Coulson, the Southern Arizona Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Agent-in-Charge, as saying, “The question we had among rank and file law enforcement was, ‘When is someone going to call ATF on this, when is someone going to tell them to stop?’” In addition to DEA, La Jeunesse’s story names Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI as key players in Fast and Furious. The FBI shielded their “informants” who were part of FBI’s investigation into Mexican cartels – the same cartels that BATFE were trying to capture by operation Fast and Furious.
The longer this fatally flawed operation plays out, the more Congress as well as independent investigators uncover. As of March 2012, Senator Grassley and Chairman Issa are still waiting for the “full” report from Attorney General Holder. Senator Grassley is appearing to lose his patience and has stated that the government’s report has taken “a long time to finish.”
After countless hearings and endless delays the American public is no closer to getting the truth from Attorney General Holder. There seem to be more and more government agencies involved and more and more stonewalling. The Obama administration needs to tell the American people the truth. However, we haven’t seen much truth about Fast and Furious in over 14 months since Agent Terry was murdered.
This article first appeared on Big Show Journal.
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