ATF Death Watch 117: Smoking Guns

 

The noose is tightening around the participants in federal gun running program known as Operation Fast and Furious. The latest rope wrench: the release of a “smoking gun” email dated December 17, 2010 from Glenn Cook to Charlie Smith. Glenn’s the Deputy Chief of the Special Prosecutions unit of the Criminal Division, Department of Justice, Southern District of Texas in Houston. Charlie’s the Assistant Special Agent (in) Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Dallas Field Division. Here’s the money shot . . .

[The ATF] should probably hire a media expert anyway to assist them in explaining the 2000 firearms and the possible connection in the murder of the Border Patrol Agent.

The email shows that Operation Fast and Furious was no secret amongst those who assisted with Uncle Sam’s “Guns for Goons” program. Which is no secret. No doubt “operational awareness” extended all the way to the Attorney General’s office and the upper echelons of the White House. Who knew what when? Everyone involved knew guns were being smuggled as they were being smuggled. Next?

The email confirms an equally important aspect of Operation Fast and Furious: all of the people involved had no qualms about supplying American gun store guns to bad guys—despite the obvious “blowback” risk to American citizens. Realized by the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

When contemplating this criminal complacency, keep in mind that F&F had a twin sister in Tampa, a program that enabled the flow of gun store guns to Honduras. And the fact that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix instructed the ATF to release a grenade maker/machine gun converter.

And the fact that Mexican drug cartels are armed to the teeth with fully automatic American military rifles (complete with grenade launchers and grenades) that “seeped” to the drug thugs from official U.S. sales to the Mexican military, Mexican law enforcement and the rest of Latin America’s armed service and police forces. Hundreds of thousands of weapons. Over decades.

In other words, the Cook – Smith email confirms a blase attitude that stems from a  pattern of behavior. Some ten U.S. government agencies allowed some 2000 guns to walk from America to Mexico because arming our “friends” in areas of violent conflict is what we do. The F&F guns went to our boys, the Sinaloa cartel, to help them in their fight against our enemy, the Zetas cartel.

That struggle continues. In the run-up to the 2012 Mexican elections, the U.S. and the Mexican military are busy hammering one side and not the other. Yesterday, the DEA busted five members of a Chicago-based Zetas’ “cell” (notice the terrorist terminology). The press release claims the Zetas were responsible for transporting millions of dollars in drug proceeds between Chicago and Mexico.

That would be the same DEA who head publicly admitted helping the ATF with F&F as it was arming Mexican cartel members. Be that as it is, there’s a wider issue here: America’s War on Drugs.

It’s a sham. We’re not winning. We cannot win. The Obama administration knows it. As does the ATF, DEA, ICE, DHS, FBI, DOJ, State Department and everyone other federal entity implicated in the Gunwalker scandal. They knew it before, during and after Gunwalker. More to the point, this perspective informed Operation Fast and Furious right from the start.

Whether or not the F&F was the result of the ATF falling in line and playing favorites amongst the Mexican drug cartels, manufacturing a crisis for its own glorification or all of the above, the Bureau’s assertion that the “botched sting” was an important part of a virtuous campaign to defeat vicious bad guys is just plain wrong. Even if it’s right, it’s wrong.

Clearly, the Mexican drug cartels are not without firearms. Or grenades. Or ammo. Or the will to use their weapons against anyone who stands in their way. Clearly, the cash-rich cartels can secure guns from somewhere, anywhere, wherever. Our only hope to defeat the narco-terrorists on our door and in our country: starve them of money. Either we’ve got to legalize illegal drugs or close the border. Or both.

Spin that. Meanwhile, it would be nice if the federal judge who sealed the case against the drug thug accused of killing U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry would explain his decision to remove it from public view. Who’s idea was that? Now there’s an email I’d like to see.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

16 Responses to ATF Death Watch 117: Smoking Guns

  1. avatarDT says:

    Two things. One, there are many in our government who feel only they and the powers that are should own firearms.

    Two, IF we decided to win the war on drugs it could be done…problem is, if we honestly applied ourselves as a society to win it no one would get paid. For what its worth the street level criminals do NOT make a great deal of money dealing, and one must put in years at a base level in the drug gang before rising to a truly rich status. The only folks who profit from the system of continuous ‘drugwars’ are the government(s) and the enforcement agencies needing a budget.

    If I snapped my fingers and won the drug war tomorrow, the DEA, the BATFE, and a lot of anti-narco police task forces and state attorneys would be out of a job.For those alphabet soup agencies winning the drug war is the last thing they want.Hence shady operations like Gunrunner and helping one cartel and ‘punishing’ the competitor.

  2. avatarGS650G says:

    What is meant by “legalize drugs”? How is that supposed to work? Will the people that buy drugs buy them at the store? Will we just ignore large quantities of drugs grown or manufactured here, like meth? The people supplying dope now will continue to do so after legalization, we’ll just wave as they bring it in and continue to fight over who sells the most.
    It’s not the legality of drugs that’s the problem, it’s the fact some people can’t go a day without them. Dependency is a bitch. Unless legalization comes with huge domestic production, cut rate tax free, cheap drugs that leave no margins for anyone to operate otherwise, and a willingness to accept the damage that will be done to society as a result then forget it.
    If you’re still in favor of legalizing it all, including the coke, H, and meth, how much are you willing to pay to clean up the mess left behind? The destroyed families? The welfare costs? Sure the addict has a good time, but everyone else gets to use drugs but they don’t get high.

    • avatarRalph says:

      All of your questions are good ones but ultimately the answers don’t matter. ANY legal drug manufacturing and distribution system that replaces the current illegal one will be better than what we already have. As for the toll it takes on the drug users, who gives a f^ck? Volenti non fit injuria.

    • avatarPhydeaux says:

      While the common term is “legalize drugs” what is really meant is to treat drugs like we treat alcohol. Consequently, currently illegal drugs would be available to adults, with misuse and providing drugs to minors being illegal.

      Back in the 1970s when I was in high school it was much easier to score an ounce of pot than it was to get an adult to buy a six pack of beer for me. The same is as true today as it was then.

      Regarding manufacturing and distribution, that too could be managed like alcohol. Manufacturers would be regulated, and distribution would have varying degrees of control based on state laws. Allowing for a selling price commensurate with production costs, and a reasonable profit and the inevitable tax, the resulting legal products would drive higher priced illegal producers out of the market.

      Regarding the societal costs for decriminalizing drugs, again look to alcohol. Was there a dramatic increase in alcoholism after the repeal of prohibition? It did not. In fact research has shown that a relatively small percentage of drug users (including alcohol) ever become addicted. This has also been born out in the European countries that have decriminalized certain drugs. Certainly there will be some societal costs of decriminalization, but they should be balanced agains the costs of prohibition.

      The crime, violence and corruption resulting from drug prohibition is enormous, and extends beyond the US to producer countries in Latin America and Asia. There’s also been a significant erosion of civil liberties here as a consequence of the war on drugs. Think of the militarization of law enforcement and the resulting proliferation of no-knock raids by SWAT teams – that all too frequently result in innocent law abiding citizens being killed. How about asset forfeiture? Any laws that criminalize a substantial portion of the otherwise law abiding population are poor policy, as demonstrated by Prohibition.

      • avatarGreg in Allston says:

        +1. In a nutshell.

      • avatarTom says:

        I was in high school during the 1970s as well and it was easier to get drugs than alcohol. Drug laws are a joke.

      • avatarGS650G says:

        Alcohol is bad news too. It’s legality doesn’t make it less of a problem. So now we want to legalize more problems?

        Think of the variety of drugs out there. Booze is pretty much booze and works the same. Drugs are far more addictive and destructive.
        The notion that anything else we do must be better is a false answer. Once legalized, we are not going back. I seem to be outnumbered these days so my opinion doesn’t count. I guess the damage done to my friends and family by drugs is not the same experience for everyone.

        • avatarthatoneguy says:

          Look at it this way: Everyone has seen a meth head and can tell that they look like shit. If you are dumb enough to know what will do to you, and you do it anyway and wind up all jacked up then you prove the argument for natural selection. Portugal actually decriminalized ALL drugs about a decade ago and useage has decreased from what it previously was and people entering into treatment has increased. When you deny people something they want it, when they can have it they dont really care as much. Doubt that? Put a red car and blue car in front of a kid and let him pick one, then play with the other like its the greatest thing since sliced bread. Suddenly, the one he can’t have is the only one he wants. That situation never changes as we get older.

    • avatarJoe nobody says:

      The difference is who gets the money. Instead of drug cartels being more powerful then the mexican government it will just be like alcohol. Remember the prohibition? The worst and most powerful criminals came from that. Once alcohol became legal it is now taxed and controlled. Using drugs is bad for you but making them,illegal is bad for everyone.

  3. avatarBruce W. Krafft says:

    Quick aside to GS650G: I have been asking this question for literally decades now and have never gotten an answer from a drug prohibitionist. Can you please tell me *one* problem associated with alcohol prohibition which got *worse* when Prohibition was repealed?
    So on to the meat of this post: Robert I am so totally stealing “Uncle Sam’s ‘Guns for Goons’ program” as a heading for KABA.com’s Newslinks.

    • avatarGS650G says:

      Why don’t you ask people who’s lives were wrecked by alcoholism once it became easy to buy all the booze they wanted? As long as the good times roll for a few people the damage done isn’t important.

      Grain alcohol is mild compared to serious drugs, especially the manufactured stuff like meth or oxy. I don’t mind being called a drug prohibitionist if you don’t mind being called a drug abuse enabler.

      • avatarRobert Farago says:

        Although I am not an alcoholic, I am intimately familiar with its ravages. I stand by my statement.

      • avatarPhydeaux says:

        Individual tragedies are sadly, just that. The same can be said for many things – the consequences of reckless driving, extreme sports, and… wait for it… firearms.

        For those that are the victim of illegal drugs, alcohol, a pedestrian hit by a driver, or the victim of a negligent discharge, the consequences are truly tragic – for them and their families. The impact of these consequences on the right and responsibilities of adults in society at large is a different issue.

        How’s the drug war going for Mexico, where there is certainly an abundance of tragedy? How about the non-violent felons convicted for marijuana related crimes – a drug that is provably less detrimental than even alcohol? There’s plenty of tragedy on both sides.

        Why is it that a death from an accidental discharge is an acceptable price to pay for the right to self defense, but it’s okay for government to arbitrarily limit access to certain drugs for adults?

        The only reason prohibition outlawed just alcohol was because all those other drugs remained legal.

        Regarding another comment that illegal drugs are more addicting, the fact is that they are not.

      • avatarBruce W. Krafft says:

        Actually alcohol related deaths rose during Prohibition as people switched from homebrewed or locally produced beer to hard liquor. Simple economics: if you can smuggle in 500 gallons you get more money if it’s whiskey instead of beer.

        After Prohibition ended, alcohol related deaths went down (and yes, the study I saw factored in the lag time. And that doesn’t even begin to address the death toll from the gang wars, or the damage to the social fabric as hundreds of thousands of people became scofflaws and cops were viewed as either the enemy, or on the take.

        I don’t mind being called a drug abuse enabler as long as you answer the question: Please name one problem associated with alcohol prohibition that got worse when it was repealed.

        Actually, you know what? I don’t mind being called a drug abuse enabler even if you don’t answer, because with legalization will come better quality control of the drugs, remove toxic production facilities from homes and neighborhoods, reduce the social stigma associated with seeking treatment, and reduce the cost hugely.

        I can buy 5 pounds of cut and sifted catnip for under $50, delivered to my door, once pot is legalized I would be able to do the same with it. And since producing sugar from cane or beets has almost exactly the same economic cost as making cocaine from coca leaves, imagine being able to buy coke from your local Wal*Mart for less than $0.70 per pound.

        How many turf wars would be fought with drugs at that price? How many little old ladies would be mugged for their Social Security money if druggies could get their drug of choice that cheaply? How many terrorists could be funded by heroin at $5 a kilo? How much money could the country save by releasing (and never re-incarcerating) the almost 70% of non-violent drug offenders currently in the system? How much safer would our civil liberties be if cops didn’t have to make part of their budget through civil forfeiture, couldn’t stop anyone they chose because they “smelled marijuana”, weren’t executing no-knock raids to keep dealers from flushing evidence?

        Hell, how much safer would cops be if they weren’t trying to fight a Low Intensity Combat style war in our inner cities?

        So yeah, I’ll see your deaths by alcohol abuse and raise you millions of lives destroyed by the War on Drugs (and that’s just in the US, let’s not even talk about what the WoD has done to Mexico).

  4. I note the DU thread about the “smoking gun email” linked to in this post. Permit me to share where that surfaced:
    http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-national/they-knew-video
    via:
    http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2011/11/ssi-exclusive-they-knew-everybody-knew.html

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