TTAG has maintained for some time that the ATF gun smuggling program known as Operation Fast and Furious was created to channel American firearms to members of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel. A report from Senator Chuck Grassley’s office confirms the facts of the matter and traces the chain of command straight to the DOJ. foxnews.com reports that . . .

Lanny Breuer, the head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., was allegedly told that the ATF had successfully helped sell 1,026 weapons worth more than $650,000 to members of the Sinaloa cartel. The briefing included all top ATF officials, including the agents in charge in Los Angeles and Houston, as well as a half-dozen top Justice Department attorneys.

[Click here for the report.] No question: Gunwalker is breaking bad for the feds. Their link to the Mexican cartels is beyond question. Or, I should say, in question.

“So there’s no doubt after this briefing that guns in this case were being linked to the Sinaloa cartel?” a congressional investigator asked [Steve Martin, ATF Deputy Assistant Director for Office of Strategic Information and Intelligence] during a July 2011 interview.

“I’d say yes.” Martin replied.

“Very apparent to everyone in the room?” the investigator asked.

“That’s correct,” Martin said.

Regular briefings at the DOJ re: Operation Fast and Furious? Attorney General Eric Holder, who denied knowledge of the program until its collapse, has some serious ‘splainin’ to do. And that’s before nailing down his exact role in F&F’s creation. As the Brits say, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Potentially on the way to prison. Unless Holder goes all John Dean on President Obama. Meanwhile . . .

Grassley’s report sub-heads his report on Operation Fast and Furious “A Perfect Storm of Idiocy.” Not so perfect Mr. Bond. There was a point to this program, and it wasn’t catching the Sinaloas. Grassley and the media singularly, spectacularly fail to “get it.” He takes the ATF’s contention that F&F was a f-up at face value. Check this from the conclusion:

The faulty design of Operation Fast and Furious led to tragic consequences. Countless United States and Mexican citizens suffered as a result.

Faulty design? Yes and no. In truth, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) was aiding and abetting the Sinaloa drug cartel on purpose. Arming the Sinaloas wasn’t a by-product. It was the goal.

Here’s the smoking gun from page 60 of Grassley’re report, from the lips of Deputy ATF Attaché to Mexico Carlos Canino. [Note: the brackets belong to the Congressional committee, not yours truly.]

. . . we ATF armed the [Sinaloa] cartel. It is disgusting.

The ATF’s pro-Sinaloa effort’s exact contribution to the horrific violence down Mexico way is just now coming to light. For example, the report reveals that yes, a Fast and Furious .50 cal. was used against a federal police helicopter (page 59). Here’s another snapshot . . .

The first large recovery of weapons in Mexico linked to Operation Fast and Furious occurred on November 20, 2009, in Naco, Sonora – located on the U.S./Mexico border. All of the 42 weapons recovered in Naco traced back to Operation Fast and Furious straw purchasers.

Forty-one of these weapons were AK-47 rifles and one was a Beowulf .50 caliber rifle. Twenty of the weapons in this recovery were reported on multiple sales summaries by ATF, and these weapons had a “time-to-crime” of just one day. Within a span of 24 hours, a straw purchaser bought guns at a gun store in Arizona and facilitated their transport to Naco, Mexico with the intent of delivering the guns to the Sinaloa cartel.

Naco Sonora is a prime smuggling territory (more or less) controlled by the Sinaloa cartel. The gun battle in question was between the Sinaloas and their deadly (and how) rivals Los Zetas—not the Mexican military or police. [Click here for a 2008 report with details on the Sinaloa vs. Zetas war in Sonora.]

This intra-cartel carnage is the key to this whole Gunwalker mess. And yet we hear no details of the “crime scenes” wherein Operation Fast and Furious weapons were recovered. Who shot whom with what? The information is available. On page 51 of the report, as an aside, we learn that . . .

These [Gunwalker] guns ended up in at crime scenes in Mexico, about which [ATF Attaché to Mexico Darren] Gil and [Deputy Attaché Carlos] Canino received extensive briefings.

Unfortunately, neither Canino nor the report provide any further details. Equally lamentable: the second major gunwalker report was written entirely from the perspective of the ATF employees who “uncovered” Operation Fast and Furious.

Grassley latest ATF F&F opus is not a bottom-up or top-down narrative. It doesn’t explain the program’s motivation, creation and exact implementation; there’s no information from actual gun smugglers or cartel members. As the subhead indicates, the report simply assumes that Gunwalker was a great big D’oh! No.

Grassley doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of the death match between the Sinaloas (and their allies), Los Zetas (and their allies), the Mexican government (allied with the Sinaloas), the Mexican military (ditto), Mexican police (allied to whomever). The Senator’s report offers a map of the Mexican cartel’s territory [below] that implies that there’s some kind of entente cordial between Mexican drug cartels.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s hell down there, and hell has no borders— other than the ones drawn in blood. And re-drawn. And drawn again. The struggle for control of lucrative drug smuggling routes, for control of the entire country, is a guerilla war. A farrago of torture, murder and corruption (and not necessarily in that order) by huge, evolving criminal syndicates. A conflict that’s claimed over 40,000 lives. And counting.

Which is not to say America hasn’t picked a side. We have. The Mexican government, and all those who wet her beak. To the tune of billions of dollars. And that would be, at least for now, the Sinaloas.

We know for a fact that the ATF worked with American gun dealers, the State Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies to arm the Sinaloas against Los Zetas, the paramilitary cartel with an eye on staging a military coup against Felipe Calderon’s government.

Despite Mr. Martin’s participation in Fast and Furious, that kind of strategery is way above the ATF’s pay grade. TTAG’s sources called it: the CIA designed and orchestrated Operation Fast and Furious. Gunwalker was not an “investigation.” It was a black bag job that originated at the highest levels of the American government, and proceeded with their full knowledge and cooperation.

Until that fact sees the cold light of day, the Obama administration will be able to cauterise itself from its responsibility—make that accountability for the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and hundreds of Mexican citizens. But wait! There’s more!

On page 10 of Grassley’s report, the [incomplete and ongoing] list of Fast and Furious guns recovered by Mexican authorities at crime scenes (a.k.a., intra-cartel shootouts) includes an incident in Culiacan, Sinaloa. The inventory includes “Grenade launcher, 2 submachine guns, 8 rifles, 3 shotguns, 1,278 [rounds?]”

The Sinaloa’s didn’t get fully-automatic submachines guns and a grenade launcher from Badger Guns. At no point did Operation Fast and Furious trade in that sort of military-grade weaponry. So where’d they come from? Are they American machine guns and grenade launchers and (one presumes) grenades?

Mexican authorities transported the seized weapons to local police stations for processing. Once processed, the authorities turned the weapons over to the Mexican military, which stored them in vaults indefinitely.

Perhaps Senator Grassley’s investigators would like to take another a little trip South of the Border? Show us the guns. They are THE missing piece in this mosaic of militarized madness.

Truth be told, the entire Fast and Furious debacle is a sideshow. A criminal conspiracy to be sure. A scandal most definitely. A prime example of how the CIA plays its colleagues. But the United States was and is arming Mexican drug cartels on a far larger scope and scale through “legitimate” military and law enforcement sales. There’s a reason why the German government stopped H&K firearms sales to Mexico in January.

Gunwalker is the tip of the iceberg. Will it help sink the ship of state? Watch this space.

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10 Responses to ATF Death Watch 59: Confirmed: ATF Operation Fast and Furious Armed Sinaloa Cartel

  1. We scream for accountability, we scream for justice, we scream for the truth. How do our elected officials respond? They have crisis after crisis and continue to wag the dog! Keep screaming for the truth!

  2. Wait a second, do we want to buy our meth and cocaine from the Sinolas or the Zetas? If the Sinolas are down with the government why do we need to give them guns from Bob’s Gun Shop?

    • Keep in mind that Los Zetas are organized along military lines. Everyone else is what you might call a loose affiliation. The Sinaloas on the front lines don’t benefit from a supply chain. And this is no small op. 1o months. Well over 1000 guns. As Ralph points out, who knows how many firearms would have crossed the border if F&F wasn’t shut down?

  3. Why would anyone “walk” guns across the border when they could ship whole container(s) of them,when the point is to arm Sinaloa?
    How does eliminating competition in the Mexican drug market benefit the US war on drugs?
    Why has BATFE created a “Region” ruling for purchasing more that one gun from dealers in S.W. states AFTER all this?
    If weapons were crossing the border with the “blessing” from BATFE,at any time was Customs informed about it?

    Who in there right mind would think that letting weapons bought in the US and moving across a border into a unstable nation with high levels of drug trafficking,
    thereby creating an international incident was a good idea?

    • Excellent questions . . .

      1. You can’t just ship containers of guns across the border. Official U.S. firearms sales have a paper trail (a.k.a., an end user certificate). Also, the Zetas are ex-military. They’ve completely infiltrated the Mexican Army (our pals). So they’d know about any large shipment.

      2. We’re not eliminating competition. We’re trying to stop Los Zetas taking over the entire country. A couple of ex-CIA guys report that Los Zetas have stocked up on weapons for a major disruption of the 2012 Mexican elections. At least. Guatemala is already a fiefdom.

      3. The long gun registry was in the works concurrently with Project Gunrunner (Op F&F’s predecessor), originally introduced as an “emergency” regulation. That they didn’t completely abandon it (it hit the skids once ’cause of Obama’s anti-regulation salmon farming comment, I kid you not) speak volumes about the ATF’s arrogance and anti 2a agenda.

      4. Agent Newell already fingered ICE. We can safely assume that CPB knew about F&F. At the least, they must have been warned off. Especially if you consider the normal procedure for CIA ops; they supersede all other agencies’ work.

      5. The CIA, the State Department and The White House. And others. But not the agents on the ground, allegedly. Or, for that matter, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family.

      • Thanks,Robert.

        Per Q #1,CIA could has ordered clandestine weapons (for maybe Iraq or elsewhere) and moved them via barge out of Coronado down the coast with less chance of what has happened. (I’ve worked in intermodal transport for 11 years and dealt w/Customs before) [And I accept #4,especially about CIA]

        It is too easy for an op like this (F&F) to go wrong.
        If there was an easier way,why tempt fate?

        Could have CIA “allowed” an op like this to be promoted for Whitehouse/Administration to bite on then “turn the tables” on them?

        • I don’t think we need to see F&F’s conduit to Sinaloa cartel members as an exclusive thing. For sure the ATF op wasn’t/isn’t the only way to arm cartel members.

          As I’ve stated before, I reckon F&F was a Murder on the Orient Express type deal: everyone (ATF, CIA, CPB, ICE, DEA, IRS, DHS, State and the White House) had their reasons to participate.

          Another great question. I’ve written on that before; I’m not entirely sure. How could ATF, etc. NOT think F&F would create blowback? ATF agents said as much. Besides it’s common sense. At this point, I’m thinking institutional arrogance. “When the President of the United States does it it’s not illegal.” Like that.

          I reckon the CIA has both situational ethics AND motivations. What starts as a program for one thing ends up as a program for another. Bad guys become good guys become bad guys (look at Afghanistan). And you know what? That’s the way the game is played. My biggest problem here: supplying Mexican drug cartel members with guns is none of the ATF’s GD business. When feds sworn to uphold the rule of law pervert it for “national security” it’s a hop, skip and a jump to a police state.

        • “Per Q #1,CIA could has ordered clandestine weapons (for maybe Iraq or elsewhere) and moved them via barge out of Coronado down the coast”

          Who says they haven’t? F&F was only a single channel of distribution, and to borrow a term from programming, it was “in beta.” And, if F&F blew up, the ATF would be left holding the bag, not the boys from Langley.

          “It is too easy for an op like this (F&F) to go wrong.”

          Boy oh boy do I disagree. Totally. The fact is that F&F was a great plan and would still be going on right now except one border agent got killed. One. Hundreds of dead Mexicans were of no import. If the bastard who shot Agent Terry was a worse shot, or crossed somewhere else, or had scratched the serial number off his gun, or had taken it with him, we still wouldn’t have heard about F&F. It would still be ongoing and thousands more guns would be in the hands of the Sinaloas.

        • Ok,Ralph. Even though you have a bunch of “If’s”,they are valid. I can agree.

  4. Last month the Obama administration took action against four international cartels by imposing financial and other penalties, like freezing and confiscating assets. The only Mexican cartel subject to the new program is Los Zetas.

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