Nothing. Not a damn thing. Representative Issa asked Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich which of his DOJ colleagues authorized the abortive ATF program known as Operation Fast & Furious. If you’ve just joined us, that’s the program that allowed illegally purchased guns to cross into Mexico, two of which drug thugs used to murder beanbag-round firing U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. When pressed, and pressed hard, Weich said “I don’t know.” What Weich did know about the ATF’s criminal malfeasance, he wasn’t saying. His appearance will no doubt appear in “Stonewalling Caught on Camera.” In the absence of any official explanation of WTF happened, I’m going to take another guess at how this Gunwalker deal went down . . .
ATF agents testified that they asked their supervisors to bust the bastards buying rifles for export. The suits stymied the potential collars. Not to put too fine a point on it, the mid-level ATF managers told their agents at the sharp end to back the fuck off. What’s more, their ATF bosses instructed the ATF Agents NOT to follow the guns when the straw purchasers handed the weapons to their Mexico-bound bro’s.
I repeat: someone slightly further up the ATF food chain let the modern sporting home defense rifles and fancy schmancy FN FiveseveN pistols and big ass .50 caliber Barretts and plenty ‘o ammunition “walk” into Mexico. As of yet, we have no evidence that anyone at the Department of Justice authorized this secret surveillance surrender, knowingly enabling the weapons’ onward journey to Mexican criminals. In Mexico.
For sure Acting ATF Director Melson was familiar with so-called straw purchases. In an ATF email, Agents schmooze (in bureacratese) about Melson’s request for an Internet link to hidden cameras in gun dealers “cooperating” with the ATF (like they had a choice). Apparently, Melson watched a live feed of straw buyers laying down a bunch of Benjamins for “AK-47-style rifles.” So, did Melson direct his underlings to direct their underlings to let guns cross the border? No se.
I still have trouble understanding that part of the program. Either Melson and the DOJ knew the guns were going walkies to the Bad Guys or they didn’t. If they did, the question asks itself: why? What did these officials have to gain from telling ATF agents NOT to arrest the smugglers before they crossed the border, interdicting the illegally purchased weapons before they slipped into the hands of the cartels?
Supposedly, the ATF’s and DOJ’s grand poo-bahs let the firearms walk to prove that there was an “Iron River” of guns flowing from Bob’s Gun Store to Calderon’s cartels. Felipe and Barack relied on the Iron River rafting concept to assert that lax American gun laws were responsible for cartel carnage. (With gun control fun to follow.) Nothing to do with endemic Mexican corruption or U.S. military sales to the cartels. Nope. Bob’s Gun Store. And the Second Amendment. There’s your trouble.
Unfortunately, the ATF couldn’t point to a “real” Iron River of smuggled guns because, statistically speaking, it didn’t exist. So the ATF let guns walk to create their own flow of illegal guns. A traceable trade. Sure, they’d have to wait until the Mexican government traced the guns, after they’d been confiscated at a crime scene, after they’d been used to kill or wound someone. Omelet. Eggs. Do the cooking.
It all makes sense. I guess. At the risk of pissing off Mike V and the Gun Rights Examiner’s David Cordrea—the gentlemen who’ve been banging this particular drum since the late Jurassic—I still hold a candle for the importance of cash in this catastrophe. After all . . .
Did the ATF and DOJ big-wigs really think this gun walking misegos would stay secret? Are the ATF and DOJ really that stupid that they thought no one would mind if they let firearms flow to felons for the greater good? Did they not reach the same conclusion as the ATF Agents bitching and moaning about disappearing firearms; that gunwalked guns would return to haunt them (as they did with Agent Terry)?
Just for S&Gs, let’s say the tippy-top tri-letter chieftains didn’t authorize the walking part of the program. We know that the Agent’s bosses said, be vewy vewy quiet! We’re hunting cartels! So how about this: the mid-level ATF guys took bribes to let the guns go. Lest we forget, the drug trade is awash with cash—in the Biblical flood sense of the word. There are tens of billions of dollars floating around.
Back of the envelope time. Ten guns a run (minimum). Purchase price: around $1000 a pop. $10k all-in. Street value in Mexico? Call it $2k per piece. $10k profit total. Five for me, five for you. Two thousand guns (minimum), so two hundred runs. I make that $1m in potential bribes. Tax free. So call it $2m in real terms. Hey, it’s not as if ATF Agents haven’t been mired in corruption before.
It’s not an either or deal, either. The mid-level ATF guys could have been on the take AND convinced their bosses at the ATF, who convinced their bosses at the DOJ, that letting the guns go would be great law enforcement and wonderful politics. As a Rhode Islander who came of age in the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate era who isn’t gay but loved Cabaret, I’ve got to say it: money makes the world go around.
While I like watching a redacting-crazed bureaucrat having his ass handed to him by elected officials as much as the next guy, Issa needs to call the actual gun smugglers as witnesses. Otherwise, all we’ll get is stonewalling and spin. We’ll never know the real deal. Immunity? Sure, why not? Terry’s murderer is only one of a dozens of ATF-enabled gun smugglers languishing in prison. Let’s hear the truth about Gunwalker from the guys who walked the guns.