“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.