One of the big questions police ask when trying to solve a crime is who does the crime benefit? Does it benefit the victims of the lawyer who just scammed his clients? Or the scorned wife the one who killed the mistress? Very important question to ask.
I ask this question because Operation Fast&Furious has been touted by administration officials to have the objective of tracing guns sold in the US to higher ups in various Mexican criminal gangs. That is the alleged benefit Fast&Furious bestowed upon US law enforcement. What has been document proves how untrue this statement is.
Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley's investigation has shown agents of the US federal government have allowed known felons to purchase multiple weapons. This is federal law that all FFL[Federal Firearms Licensees] are bound by if they want to sell guns, they will perform background checks on all who try to purchase weapons and if the person has a felony record then the sale is denied. To violate this law results in the FFL owner being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law with a good chance to serve time. And it seems Fast and Furious short circuited this safety feature.
In violation of standard ATF procedures, many guns - including AK-47 clones, AR-15 clones, .50cal sniper rifles, pistols, and other firearms - that were part of this operation were allowed to cross the border into Mexico and arm drug cartels. Acting ATF station chief Mexico City Camino testified to reading part of the management log for Fast&Furious, on three separate occasions agents walked away from houses that stashed the suspect guns.
The ATF personnel in Mexico were deliberately kept in the dark about the full scope of Operation Fast&Furious. ATF Attache Darren Gil and his assistant Carlos Camino noticed a spike in seized arms that traced back to the Phoenix ATF office op called Fast&Furious. It has emerged that when ATF Mexico would run recovered gun serial numbers through e-Trace, if it was a Fast&Furious gun they would get zero information back. When the Mexican authorities ran serial numbers through e-Trace, they also got zero information if the weapon was connected to Fast&Furious. It turns out the agents managing Fast&Furious were telling the e-Trace people to not divulge information. Meanwhile Gil and Camino were voicing their concerns to Washington DC repeatedly and getting no substantive answer. In fact they were under the impression Fast&Furious was an op aimed at arresting FFL holders selling weapons illegally. When Gil asked for permission to pass information relating to these guns to Mexican officials, he was not allowed even though he had only an incomplete understanding. After the murder of Mario Gonzales Rodriguez at the hands of a drug cartel, Camino briefed Mario's sister and former Attorney General of Chihuahua of the Fast&Furious connection. What is telling is Camino told her out of a sense of duty, he wanted her to know the truth before the media told the world and he did it in spite of official silence from Washington DC.
Not only was ATF Mexico kept out of the information loop, parts of the ATF in Washington DC was also. Specifically the Office of Strategic Information and Intelligence[OSII]. Steve Martin of OSII has testified he conducted briefings where Fast&Furious was brought up. The large number of guns being found in Mexico that traced back to this operation was briefed. And he has also testified that OSII recommendations were ignored. Eventually OSII stopped bringing Fast&Furious up at briefings because they felt it had been covered and nothing was being done.
So in Mexico we had Darren Gil and Carlos Camino asking about when Fast&Furious was going to be shut down since they thought it was an FFL case. Steve Martin and others in OSII were asking about Fast&Furious. Southwest border czar Ray Crowley was asking what would be done. International Affairs Chief Daniel Kumor was also asking when Fast&Furious would be shut down. All were told Fast&Furious would be shut down soon, this was mid-2010. In fact Fast&Furious would not be shut down and any arrests made until the end of January 2011 and after the murder of agent Brian Terry in December 2010 at the hands of cartel members armed with Fast&Furious weapons.
If Fast&Furious had truly been aimed at tracing weapons further up the food chain than mere straw buyers, wouldn't it be advisable to tell Gil and Camino about it so they could brief the US Ambassador and their Mexican counterparts? Instead Mexico ATF was kept in the dark. So when Mexican forces, during the course of normal raids, turned up Fast&Furious weapons they had no idea what was going on. And when Fast&Furious case officers told e-Trace not to report weapon information to the Mexican government or to Mexico ATF, it further served to hide what the true scope of Fast&Furious was.
This darkness that cloaked this operation is very troubling. If this was truly such a straight forward operation to arrest illegal gun buyers then why was all the behind the scene manipulations allowed that stymied what should have been key players the knowledge they needed to assist the operation? What is emerging is a poorly thought out mission where no thought was given to unforeseen consequences.
Besides Mario and Brian, how many other people will die at the hands of weapons Fast&Furious let slip? The true total will not be known for years since over a thousand Fast&Furious weapons are still unaccounted for. And for every death these weapons cause, ATF Agents Terry English and Hope McAllister, who managed Fast&Furious, should be charged as accessories to murder. Same charge should be brought against anyone who knowingly assisted them or allowed Fast&Furious to continue even as the death toll in Mexico mounted. This corruption, this malfeasance, this violating of laws needs to be rooted out thoroughly - to prove our justice system still works and to assure our ally in the drug war Mexico that the United States is still trustworthy.