ATF Death Watch 100: Feds Fed Fast and Furious Firearms to the Sinaloans

Not to coin a phrase, but the ATF Gunwalker scandal is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma shrouded in mystery. We don’t know the exact motivations for Operations Fast and Furious and Castaway; they must be multiple given the alphabet soup of federal agencies involved (by the ATF’s own admission). Nor are we clear as to why the U.S. Attorney’s Office let a machine gun modifier and bomb-maker (caught red-handed) walk from custody back into Mexico. But one thing we do know: the guns that the ATF let slip from surveillance ended-up in the hands of the Sinaloa drug cartel. latimes.com provides the latest revelation on that score, which dates all the way back to April . . .

High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.

In all, 100 assault weapons acquired under Fast and Furious were transported 350 miles from Phoenix to El Paso, making that West Texas city a central hub for gun traffickers. Forty of the weapons made it across the border and into the arsenal of Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a feared cartel leader in Ciudad Juarez, according to federal court records and trace documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“These Fast and Furious guns were going to Sinaloans, and they are killing everyone down there,” said one knowledgeable U.S. government source, who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing investigations.

Mislead much? The Sinaloans may have been terrorizing Cuidad Juarez, but it was all business baby. The ATF-enabled Sinaloans weren’t killing “everyone.” Just their rivals: members of the Los Zetas drug cartel and their allies.

So the fact that the vast majority of ATF-enabled arms ended-up in the hands of one group of narco-terrorists to fight another is either a coincidence, a geographical quirk or part and parcel of Uncle Sam’s plan.

As this series has maintained for some time, the Gunwalker scandal can only be even partially understood when viewed in the context of U.S. foreign policy towards Mexico. Specifically, Uncle Sam’s support for the Sinaloan drug cartel. It’s Iran – Contra redux: support the weaker criminal mob to against the stronger criminal mob to gain control/influence over a country in crisis.

In this case, it’s the Sinaloans over Los Zetas.

Just so we’re clear [via CBS]: “The Sinaloa and the Zetas have emerged as Mexico’s dominant drug cartels and appear locked in a nationwide battle for territory.” Strike the word “appear” and replace with “are” and add in unfathomable, unconscionable, unbelievable brutality.

The ATF “botched sting” wasn’t the only way Uncle Sam armed the Sinaloans. But it was, by foreign policy standards, a success.

By law enforcement standards, F&F was an abject failure. During ten months of operation, the ATF didn’t arrest a single “big fish” gun smuggler. Not one. Sure, there were a flurry of arrests after drug thugs wielding ATF-enabled weapons murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. They are all, to a man, low-level players.

In fact, ATF bosses specifically instructed Agents in the field NOT to arrest criminals higher up in the food chain. What are the odds that the ATF knew about Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo’s weapons cache? Like so much about the Gunwalker scandal, there’s no “good” answer to that question.

Despite the hot mess that is the Gunwalker scandal—involving as it does the ATF, IRS, DHS, DOJ, NSS, FBI, CIA, CPB, ICE, State Department and White House—it really isn’t all that confusing. We helped “our” bad guys get guns. Someone ought to tell the latimes.com:

In the U.S., intelligence officials consider the Sinaloa cartel the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. Weekly reports from U.S. intelligence authorities to the Justice Department in the summer of 2010, at the height of Fast and Furious, warned about the proliferation of guns reaching the Sinaloa cartel.

Interesting. ‘Cause in July 2009, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control included four Los Zetas leaders in its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. But not a single Sinaloan.

And while the authorities have nabbed the low-level gun smugglers in this Juarez case, for some reason the “kingpin” remains at large.

Torres Marrufo, also known as “the Jaguar,” has been identified by U.S. authorities as the enforcer for Sinaloa cartel chieftain Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. The Fast and Furious weapons were found at one of Torres Marrufo’s homes April 30 when Mexican police inspected the property. It was unoccupied but “showed signs of recent activity,” they said.

The basement had been converted into a gym with a wall covered with built-in mirrors. Behind the mirrors they found a hidden room with the Fast and Furious weapons and dozens more, including an antiaircraft machine gun, a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.

“We have seized the most important cache of weapons in the history of Ciudad Juarez,” Chihuahua state Gov. Cesar Duarte said at the time, though he did not know that many of the weapons came from the U.S. and Fast and Furious.

Torres Marrufo has been indicted in El Paso, but authorities have been unable to locate and arrest him.

Odd that. No word, as well, which of these weapons came from sales enabled by the ATF and which came from U.S. military and law enforcement sales to Mexico and/or other Latin American countries. As far as I know you can’t buy an anti-aircraft machine gun at Bob’s Gun Store, even with the ATF’s assistance.

The Congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious has U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama in its sights. Fair enough. To his credit, Representative Issa told Fox News that he wants to know who authorized Fast and Furious and why.

Meanwhile, I’d like to hear more from Vicente Zambada-Niebla. The captured Sinaloa jefe claims the U.S. was turning a blind eye to the narco-terrorists’ drug business to target Los Zetas. That his homies depended on military weapons.

If that’s true, why would the ATF let piss-ant straw buyers feed the Sinaloans dribs and drabs of U.S. gun store guns? A gun control agenda within a foreign policy agenda?

This mystery that needs solving—if only to provide some answers to the bereaved families of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata. Oh, and over 200 Mexican families whose loved ones were tortured and/or slaughtered by narco-terrorists equipped with ATF-enabled firearms.