Instead of taking responsibility for their critical roles in the fatally flawed gun-walking program, Operation: Fast and Furious, two ATF supervisors are blaming federal prosecutors for allowing straw purchasers to deliver guns to Mexican drug cartels.
Attorneys for Bill Newell, the former ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division and David Voth, Supervisor of Phoenix Group VII (the branch that executed Fast and Furious), sent letters to congressional investigators last month claiming that federal prosecutors prevented the men from interdicting because they did not have probable cause to arrest the straw purchasers (for more info on the letters, check out Townhall.com).
“According to the prosecutor, the agents lacked sufficient evidence that the firearms were illegally purchased, and it would have been unlawful for the agents to seize them,” attorney Joshua Levy said in a letter on Voth’s behalf to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “Under those circumstances, non-interdiction by the agents is not gunwalking.”
But evidence uncovered in the congressional investigation, along with testimony from whistleblowers within the agency, clearly contradicts this argument.
At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on June 14, 2011, ATF insiders made the following statements:
“Although my instincts made me want to intervene and interdict these weapons, my supervisors directed me and my colleagues not to make any stop or arrest, but rather, to keep the straw purchaser under surveillance while allowing the guns to walk.” –John Dodson
“Suspected straw purchasers were identified, again with no obvious attempts to interdict the weapons or interview suspects.” –Olindo Casa
“No interdiction efforts were planned.” –Peter Forcelli
Okay, so ignore those testimonials for a moment and let’s pretend that Newell and Voth were reluctantly following orders from a federal attorney, which prevented them from seizing the firearms because they lacked probable cause.
One would think that the responsible action would be (a) Newell and Voth would redouble surveillance on suspected straw purchasers and (b) they would do everything in their power to thwart suspected purchasers from buying more guns.
But, clearly they did not do either. In fact, one could argue they did the opposite.
While maintaining a policy of minimal surveillance, they encouraged wary gun shop dealers to proceed with sales to shady customers and instructed lower-level agents to sit back and watch, or told them ‘don’t worry, Mexican Police will track the arms if they go south of the border’ (a flat out lie).
In an email dated April 13, 2010, Voth wrote the following to a concerned gun shop owner:
“I understand that the frequency with which some individuals under investigation by our office have been purchasing firearms from your business has caused concerns for you. … However, if it helps put you at ease we (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into (in) detail.”
In other words, continue to sell weapons to straw purchasers.
In an interview last year, Voth expressed this ‘our-hands-were-tied-by-prosecutors’ argument.
“I don’t think that agents in Fast and Furious were forgoing taking action when probable cause existed,” he said. “If the U.S. Attorney’s Office says we don’t have probable cause, I think that puts us in a tricky situation to take action.”
A tricky situation? Really?
Perhaps, he should have thought harder about the “tricky situation” that would result if he failed to act.
That is, the “tricky situation” that we currently find ourselves in, where a U.S. Border Patrol Agent is dead, where countless Mexican citizens are dead, where thousands of government-walked guns are still unaccounted for.