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.