Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

ATF Mexico attache: "The ATF armed the Sinaloa cartel. It's disgusting."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 |

How Mexican killers got US guns from 'Fast and Furious' operation
The Christian Science Monitor
By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / July 26, 2011
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0726/How-Mexican-killers-got-US-guns-from-Fast-and-Furious-operation

US officials thought they would catch Mexican criminals in a bold gun-running sting called 'Fast and Furious.' Instead, they inadvertently armed drug cartels as the operation spiraled out of control, a congressional report finds.

Witnesses are sworn in at a hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on 'Operation Fast and Furious: The Other Side of the Border,' on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday.
Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS



Atlanta

On May 29, Mexican federal police in four helicopters attacked a drug cartel in a mountain redoubt. They were rebuffed by heavy fire, including from a massive .50 caliber rifle.

A bullet hole left in one helicopter's plate glass window is one exhibit in an exhaustive House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report released Tuesday showing the breadth of a high-stakes, unprecedented, and, ultimately, ill-advised US scheme called "Operation Fast and Furious."

The .50 caliber bullet hole, the report says, likely came from a gun trafficked via Fast and Furious, an operation to allow nearly 2,000 arms to leave US gunshops via certain traffickers who the US government had identified and thought it could track. The idea was to trace these "straw buyers" to key cartel figures in an attempt to score major gun busts to prove the US was serious about stopping arms trafficking across the border.

Instead, the report alleges that the operation – which one US official has called "a perfect storm of idiocy" – likely allowed hundreds of powerful guns to cross into Mexico, possibly changing the outcome of cartel battles with Mexican police, leading to the deaths of many Mexicans and one federal agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and damaging diplomatic relations between the US and Mexico.

The Fast and Furious scandal is still playing out, with hearings in the House Oversight Committee Tuesday. Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California says he is intent on finding out how high in the Obama administration knowledge of the operation went.

The report, "Fueling Cartel Violence," backs reports that leaders in the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) were aware of the operation. But it also names several key Department of Justice officials, such as Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, as "clearly" being aware of the operation – a charge that the Obama administration denies.

According to whistleblowers and key witnesses, however, the real lesson behind Fast and Furious, a two-year operation that ended in January 2011, is how "groupthink" clouded decision-making at the highest levels of government, causing an agency to go against its basic instincts – which is to not allow arms to be trafficked illegally – and consequently contribute, not detract, from border violence.

"These guns weren't going for a positive cause, they were going for a negative cause," ATF attaché Carlos Canino told the congressional oversight committee. "The ATF armed the [Sinaloa] cartel. It's disgusting."

Despite repeated pushback from some agents and the attaché office in Mexico City, ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson assessed it as "a good operation," the report says. According to witnesses, Assistant Attorney General Breuer appeared to cite Fast and Furious in meetings with Mexican officials, saying the US had a major gun-interdiction effort underway out of Phoenix, the report adds.

Where the guns went

The plan was to trace the guns through straw buyers to major cartels, to then build cases and make arrests. But early on, it became evident that tracking the guns had become a problem and that hundreds had made their way across the border and disappeared into cartel gun caches. According to the report, Fast and Furious guns made their way to three prominent Mexican cartels: Sinaloa, El Teo and La Familia.

Those within ATF who raised concerns about the fundamental flaw in the strategy were rebuffed or simply kept in the dark, Daniel Kumor, the ATF's international affairs chief, told congressional investigators.

At least one witness cited in the report contended knowledge of the tactics in Fast and Furious was widespread in ATF and Justice: "It was common knowledge that they were going down there to be crime guns."

The report names main Justice Department trial attorney Joe Cooley as saying the movement of vast numbers of guns to Mexico was "an acceptable practice." Mr. Cooley was Breuer's main contact with Fast and Furious, according to the report.

The Justice Department has maintained that it never knowingly allowed guns to "walk" to Mexico.

In the report, at least one higher-up fought back against accusations that field officers and ATF attachés in Mexico were raising concerns about the program. Asked if his reports raised concerns about the operation, Bill McMahon, deputy field operations director for ATF, told Congress: "Not that I can remember."

So far, nobody at the Justice Department has publicly acknowledged a role in the case, and President Obama has said neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder knew anything about it until the story broke after the murder of Brian Terry in a Sonora, Ariz., gun battle in December 2010. President Obama has ordered the Justice Department inspector general to investigate.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department fought back against the report's characterizations of Breuer's involvement.

"The Committee’s report promotes unsubstantiated theories by selectively releasing excerpts of transcripts while ignoring testimony and other information," writes spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler in an e-mail. "For whatever reason, the leadership of the Committee chose not to release witness testimony that makes clear that operational details relating to this investigation were unknown to senior Department of Justice officials."

In previous testimony, Acting Director Melson, said the strategy was not "intended to allow the guns to go to suspected straw purchasers without any good faith belief that you could recover those weapons."

But he also suggested that the field agents had wide latitude. The agents, not the supervisors, "do the tactical stuff," Melson said. ATF Acting Deputy Director William Hoover added in his testimony that there was no reason for Justice officials to be aware of the tactics, "because I certainly didn't brief them on the techniques being employed in Fast and Furious."

International fallout

The fallout from the operation has taken its toll on lives and diplomatic relations, say congressional investigators.

In October, 2010, cartel members kidnapped Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, the brother of Chihuahua Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez Rodriguez. A few days later, police found Mr. Rodriguez's body in a shallow grave. Shortly thereafter, police engaged cartel members in a gun fight, from which several guns were recovered. Two were traced to Operation Fast and Furious.

When Mr. Canino confronted other ATF officials about the need to inform the Mexican government about the link, he says he got "zero instructions," and that "every time I mentioned it, guys started looking at their cellphones, silence in the room."

Eight months after the murder, Canino finally told Mexican Attorney General Maricela Morales about the link. "Hijole" (oh my), she said.

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25 Borderland Beat Comments:

Sinaloa777 said...

So what type of guns are we dealing any details? We already know about ak 47s. shit i know the atf is full of bullshit proably would give them a couple hundread m240s,m4 carbines, m16s, 50 cal machine guns, mortar rounds, rpgs, greandes, flash bangs, black tactical gear and tons of ammo ..

ATF = Assholes Terrorizing Families

Anonymous said...

That was a stupid plan anyway, I doubt that they would have traced them to where they were going, and so what it wouldn't have made a difference in anything.
Feds can be so lame at times.

Anonymous said...

Kind of reminds me of the iran-contra affair from the 80's

Anonymous said...

Christian Science Moniter? Really? Lol! What's next articles from the 700 club?

Anonymous said...

ATF... What a bunch of dumb asses. lol! Even the num nut whistleblowers are a bunch of coward ass ponks. What a joke! lol!!!

Anonymous said...

Despite repeated pushback from some agents and the attaché office in Mexico City, ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson assessed it as "a good operation,"

?

Anonymous said...

It was the ATF, but Obama's Justice Department run by Eric Holder gave the authorization to do this. The ATF has never purposely allowed straw purchasers to walk guns like this. Operation Fast and Furious is the 1st time. It was done for political reasons to create murder and mayhem so that new gun legislation could be passed. Obama and Holder thought that only Mexicans would get killed, but one of the guns ended up killing a US border patrol agent. That is when the scandal was exposed. How ironic that 75% of U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage voted for this corrupt administration.

eternalcode said...

The ATF has always been and always will be a crime syndicate. Some of its actors have been showing anger or sorrow regarding "fast and furious". It is "theater of the obsurd".

The ATF criminals will be rewared for their crimes by the criminals running the US. The savage mexican drug cartels will be rewarded for their crimes by the criminals running the US.

Anonymous said...

@10:46 (7/26) -

Your ignorance is showing. The CS Monitor is an international newspaper with a century of evenhanded reporting and the least amount of spin in the print media. Religious rag, it ain't.

Anonymous said...

Time to bring back the ban on assault weapons.

Anonymous said...

Scary and nauseating at the same time - that describes these and so many other comments on BB articles.

Oh nothing wrong with BB. They're still posting great narco news in English. But, whoever has to review comments must have a highly developed sense of humor or a good supply of valium. This is a good news article that no one in the first 10 comments seems to understand AT ALL. Frightening and sickening.

Lets review: 8:47 is a weapons expert with a flair for clever acronyms. 10:43 is reminded of iran-contra. Why?? 10:46 thinks the CS Monitor is a religious rag. 12:16 thinks it's all really funny. 6:53 doesn't understand. 7:51 is a conspiracy fan with an appreciation of the ironic. 8:02 is another conspiracy theorist with a global view i.e. criminals run everything. And finally, 10:48 wants to pass a law. Yes of course. We'll ban assault weapons, everyone will obey, problem solved.

Keep up the very good work BB. You are appreciated.

eternalcode said...

Anonymous @ 10:48

All you did was list a bunch of cliches and try to insult people. What kind of comment is that? Stop and think for a moment.

The US constitution is the supreme law of the land. It grants only a few rights to the federal government and limits it from doing anything else. The rules are written by the american people and written for the federal government.

When the federal government and its agencies violate the constitution they are commiting crimes against the american people. It's that simple. When members of the federal government and its agencies agree together to violate the constitution they conspire to commit crimes against the american people.

There is no theory involved. Just a few simple facts and the criminal history of the ATF.

Anonymous said...

Obama's plan to give guns to Mexican drug-gangs serves several purposes. The first one is so the violence will escalate and then he can use that as an excuse to ban or restrict guns for Americans. Secondly, it helps create more crime and problems in the USA and Mexico so the government will be asked to crack down on civil rights and be allowed to take in more taxes so that can fight the crime.

Anonymous said...

The ATF was to be disbanded after the fiasco in Waco. Do they need more proof? It will be another slap on the wrist and carry on.

Anonymous said...

Yeah yeah YeaH.... Obama also caused the holocaust. What a bunch of extreme right wing idiots! Go get educated dummies and stop worrying about owning guns idiots.

Anonymous said...

Obama es en pendejo baboso que nunca supo las perdidas en vidas humanas que que causo "fast and furious".

I am sure that Obama knew about this right along with DOJ E. Holder. I hope they end up in jail once the truth comes out. I have never believed Obama ever since he was a a senator here in IL, and I won't start believing him now.

@2:33pm
What does owning firearm have to do with education? I live in a big city and go shooting with guys who are doctors and lawyers. Are these guys uneducated? Maybe you should have someone take you to the range one day so you can see the real purpose of guns and not the bullshit the liberal media feeds you.

Rich said...

If you want to run a righteous sting operation, you track a handful of weapons, maybe a dozen, and you do it in complete cooperation with the Mexican government. Even that is extremely risky, since you're putting weapons in the hands of the enemy. The Justice Department allowed between 1,700 and 2,000 weapons to go to the cartels, including .50 caliber sniper rifles while keeping the Mexican government in the dark. If this is the way this operation went down, Mexico should consider this as an act of war against its sovereignty, and seek criminal indictments against the US officials responsible for this atrocity.

LuciferKilla said...

So the weapons made they're way to Sinaloa, Michoacan, and it says el Teo so does that mean to Tijuana where he originated or back to Sinaloa where he defected to?

Anonymous said...

@ 10:48 a.m
Your the kind of idiot that deserves to have your head bashed in with a bat, Then uour family can clamor about how we need to ban all bats from the world. This idea was the brainchild of the constitution haters, The same ones who only claim the constitution when it fits their perverse and perverted idea to marry the same sex, this plot exposes that they weren't even trying to track the atf and fbi weapons. Other posters have said it right, the ploy was to flood mexico with rifles to then "step in" and fix the problem that the corrupt government agencies created. Their fix would be to take away gun ownership rights that the constitution gives us.

Anonymous said...

The 2,000 guns that got by is probably 10,000 or more, trying to play down their fuck up because they got caught. The USA knows exactly what they're doing its no mistake that all those guns got thru. Putting this front "Fast & furious" months ahead just in case something like this happens, Oh it was just a sting we've been working on. Really? Selling guns by the bulk in border towns. What a great plan specially in a time when Mexico is at war. Seems like they just wanted to make their neighbor look even weaker by playing both sides. Will give you this billion's of dollars to help you with the war, but will sell this guns to the narco's just to make thing's interesting. They got a bigger agenda in the works taking this little steps to get to the big picture.

el pipiri

Anonymous said...

What does owning firearm have to do with education? I live in a big city and go shooting with guys who are doctors and lawyers. Are these guys uneducated? Maybe you should have someone take you to the range one day so you can see the real purpose of guns and not the bullshit the liberal media feeds you.
July 27, 2011 3:34 PM

Cause thats as much information his brain will allow him to store in. He has watched too many movies and liberal media propaganda. So of course he's going to think that the only people with guns are redneck inbreds, or that out right gun bans will solve everything, just like if you make dying illegal people will follow that law lmao. Fellow gun owner here getting his bachelor degree in business. And to totally mindfuck with him, I'm also a mexican-american according to them, but in my reality, I'm an American born and raised. Long live the Bill of Rights.

Anonymous said...

Power,weapons,drugs,oil,money...Plastic people you are just blind,slaves who crawl at the hands of banks,big corporations(weapons,oil,drugs...etc)governments,all the worst criminals,killers,thief,corrupt in the world!!

Anonymous said...

--@ July 28/ 9:35pm... Buddy you seriously need some real education, Be yourself and stop trying to be something you Not.. Also believe what you say and say what you believe, don't do the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Dilbert style supervisors and chiefs devise these non-sensible plans. It the classic 'kings wearing invisible clothing' and all the buttkissing midlevel dolts compliment them on their fashion sense. When a bunch of college boys try to combat street level players and good ol' Mexican country boys, they should include some seasoned patrolmen on their team. Since no one can stand up and accept blame, ax the ones who should have known. I saw this retarded mentality in Iraq where we risked our lives to bring in the bad guys. The leadership would corral them within sight of our AO and then send them up without any documentation. They would then be released with knowledge of our every move and locations and layouts. Brilliant! I advocated having a couple of E-4's with voting power at every command and staff meeting.

Anonymous said...

@July /2:16pm...Buddy you seriously need some real good high education,be yourself and stop trying to be a jerk you Not...Also believe what you think and think what you believe,don`t do the opposite if you want to be good citizenship!

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