Frank Miniter, who wrote this piece, is the author of Saving the Bill of Rights and The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide.
Why a gunrunning scandal codenamed “Fast and Furious,” a program run secretly by the U.S. government that sent thousands of firearms over an international border and directly into the hands of criminals, hasn’t been pursued by an army of reporters all trying to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein is a story in itself.
But the state of modern journalism aside, this scandal is so inflammatory few realize that official records show the current director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), B. Todd Jones — yes the individual the Obama administration brought in to replace ATF Director Kenneth Melson Aug. 30 in an effort to deflect congressional criticism — also has questions to answer about his involvement in this gunrunning scandal.
Fast and Furious was an operation so cloak-and-dagger Mexican authorities weren’t even notified that thousands of semi-automatic firearms were being sold to people in Arizona thought to have links to Mexican drug cartels. According to ATF whistleblowers, in 2009 the U.S. government began instructing gun storeowners to break the law by selling firearms to suspected criminals. ATF agents then, again according to testimony by ATF agents turned whistleblowers, were ordered not to intercept the smugglers but rather to let the guns “walk” across the U.S.-Mexican border and into the hands of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.
When the Gunrunning Program Began
A Jan. 8, 2010 briefing paper from the ATF Phoenix Field Division Group VII says: “This investigation has currently identified more than 20 individual connected straw purchasers…. To date (September 2009-present) this group has purchased in excess of 650 firearms (mainly AK-47 variants) for which they have paid cash totaling more than $350,000.”
This is an important fact because the U.S. Justice Department hasn’t made it clear to tell congressional investigators when the Fast and Furious operation began and who authorized it; as a result, this ATF briefing paper’s mention of September 2009 is thus far the earliest we can trace the operation.
The next important event we know of occurred in October 2009 when the ATF’s Phoenix Field Division established a gun-trafficking group called “Group VII.” Group VII began using the strategy of allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns, according to a report from the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the staff of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The report says, “The purpose was to wait and watch, in hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case…. Group VII initially began using the new gunwalking tactics in one of its investigations to further the Department’s strategy. The case was soon renamed ‘Operation Fast and Furious.’”
This report and later official explanations from the ATF say the Fast and Furious program was created to deal with the problem that arresting low-level suspects doesn’t necessarily help ATF agents get to the heads of Mexican cartels.
On Oct. 26, 2009, a month or so after Fast and Furious seems to have been initiated, a document shows that a teleconference was held between 13 officials. One of the issues discussed was the possible “adoption of the Department’s strategy for Combating Mexican Drug Cartels.” The officials listed to have been in on the call included Kenneth Melson, who was then the director of the ATF, Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI and a number of attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice. B. Todd Jones, the current director of the ATF, was not listed in the document, but the title he held in September 2009 is listed as being in on the conference call. It doesn’t take much reporting to fin http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2011/09/28/fast-and-furious-just-might-be-president-obamas-watergate/2/d out that in September 2009 Jones was the chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) and so was at least supposed to be in on the conference call. (When asked about the teleconference, an ATF spokeswoman told us “we don’t discuss active investigations.”)
Read the rest here: http://www.forbes.com