ATF Death Watch 110: Entrapment

“Authorities arrested two Virginia Beach men on charges of selling 20 machine guns and 15 improvised explosive devices to an undercover agent,” hamptonroads.net. “A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was surprising to find such a high volume of high-caliber weaponry in this area.” Skipping to the punchline . . .

“According to the ATF, an undercover agent purchased 20 machine guns and 15 IEDs from the two men in two transactions over the past month after weeks of planning and negotiations. The agent paid more than $20,000 for the weapons, telling the sellers that he planned to resell the weapons to drug dealers, according to a court affidavit filed by an ATF agent. ATF spokesman Mike Campbell said the agency was fortunate to dismantle the enterprise early.”

Fortunate? For whom? I’m thinking . . . the ATF. Before passing judgement, I’d like to see transcripts of the ATF’s “negotiations” with the machine gun and IED makers. And the weapons and explosives involved, to find  out if the stingees were trying to sting the stingers. In any case, the Virginia Beach “surprise” throws Operation Fast and Furious into high relief.

The Obama administration and the mainstream media continues to paint Operation Fast and Furious as a “botched sting.” They focus on the “botched” part, asking us to believe that the Agents involved didn’t mean for more than 2000 weapons to end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members.

Which would make the death of two U.S. federal agents at the hands of drug thugs wielding ATF-enabled weapons a “mistake,” rather than, say, collateral damage from a conspiracy to arm one set of bad guys (the Sinaloans) against another (Los Zetas).

This incompetence meme has led Congressional investigators to jump down the rabbit hole labelled WKWW (Who Know What When). This approach could lead to the resignation of a number of high-level officials: DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and so on.

If the search for the authors of F&F and the conspirators who perpetrated it turns into “uncovering high level administration collusion with drug cartels,” and President Obama is in the frame, Watergate will pale in comparison to Gunwalker.

Good luck with that. Meanwhile, what of the “sting” part of the program? What business, exactly, does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) have manufacturing gun smugglers?

Make no mistake: the ATF created an “iron river” of guns flowing from U.S. firearms stores to southern Sinaloan gang members. The ATF worked with the FBI to subvert their computerized criminal background check system, to allow convicted felons to purchase weapons illegally. In one case, the FBI put up the front money for the guns. In another, an ATF agent handed the weapons to the bad guys.

Whether or not the ATF actively recruited the Mexico-bound mules, in no case did the Bureau or their co-conspirators stop ANY of their pet smugglers mid-smuggle. In fact, the ATF ordered arrest-minded agents in the field to back off. The U.S. Attorney’s Office told Immigrations and Custom Enforcement to “stand down” and allow unsupervised ATF Gunwalker firearms to enter Mexico. Twice. At least.

In theory, Operation Fast and Furious was supposed to be a “sting” that lead to “the big fish.” In practice, Operation Fast and Furious was no more a “sting”  than 300 was a chick flick. During the ten months of its existence, Operation Fast and Furious didn’t lead to a single arrest. Not one. Nor could it. The Bureau had no way to monitor the guns they’d enabled.

Here’s the odd part: Operation Fast and Furious was a re-do of the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver, which was a sting. In that program, Mexico-bound American guns were monitored and recovered and arrests were made. Not enough to justify the program’s continuation. But some. For reasons that should be uncovered and exposed, Operation Fast and Furious was a “stingless sting.”

Here’s the other strange bit: the ATF runs “real” stings all the time. Like the Virginia Beach machine gun IED scam above. Every single day, ATF agents are out there, somewhere, working to entice someone to do something illegal. Fake pawn shops paying taxpayer cash for illegal guns, phone calls to potential bomb makers, and on and on. I can’t remember a single, straightforward ATF after-the-fact bust.

And here’s my final point: the federal government in general and the ATF in particular should not be running “stings.” At all. Period. Stings are by their nature trickery. Or to give them their formal name, entrapment. “Stings” create criminal behavior to generate arrests or, in the case of Fast and Furious, advance U.S. foreign and/or domestic agendas. A “botched sting” is only marginally worse—or perhaps better for the rule of law—than a “successful” one.

Operation Fast and Furious enabled the men who murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata, and tortured and killed dozens if not hundreds of Mexicans. Congressional investigators should identify the people responsible for authorizing this black bag job and related extra-legal activities. But Issa’s mob should also expose the institutional corruption that put the idea on the table in the first place. And then disband the ATF, so that Americans have less to fear from their own government.

comments

  1. avatar Texan says:

    I’ve been looking for a previous post but cannot find it – it was the best explanation for why the high-up powers that be are indeed guilty. It was about how they would really react if they were unaware of what was going on and a low/mid-level grunt initiated and carried this out without proper approval and coordination.

    The DOJ would be livid and looking for blood. This is completely different from the way they actually are and have been reacting.

    1. avatar Texan says:

      One more (non-original) thought… This investigation has dragged on for almost a year. With all the Federal horsepower of the alphabet agencies, these guys can crack a case within hours. The fact that they haven’t been able to say who authorized it (or even half-heartedly tried to determine it, for that matter) is extremely telling.

      It’s also worth noting that, with all the (alleged) brain power in D.C, absolutely no one has been able to come up with a believable story to sell the public and media, other than the “botched sting” b.s. The most they can muster is shuffling a few people around and some dubious testimony.

      In my mind, the real story is a) simple – i.e. it can be explained in a paragraph or less – complex conspiracies with a lot of people are hard, if not impossible, to pull off, b) juicy – as in tabloid/book/movie-worthy “WTF were they thinking?”, and c) criminal beyond anything we can imagine…

      Thanks for keeping this alive, RF.

  2. avatar Texan says:

    I’m also wondering about the “Sinaloan Theory.” In this LA Times article, Mexican police busted a Sinaloan chieftain with F&F guns (which is a strike against the theory that the Sinaloans are U.S./Mexican buddies)…

    I did find it interesting that they reported it in October and it happened in April…

    Disclaimer: It goes without saying that anything, other than who won American Idol, reported by the MSM is suspect.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Click here for our story on that bust.

      The Sinaloans are supposed to stay in their sandbox. And alliances shift, both between and within cartels (hint: they’re not armies per se).It’s a complicated game full of smoke and mirrors. For example, rumor has it that the Mexican and Americans are negotiating to capture/kill the head of the Sinaloans ahead of the 2012 elections to prove that they’re NOT in Guzman’s pocket. Even though they are.

      See how that works?

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    the federal government in general and the ATF in particular should not be running “stings.”

    There can be a fine line between a legitimate sting and illegal entrapment. While sting operations might be useful tools, I simply don’t trust the ATF to stay on the legitimate side, especially after the murders of Randy Weaver’s family.

  4. avatar Joe nobody says:

    He planned to sell them to drug dealers? He wasnt kidding either these will probably go into the next batch of fast and furious guns.

  5. avatar Roadrunner says:

    It seems like it was late 2009 or spring of 2010 when Felipe Calderon was visiting the U.S. and reciting Obama’s talking points, as if on cue, about American guns getting to Mexican drug cartels. Calderon might have been less cooperative with Obama if he’d known Obama’s Justice Department was busy flushing 2,000 guns into Mexico. After Heller, they knew they probably couldn’t ban guns, but maybe they could get an assault weapons ban. Or better still, national registration.

    The Left is like the guy who claims to have saved the baby from the burning building, then turns out to be the one who set the fire. This time, though, there’s a body count.

  6. avatar Mike OFWG says:

    $20,000 for 20 ‘machine guns’? That’s a VERY reasonable price, considering that’s what you would pay for 20 mid to low priced M15 type ‘semi automatic’ rifles, retail.

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