Botched ATF Gun Operation Turned Tragic

The 2009 undercover operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious” conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was so badly botched that both Congress and the Administration must take serious steps to insure such a tragedy never again occurs. Thus far, no one seems prepared to seriously address the problem.

The operation was not unlike other investigations conducted by ATF with the cooperation of FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee) retailers, designed to stem the flow of weapons into Mexico. However, instead of immediately arresting suspected straw purchasers, ATF allowed them to walk across the border hoping they would lead agents to cartel kingpins.

This strategy so concerned a number of ATF agents, that they took the unusual step of raising objections within the agency. They were assured the firearms were being properly tracked; in fact, they weren’t. ATF allowed some 2,000 weapons to be sold during the operation, including more than 360 guns to a pair of convicted felons.

The results of Operation Fast and Furious (dubbed by critics, “Operation Gun Walker”) were sadly predictable. The weapons ended up in the hands of some of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels; who use the weapons to gun down rivals, police, government officials, and random citizens.

According to a report released last week by House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), high-powered guns and other munitions connected to the ATF’s Phoenix office, out of which the operation was run, began turning up at crime scenes in Mexico. ATF officials in Mexico were blindsided by the discoveries.

Carlos Canino, acting ATF Attaché to Mexico, has been particularly outspoken about the operation, calling it a “perfect storm of idiocy.” Canino’s concern is well-founded. In December, Brian Terry, a Border Patrol Agent, was shot and killed during an incident near the Arizona-Mexico border. Two of the guns found at the scene were connected to Operation Fast and Furious.

Thus far, no one in Washington has admitted that the disastrous consequences of this operation were the government’s fault. However, there are steps that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder can and should take, to assure the American people such problems will not recur.

First, the Attorney General and the President need to work with Republicans in the Senate to agree on a nominee to head the ATF. The Agency has not had an administrator confirmed by the Senate since a federal law made this post subject to confirmation in 2006. A federal agency – particularly one with law enforcement powers – operating with an “acting” director for any length of time, is an agency in which bad decisions and serious accidents are perpetually just waiting to happen; and often do.

Obama should not insist on sending forward names of possible directors completely unacceptable to 2nd Amendment advocates. Similarly, pro-gun Senators and outside advocates should resist demanding a director 100% in synch with all their views. There are many highly qualified men and women who would fit into such an acceptable group; but it must not be someone connected in any way with this operation.

Second, this mess offers the Attorney General an opportunity to clarify the circumstances and rules under which the ATF is permitted to conduct undercover operations with FFLs; implementing tighter controls and providing clearer assurances to the retailers. Holder should seize the opportunity.

Finally, Holder should make clear – publicly – he is directing the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation of Operation Fast and Furious, and that he will let the chips fall where they may; even if it means heads will roll.

Damage already done cannot be undone. But if these steps are taken, some good can yet come out of this tragic blunder.

by Bob Barr — The Barr Code

82 comments Add your comment

Kennesaw Dave

August 1st, 2011
6:06 pm

ATF just needs to be disolved completely. Just turn the responsibility over the FBI, DEA and be done with it. Hell, with all this talk about lowing our deficit anyway, that seems to be a good place to start.

Bob Trent

August 1st, 2011
7:27 pm

What about Special Agent Jaime Zapata, ICE/HSI (Deceased) who was chased down in Mexico by cartel members in a U.S. Embassy vehicle and shot to death with a gun from Operation Gun Runner, out of a Texas gun store. The purchase of the murder weapon was authorized by BATFE and a registered informant of BATFE carried the weapon into Mexico.

Zapata’s partner was wounded in the incident.

Several of the gun store owners had previously complained to BATFE that they suspected the guns were being purchased by straw buyers and being taken to the Mexican cartels. The BATFE advised the store owners to sell the weapons anyway, so they could make arrests. The BATFE never told the store owners they were letting the guns WALK.

Forty three of these guns have been found in Phoenix in April 2011, by DEA agents executing a single search warrant.

This is colossal and should bring down mucho, including many at DOJ and quite possibly DHS.

Some of the straw purchasers were registered informants of DEA and the FBI. This was discovered through BATFE wire taps.

There was an ICE agent assigned directly to Fast & Furious from the beginning, and ICE agents write reports for their chain of command (DHS).

PatHenry52

August 1st, 2011
8:26 pm

caslos — I fully appreciate gov’t extravagance and incompetence. A great man once said it was one of the bright spots we have – could you imagine how miserable we’d all be if we were getting all the gov’t we’re paying for!…

Great, this bunch is a total bunch of dufuses and jack-wagons, but remember that Germany had similarly incompetent leadership in the 20’s… the guy that followed however took all the power that the “nouveau nobles” accumulated, then put it to vicious and effective use.
So I will keep my collection of tools, safely secured and stored like any other power tool (chainsaws are far more dangerous, imo) and hope you are right. If so, great, then so what? I had it and didn’t need it.. fine with me.
However, god forbid I ever need it – you can be dangleberry sure that I will have it.

After all, what do you care what hobbies I am into? I won’t harrass you about all your widgets, please stop worrying that I have mine because unless you’re a criminal coming right at me, you’ll never be affected in the least!

-PH

PatHenry52

August 1st, 2011
8:41 pm

Caslos, You want 5-10 instances of gov’t confiscation of weapons -

At least 5-10 during Hurricane Katrina alone…

I consider the notion that some “classes” of citizens are “prohibited” to be a sort of confiscation as well. If you got busted for pot when you were 20, you can’t be a civilian and buy a gun under the unconstitution (aka Federal regulations) but you CAN be a secret service agent and have one assigned to you… I’m not kidding, look it up.

Chafoxy

August 1st, 2011
9:03 pm

“Similarly, pro-gun Senators and outside advocates should resist demanding a director 100% in synch with all their views.”

OK Bob I gotta throw a flag on that one. Why shouldn’t the ATF head support the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms and the rights of law abiding citizens to defend themselves? The Dems won’t hesitate to nominate a hard core gun hating idealogue for the position, but you would deny us the right to have someone who’s an equally hard core forearms supporter? I think you favor making gratuitous concessions to the opposition because you think it’s fair, or it’s a nice thing to do. Neville Chamberlain already tried the appeasement thing, didn’t work then and won’t work now.

Cylar

August 1st, 2011
9:59 pm

The story I heard was that when the ATF tried to storm the Branch Davidian compound, it did so by driving a tank through the structure’s wooden walls. As it did so, gas lines were ruptured, a spark set off the gas, and the entire building was engulfed in flame. As criminally incompetent and inept as then-Att’y Gen Reno’s DOJ was, even I find it difficult to believe our government intentionally set out to charbroil all those people.

I suspect the fire was accidental, and that the DOJ had in mind to bring the standoff to a quick end by arresting everyone inside and putting Koresh in jail for his alleged acts. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by mere incompetence. The incident was a huge embarrassment and I noticed that the gov’t has been much more reluctant to resort to such tactics since then.

MY VICE

The agent who shot Weaver’s wife and committed the other acts you describe, was named Ron Horiuchi. I believe he did do some jail time for his actions, albeit several years after the fact. Granted, it was far too light a punishment for a man who shot an unarmed woman in the face (as she held a baby in her arms, no less), and granted Reno herself should have gone to jail over the incidents taking place in her DOJ, but the cause of justice was thrown a small bone, at least.

Then of course, there is the Elian Gonzales incident…but at least nobody died that time.

Cylar

August 1st, 2011
10:08 pm

Oops. “LON” Horiuchi, not Ron. From Wikipedia:

“In 1997, Boundary County, Idaho Prosecutor Denise Woodbury, with the help of special prosecutor Stephen Yagman, charged Horiuchi in state court with involuntary manslaughter over his killing of Vicki Weaver. The U.S. Attorney filed a notice of removal of the case to federal court, which automatically took effect under the statute for removal jurisdiction[10] where the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on May 14, 1998, who cited the supremacy clause of the Constitution which grants immunity to federal officers acting in the scope of their employment.[2]
The decision to dismiss the charges was reversed by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, which held that enough uncertainty about the facts of the case existed for Horiuchi to stand trial on state manslaughter charges.[2] Ultimately, the then-sitting Boundary County Prosecutor, Brett Benson, who had defeated Woodbury in the 2000 election, decided to drop the charges because he felt it was unlikely the state could prove the case and too much time had passed. Yagman, the special prosecutor, responded that he “could not disagree more with this decision than I do.”[11]
The Ninth Circuit granted Boundary County’s motion to dismiss the case against Horiuchi on September 14, 2001.”

Frankly the guy should have spent the rest of his life in jail, at the least.

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Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

August 2nd, 2011
7:17 am

Patriots from the likes of Red Beckman, Stanley Monteith, and Dennis Cutty etc to Alex Jones, Joyce Riley, and Butch Paugh etc have spent countless hours warning Americans of the serious threats that politicians and the perverted New World Order integrationist Crowd, in addition to their devilish black minions, pose to Western Christian Society.

Senator Tom Coburn has gone as far to say that politicians in the perverted New World Order integrationist Crowd and their devilish black minions have doubled the size of government in ten years. And government is 30% bigger than it was when Obama became president.

Absolutely no one can dispute this fact. The perverted New World Order integrationist Crowd and their devilish black minions have created a perverted alternative government in 12 years which, in their minds, will peacefully phase-out the traditional American Constitutional government, and if need be, replace it by force.

That being said, the 2009 undercover operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious” conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), appears to be badly botched only by politicians and red blooded Americans who believe in the traditional American Constitutional government.

But to the politicians and “Americans” who believe in the perverted New World Order alternative government, “Fast and Furious” is a perfect operation comparable to the raid on the Branch Davidian Ranch. And it is an omen of what they expect of their new perverted government at home and abroad.

Amen?

Last word on Freedom to think

August 2nd, 2011
7:21 am

The truth here is elusive. The morons here are abusive. The know-it-alls here are intrusive. and the stuntwankers here are effusive.

as usual, trolls have totally ruined this blog. The earnest comments are skewed by self-aggrandizing demagoguery and half-witted hooey. Where are the Mexican drug cartels when you need them? I don’t think they have enough US weapons. Maybe we should start some NRA chapters in beautiful downtown Mexico. Maybe we should hand out handguns and ak’s at the border crossings where the illegals are. Come to AMerica. Get a gun with every job. Then shoot morons. It’s your duty as an alien.

morons.

MY VICE

August 2nd, 2011
7:30 am

Cylar, yes the story about the tank braking the gas lines and causing the fire is the story that the government WANTS YOU to believe but once you view the video from the flier camera used on the chopper that day you can SEE THE heat coming off the tear gas can after they dropped it inside the compound.

Then the fire starts (the 40 MPH winds that day didn’t help ) in the same spot were they dropped the tear gas can. Now they may have broke gas lines with the tank ramming the side of the building but it was the heat coming from the tear gas can that was the heat source for the fire.

Now you could say that the broken gas line would have caught fire anyway but having a heat source that the government put right next to the gas lines didn’t help so i say the governments lack of judgement was still the cause of those people losing their lives and someone NEEDS to be held accountable for the deaths.

Now some people will say that the government had no way of knowing that gas lines ran inside the walls in that corner of the building and the fire was an accident but just stop and think is it a GOOD idea to put an item such as the tear gas can, that once lit generates tons of heat in the process of make the gas, that maybe just maybe its NOT a good idea to put it in contact with a combustible wood building.

Anyway i know what i saw from watching the flier video and i don’t want everyone to take my word for it so i think it would be best for everyone to view the flier video for yourself and make up your own mind. As a matter of fact the researcher would did the investigation felt so strongly about what he uncovered about government wrong doing along with a cover up he did a video of his own showing the filer video and he backed up his finding with experts reviewing his data on his video and it was shown on the discovery channel or National Geographic.

MY VICE

August 2nd, 2011
8:26 am

Last Word, its people like you who won’t know a fact if it jumped up and bit you! I can’t get over how easy it is for the anti gunners to believe everything that the left wing media prints about the NRA. Just keep your head in the sand and be happy living under the rule of the Obama elite new world order giving up your freedoms for the false sense of safety. The new world order is going to have the need of many people like you to be workers to serve the needs of your new masters in the lefts coming new world order. Myself along with many other Americans have our eyes wide open and like standing on our own two feet and have no need, nor do we want any help from your Obama elite new world order and we will fight to keep and protect our freedoms.

Hard times are coming in this country and those of us that have planed ahead will survive but i don’t hold out much hope for the believers of the Obama myth that everything is getting better and the government will take care of you people on the left. Just remember when your family is hungry why not try and feed them some of those Obama dreams, i don’t think they are going to fill their bellies as well as a can of beans i have stored away, but you just keep believing that Obama dream.

I along with many other Americans will believe in our God our Bible, family and friends and lets not forget our Guns. We will use these things to protect us in the upcoming hard times when our country goes broke and make no mistake about it we ARE GOING BROKE! SOON!!!!

caslosgvv

August 2nd, 2011
8:38 am

My Vice

So you honestly believe the Feds deliberately set fire to a compound and burned to death a large number of men, women and children? While I agree that we have a foolish and incompeten Govt., I don’t think they have quite reached that level of evil yet.

caslosgvv

August 2nd, 2011
9:11 am

My Vice, Dennis

In the Waco fire, each side blames the other and it will never be known for sure how the fire started. What is known is that after the fire started, many of the Davidians’ were forcibly prevented from leaving while others refused to leave and became trapped. This murder-suicide cannot be blamed on the Govt. but on crazy far-right people. So, in the future, before you ask me to get my facts straight, please get YOUR facts straight.

JV

August 2nd, 2011
9:21 am

To Last Word on Freedom to Think. You are not the last word. You are a glowing example of why liberal/progressive politics is for stupid people. Your condescending attitude and arrogance are hallmarks of the fact devoid delusional liberal mind. Making statements without any factual basis is typical of your mode of operation.

Halftrack

August 2nd, 2011
10:00 am

This is a Trojan Horse effort by the DOJ ( ie: Obummer administration) to create a crisis big enough to get “gun control” and eliminate our 2nd Amendment rights. There is too much stone walling on the DOJ side for coming clean of what they were up to and what they did. Wake up America!!!

MY VICE

August 2nd, 2011
10:49 am

Caslosgvv, as you stated yourself in your on post that we don’t know what went on inside the compound once the fire started and never will so then HOW can you say that it was a mass forced suicide???

By the way i was not trolling to get into a pissin match with you that’s why i said for you to view the video taken from the chopper and let your own eyes make up your mind for you on what happened with the fire and who started it that day, that’s why i told you not to take my word for it to check it out for yourself.

MY VICE

August 2nd, 2011
10:53 am

Caslosgvv to answer your question if i believe the government killed those people then the answer is yes after seeing what they did to Randy Weavers son and got away with it.

Schmed

August 2nd, 2011
10:59 am

Crimes were committed that resulted in murder of a US Law Enforcement Officer, why hasn’t anyone been arrested ?

Schmed

August 2nd, 2011
11:02 am

Obama, Holder, Clinton, Reid, et al need to be immediately relieved of their duties, placed under arrest for felony murder, and replaced with Americans that support the Constitution of the United States of America. How did it get to this point, we are in dire straits until another Reagan comes along.

Schmed

August 2nd, 2011
11:05 am

What are Holder and Obama going to do when the Mexican government subpoenas them for testimony and their involvement with this debacle that resulted in the deaths of 100s, perhaps 1000s of Mexican nationals ? It’s not going to be pretty.

don Gabacho

August 2nd, 2011
11:23 am

“Thus far, no one seems prepared to seriously address the problem.”

How unfortunate it is that the AJC must regard the House Judiciary Committee of the Congress of the United States of America as not serious—much less presume the ATF’s and USDOJ’s explanation is even the truth. Twice now Obama’s and Holder’s (including sworn by Holder) are being contradicted in sworn testimony as lies.

The on-going proceding should lead to impeachments of both in the US.

The only question is whether the President of Mexico, Felilpe Calderon, recently welcomed by the Democrats in Congress, is subpoened to testify in his role in the affair.

Bob Trent

August 2nd, 2011
11:42 am

A blunder of this magnitude requires the appointment of an independent special prosecutor. We have two murders and one wounding of federal agents, directly attributed to both Project Gun Runner and it’s subsidiary operation, Fast & Furious. We have gross failures in leadership within the BATFE and DOJ.

We have implications that the FBI and DEA had registered informants making straw purchases of guns in Fast and Furious,. We have allegations of a BATFE registered informant that took the guns from a straw purchaser in Texas and with BATFE approval smuggled the guns into Mexico, one of which was the murder weapon involved int he killing of Special Agent Jaime Zapata.

We have deceptive testimony from former Special Agent in Charge, Bill Newell, BATFE/Phoenix before the recent congressional panel.

The BATFE supervisor above Newell, Mr. McMahon testified that he hardly read anything that came across his desk in his Washington Headquarters office and ignorance is not a sustainable defense.

This is a blunder of criminal proportions and requires justice for all Americans, especially for the Terry and Zapata families.

All of the Mexicans that have and will be murdered and maimed with these weapons cries out for justice to be done.
We have testimony from Mr. Newell that an ICE/DHS special agent was assigned directly to the BATFE Group running operation Fast & Furious. As a former federal special agent I know that this ICE agent was held accountable to make detailed reports to the ICE chain of command.

George Hapgood

August 2nd, 2011
2:24 pm

First of all Bob Barr is a fool. Eric Holder should be prosecuted for his involvement in this crime.Not be allowed to appoint anyone. Second, Obama may have known enough about this he could at least be impeached. This was just an attempt to destroy the 2ed amendment.I’m surprised Holder did not sell guns to the black panthers. Dont forget polling places in Philadelphia. Holder would not prosecute his buddies then.

tahDeetz

August 3rd, 2011
7:06 am

Never let a Fast and Furious crisis go to waste.

Obama & all around him, are hardcore subversive leftists. Search ‘NewZeal’

Their past will unfortunately be, America’s prologue.

tD

gscott

August 4th, 2011
8:57 am

So if the feds didn’t start the fires why did they lie about having incendiary devices on the seen. Hell why did they lie about having guns on helicoptors. Whether they did it on purpose is really the only debate. They sent in flammable aersols then tear gas canisters that started the place on fire.

Frank

August 4th, 2011
2:08 pm

Lets get to the point. WHO and WHY? The Obama administration (WHO) is responsible for this debacle. It was designed to bring heat on the legal gun owners in the US. Its no secret that Obama is trying to rob ALL OF US of our Constitutional rights. (WHY) By building a case that gun shops are out of control, they (Obama) intended to show that guns being used in drug cartel killings were coming from the US. This is just one more in a series of ideological ploys the Obama Administration has employed to try and make the US a police state where the only rights you have as a citizen are the rights granted by this Chavez wannabe and his cronies.

[...] actual goal of Gunwalker was to advance a gun control agenda.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution carries an opinion piece by Bob Barr.  Barr, a former federal prosecutor and Congressman from Georgia, suggests the following: First, [...]

[...] actual goal of Gunwalker was to advance a gun control agenda.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution carries an opinion piece by Bob Barr.  Barr, a former federal prosecutor and Congressman from Georgia, suggests the following: First, [...]

Wilson

August 5th, 2011
6:01 am

I saw it on C-Span, it was sad than funny and than sad again , Agent Canino from the Mexico Office started to cry after his supervisor told the committee that in 2009 he told Canino that weapons were walking into Mexico this was after Agent Canino said that he found out that they were letting guns walk early this year around April. Funny because they did not answered any questions from the committee. The committee did tell the Special Agent In Charge that they want to see a list of names of all outside agencies involved. About 20 where arrested all are on bail now till Sept. I can not wait to hear the 20 say that ATF told them what to do.

toldya

August 5th, 2011
6:57 am

Stu, the acting director of BATFE has stated in front of congressional investigators, several times, that the orders came from above him. He’s not taking the fall like he was supposed to. A speech given by Eric holder and Janet Napolitano in 2009, implicated “the administration” being involved in Fast and Furious. So yes, head of ATF knew, and his superiors gave the orders. Possibly clear up to the white house. “Never let a crisis go to waste.” This guy makes Nixon look like a choir boy.

Buy Backlinks

August 6th, 2011
7:08 am

The films from the chopper that flew over head during the fire were taken with a Flier camera (it films in the inferred) and you can see the flash coming from the rifles of the ATF snipers on the ground as they shot each and everyone of the men and women who ran from the burning compound you can also see the tear gas cans put in the compound by ATF start the fire too.
__________
James
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