Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Drug-War Plan Goes Awry

Wall Street Journal

Frustrated ATF agents testify that their bureau's 'Operation Fast and Furious' let weapons get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

(Border Patrol Chaplain Mark A. Vander Lee pauses at the memorial service for slain agent Brian Terry on Jan. 21, in Tucson, Ariz.)

One of the frightening things about the U.S. government's war on drugs is that it is being waged by federal bureaucracies. The legend of Elliot Ness notwithstanding, this implies that it is not only fraught with ineptitude but that before it is all over, there are going to be a lot of avoidable deaths.

Witness "Operation Fast and Furious," a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms plan that allegedly facilitated the flow of high-powered weapons into Mexico in the hope that it might lead to the take-down of a major cartel. It did not. But it may have fueled a spike in the murder rate and led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

ATF agents are trained to tail buyers of multiple high-powered weapons and find out what they do with them. Fast and Furious broke with this practice, according to a 51-page joint staff report released Wednesday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa). It cites ATF agents who testified that the plan was to let the buyers disappear, to later recover the weapons at crime scenes, and then to use the serial numbers to identify where they came from. This was supposed to lead to the arrest of not only the Arizona "straw" buyer who had made the purchase for the capos, but to the bust of the big players in drug-trafficking organizations.

The ATF told me that it "can not comment on any of the allegations brought by the Issa-Grassley oversight committee" due to an ongoing investigation, and the Department of Justice did not return a request for comment. But as described in the report, the idea had two major flaws. First, it assumed that it didn't matter who got murdered with those weapons before they were recovered. Second, it was built on the theory that the operation could haul in the big fish. According to the report, the feds were wrong on both counts.

For the local gun merchants who cooperated with the feds and for some of the ATF agents in Arizona, the plan was dubious from the start. An estimated 2,000 of these guns disappeared over the 14-month period of Fast and Furious, and the agents who testified said that this contradicted everything they had learned about never letting a gun "walk"—that is, be taken by a suspicious purchaser without following him and finding out where it went.

One agent described his frustration: "Every day being out here watching a guy go into the same gun store buying another 15 or 20 AK-47s or variants or . . . five or tenDraco pistols or FN Five-seveNs . . . guys that don't have a job, and he is walking in here spending $27,000 for three Barrett .50 calibers . . . and you are sitting there every day and you can't do anything." Agents say that their concerns, expressed to supervisors, were rebuffed. There was even a threat of dismissal if they didn't get with the program.

At the same time, violence was spiking in Mexico. In an email dated April 2, 2010, the group's supervisor reported that in the month of March "our subjects" had purchased 359 firearms and that 958 people were killed in Mexico in drug violence. It was the bloodiest month since 2005 and included 11 policemen in the state of Sinaloa. As another agent interviewed for the staff report said: "We were all sick to death when we realized . . . what was going on or when we saw what was going on by the trends. We were all just, yes, we were all distraught."

Well, not all. The agents interviewed say supervisors viewed the bloodshed with chilling indifference—or worse. As the report summarizes, "An increase of crimes and deaths in Mexico caused an increase in the recovery of weapons at crime scenes. When these weapons traced back through the Suspect Gun Database to weapons that were walked under Fast and Furious, supervisors in Phoenix were giddy at the success of their operation."

Agents say that the loss of life and worries that the guns might eventually be used on U.S. personnel were not addressed because supervisors thought their plan was working. The "sentiment" from higher-ups, according to one agent's testimony, was "if you are going to make an omelet, you need to scramble some eggs." It was only when Agent Terry was murdered and two AK-47s that had "walked" were found at the scene, that the operation came under scrutiny. The ATF subsequently arrested a number of straw purchasers but none of those arrests involved "key players of a criminal syndicate," according to the report. For the record, an ATF official in the report says that the bureau never let guns "walk."

By any measure the 40-year-old war on drugs has been a failure. One unintended consequence is the financing that the sale of prohibited substances provides to gangsters who then buy guns. That's bad enough. But when the ATF puts making the big cartel bust above human life, it's a new low.


  1. Thanks it's been real, i love you but i just can't deal..with the stress this game is giving me... but before i go, u know i can't close the show without no closure so before i leave...

    god's watching. tell ur friends about this website, we must inform people/protect our homeland.


  2. Putting someone in prison for years for $20 worth of week or coke is the most idiotic fucking thing I have ever heard and those that have passed those laws should be on the fucking loony bin... You watch that show "COPS" and they bust people right and left for under $50 worth of dope and they act like they just busted "The French Connection" wasting millions of dollars in tax payer money... Its the most ass backwards bunch of bullshit I have ever seen!

  3. Oh ......are you all ATF folks sad about agent Terry killed by the guns you all let go into Mexico, what about the thousands of innocent men, women and children in Mexico who have died? You ATF are as corrupt as they come. Guilty by assosiation for all ATF that knew about this stupid operation, and did not report it because at the time were afraid of being fired for dissobeying orders. This also sounds like the KKK has made it to the top of the justice system in the US of A. There is nothing more gratifying for racists like the KKK to see mexicans(any people of color) kill each other. Think about it!!!!!!!

  4. It's ridiculous to call the ATF racists. So many of the agents are Hispanic! And they do have to do what they're told, like the military. They are highly trained to obey, and they take oaths, don't they? These agents don't want regular ol' folks here or in Mexico to die. I think it's good they have come forward as fast as they have, considering how recent all this was. Don't be irresponsible with your KKK accusations about the ATF!
    Why don't you do something constructive instead of slandering the ATF?

  5. You are full of crap 3:47. They were ratted out. This was a bid deal in the ATF and it went to the top--the Attorney General's office--see previous report. The difference in US and MX is that this corruption was discovered and displayed publicly. These congressional hearings will lead to prosecutions or some type of consequences.

    The reporter is right, this is a 'new low' in the war on drugs and something must be done to change the status quo.

  6. Fuck you ATF & NRA you Fucks have the blood of Brian Terry in your hands.

  7. Well, you see, violence was spiking but it was brown people on the receiving end. That is why they told them to sit on their thumbs. As soon as anglo people started getting shot with the same weapons, the whole of the BATF had a cow. Hypocrite , racist motherfukers!

  8. "if you are going to make an omelet, you need to scramble some eggs." It was only when Agent Terry was murdered and two AK-47s that had "walked" were found at the scene, that the operation came under scrutiny."

    Is this kind of thinking warped or what ? It only became important when the eggs from the wrong carton were broken ? What about the thousands of innocent civilians in Mexico ? They don't matter because they're brown ? This is so sick on so many levels. The families of the killed agents have the recourse of suing the Feds over this but the poor people in the midst of this carnage, who can they turn to ?

  9. The US gun operation wasn't to see where the guns went. It was a deliberate attempt to besmirch the US gun industry and US gun owners, for the purpose of enacting stricter laws in the US. Hegelian Dialectic. Marxist. Totalitarian.

  10. There is nothing good about the BATFE (ATF) and there never has been. The BATFE is a criminal organization working to make the people of the united states like the scared disarmed people of Mexico. The BATFE works to make the Amerian men and women and children to be unable to fight against criminals and unable to stand up against a criminal government.

  11. The reality is that there were roughly 3300 guns "walked" from the Phoenix ATF office it two operations. The first, "Wide Receiver" actually had GPS positioning gear installed in the walked guns. WR failed because of short battery life. In the second, "Fast and Furious," the only effort was to get guns in the field that could be shown to come from the US. The object was to flood Mexico with traceable guns, in order to stop gun sales in the US. There is every reason to suspect the "higher up" who ordered those guns walked is none other than Barack H. Obama. The timing, the MO, and the Committee testimony all point that way.

    As does the fact that the Houston ATF office "walked" far more guns than the Phoenix office. Obviously, "someone must pay."

    That someone will be Acting ATF Director Ken Melson. Who will have a can tied to his tail later this week. But the guilty must be rooted out and punished.

  12. For the person who did not appreciate my mention of the KKK. Read what was written carefully! Do not mix up the issue. As far as the KKK , well when sued many years ago and losing many millions of dollars of properties and cash, the KKK vowed to get back by educating their young and encouraging their young to seek positions in government. My belief is the KKK has operatives in high places within the US Justice system. Why would this be ridiculous? History has taught us that anything is possible. Going back to the ATF, the only reason the public knows about operation fast and furious is because John Dodson became a whistle blower, his concious told him to tell the world of the wrongs and risk his job and life by doing what is right. Now this was only after and I quote "My worst nightmare to see one of our own getting killed by one of these weapons. As that thought became a reality the rest is history. Now to the comment of doing somthing constructive, I believe that finding the truth is constructive and somtimes you have to scramble some eggs to get an omelet. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Oh yeah by the way, fuck you :) Get Real, believe that the truth shall overcome : God Bless America / Viva Mexico

  13. Anonymous 9:43 is telling the truth.

  14. So know the ATF feels saddened huh? They knew what they were doing from the get go when obama or holder allowed them to go through with their plan. They told the gun store owners they were cooperating with the feds and that it would work out, well when Agent terry was killed the ATF threw the innocent gun store owners under the bus. ATF destroyed the lives of the owners of those small businesses.

  15. Get a grip people and stop coming up with bullshit excuses for the actions of Mexican drug cartels. No doubt the ATF committed an inexcusable act of criminal negligence, with "Operation Fast and Furious." But if you think for one minute the events (murders) that transpired at the hands of sicarios were only made possible by the guns involved in operation "F&F," your very naive and ignorant!

  16. @ the character who wrote "It was a deliberate attempt to besmirch the US gun industry and US gun owners ... Marxist Totalitarian."

    There's a lot of trash-talk on this site, but this takes the cake! What perverse logic!

    Only a fool or shill for the NRA/arms industry would deny that US weapons have been fueling the narcos. The evidence is undeniable.

    This action turned-out to be a disaster - and the risks were so great that it shouldn't have been executed. But to suggest that it was part of a larger conspiracy against the NRA and gun industry (!?!?) just demonstrates how loony the lunatic '2nd amendment' fringe has become.

    Drugs go north and weapons go south. It's a fact of life. Denying it doesn't make it false.

  17. Keystone cops in a clown car. Why not recover guns at crime scenes and trace them back to straw purchasers anyway? Coneheads de atiro!!


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