According to FactCheck.org, that 90% statistic is highly inflated because it “represents only the percentage of crime guns that have been submitted by Mexican officials and traced by U.S. officials.” Mexico actually recovers many more guns than it submits to the U.S. In December 2008, Mexican Attorney General Eduadro Medina Mora put the number of the country’s recovered crime weapons over the preceding two years at 29,000. Assuming that the total reported 10,347 guns seized and given to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing by Mexican authorities during 2007 and 2008 is an accurate number, only about 36% of all recovered crime weapons in Mexico came from U.S. sources.
Still, that exaggerated 90% figure continued to be touted as gospel by gun control advocates. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in March 26, 2009 on CBS’s Early Show: “We have to recognize and accept that the demand for drugs from the United States drives them north, and [of] the guns that are used by the drug cartels against the police and the military, 90% come from America.”
During a March 17, 2009, Congressional hearing on the subject, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said: “According to ATF, more than 90% of the guns seized after raids in Mexico have been traced right here to the United States.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) chimed in, adding: “It is unacceptable to have 90% of the guns that are picked up in Mexico used to shoot judges, police officers, mayors, kidnap innocent people and do terrible things come from the United States, and I think we must stop that.”
There was no doubt at all about whom they intended to stop. The targeted culprits were those border state gun shops.
A friend of mine who owns a gun store in Houston raises an important question: “Why would anyone pay $500-$1,000 in the U.S. for semi-automatic rifles (legal civilian weapons that fire only one time with each trigger squeeze), when they can get original fully automatic military versions (that fire continuously when the trigger is held back) on the black market from other countries for $75-$100? They are readily available in Africa for $25. In fact nearly all U.S. firearms dealers had been voluntarily cooperating with ATF all along, routinely and immediately reporting suspicious multiple purchases.”
Evidence that something was alarmingly amiss rapidly came to light last year after federal agents posted in Mexico City called their superiors in Washington and Phoenix to inform them that a large number of guns showing up at Mexican crime scenes were being traced to Phoenix. They requested any available information on the matter, and received no responses. Growing suspicious, they urged that any gun operation that others might be running be shut down due to mounting violence.
As quoted in a recent Joint Staff Report released in connection with a current House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigation, former ATF attaché to Mexico, Darren Gill, had told his superior: “Hey, when are they going to shut this, to put it bluntly, damn investigation down? We’re getting hurt down here.”
Gill was referring to “Fast and Furious”, a 15-month ATF operation that began in fall 2009. Under a Phoenix Field Division plan funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and backed by Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, agents watched and documented known (or ATF-sponsored) “straw purchasers” to see where the guns would eventually end up. Using an investigative technique known as “gunwalking,” rather than intervening and seizing illegally purchased firearms, they allowed the straw purchasers to walk away with guns over and over again. Included were two convicted felons who were permitted to move more than 300 guns into Mexico.
According to a Fox News report, gun stores were assured by the ATF and U.S. attorneys that the weapons would be tracked. But most weren’t. Many walked into the hands of Mexican drug cartels and other criminals. Of 2,020 firearms bought by the straw purchasers, fewer than 600 have been located. About 200 have been recovered in Mexico, and slightly less than 400 have been recovered in the U.S.
Remarkably, neither the ATF or DOJ shared information about this activity with their own employees in Mexico or with Mexican officials. Responding to a Congressional inquiry, acting Mexico attaché Carlos Canino told investigators “This is the perfect storm of idiocy. Never in my wildest dreams ever would I have thought this was a technique. Never. Ever. It is inconceivable to me.”
Two Fast and Furious weapons were recovered at the location of Sinaloa drug cartel members who allegedly kidnapped and killed the brother of Mexico’s attorney general, Mario Gonzales Rodriguez in November 2010. Two of the walking guns were also found at the Arizona murder scene of U.S. border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry. Two days after Terry’s death in a gunfight on December 14 of last year the ATF reportedly closed ranks. A February 3 e-mail instructed supervisors “…you are in no way obligated to respond to Congressional contacts or requests for information…You are not authorized to disclose non-public information about law enforcement matters outside of ATF or the Department of Justice to anyone, including Congressional staff.”
How high up the chain of command does responsibility for this gunwalking fiasco and cover-up reach? That’s a key question that ongoing investigations of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform seek to answer.
William Newell, former ATF Special Agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Division has been queried about his close relationship with Kevin O’Reilly, Director of North American Affairs of the National Security Council, and why, as stated in an e-mail to him with the caveat “You didn’t get this from me”, he wanted his friend O’Reilly to keep his name secret as a source of disclosure about an ATF investigation that allowed guns to “walk” to Mexican cartel criminals. This is of special interest because the NSC conducts its meetings in the White House Situation Room. The NSC’s advisor is responsible for providing the president and other NSC members, including the secretary of defense and secretary of state, with regular updates pertaining to all aspects of national security.
The New York Post has reported that the ATF’s acting director, Kenneth Melson, has been “singing like a canary” as he pushes back against Obama administration pressure to resign and take the fall for something that had to include the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and possibly the Homeland Security Department.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight Committee chairman, Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused the Justice Department of blocking their investigation into the scandal. It stated: “The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaged in such activities.”
Representative Issa is certain that most top Justice Department officials knew about the Fast and Furious operation. He has also stated, regarding Holder, that either “He knew, and he’s lied to Congress, or he didn’t know, and he’s so detached that he wasn’t doing his job.”
A July 27 Investor’s Business Daily editorial asserts that while Attorney General Holder and President Obama have disavowed any knowledge of the ATF actions, Holder told the House Judiciary Committee in May that he had first been informed about the operation “in the last few weeks”. Yet the publication has documented that Holder himself had boasted about the program to Mexican officials in Cuernavaca, Mexico on April 2, 2009, telling a very different story. He told the audience: “Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner.”
President Obama told reporters at a July 29 press conference: “As you know, my attorney general has made clear he certainly would not have ordered gun-running to pass through Mexico.” However, a video shows former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden telling reporters at a DOJ briefing of steps to expand Gunrunner “as part of the administration’s comprehensive plan” and as the “President has directed us.”
Now the really big question…what, if anything, did President Obama know about all of this? Might the Fast and Furious matter possibly have any connection to a remark he made to gun control advocate Sarah Brady last March as quoted in the New York Post that:”I just want you to know we are working on it…We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.”
Regardless of that answer, never doubt that Operation Fast and Furious represented an ideological and reckless rush to judgment in attacking private gun sales, only contributing to violent circumstances.