The findings listed in yesterday’s Joint Staff Report “The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence” are startling. They are listed here in full because each detail is as important as the next.
– In the Fall of 2009, ATF officials in Mexico began noticing a spike in guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes. Many of those guns traced directly to an ongoing investigation out of ATF’s Phoenix Field Division.
– As operation Fast and Furious progressed, there were numerous recoveries of large weapons caches in Mexico. These heavy-duty weapons included AK-47s, AR-15s, and even Barrett .50 caliber rifles – the preferred weapons of drug cartels.
– At a March 5, 2010 briefing, ATF intelligence analysts told ATF and DOJ leadership that the number of firearms bought by known straw purchasers had exceeded the 1,000 mark. The briefing also made clear these were ending up in Mexcio.
– ATF and DOJ Leadership kept their own personnel in Mexico and Mexican government officials totally in the dark about all aspects of Fast and Furious. Meanwhile, ATF officials in Mexico grew increasingly worried about the number of weapons recovered in Mexico that traced back to an ongoing investigation out of ATF’s Phoenix Field Division.
– ATF officials in Mexico raised their concerns about the number of weapons recovered up the chain of command to ATF leadership in Washington, D.C. Instead of acting decisively to end Fast and Furious, the senior leadership at both ATF and DOJ praised the investigation and the positive results in had produced. Frustrations reached a boiling point, leading former ATF Attache Darren Gil to engage in screaming matches with his supervisor, International Affairs Chief Daniel Kumor, about the need to shut down the Phoenix-based investigation.
– Despite assurances that the program would be shut down as early as March 2010, it took the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent in December 2010 to actually bring the program to a close.
– ATF officials in Mexico finally realized the truth. ATF allowed guns to walk. By withholding this critical information from its own personnel in Mexico, ATF jeopardized relations between the U.S. and Mexico.
– The high-risk tactics of cessation of surveillance, gunwalking, and non-interdiction of weapons that ATF used in Operation Fast and Furious went against the core of the ATF’s mission, as well as training and field experience of its agents. These flaws inherent in Operation Fast and Furious made its tragic consequences inevitable.
More explicit connections can be drawn from these findings, i.e. the details regarding the different drug cartels that profited from the high-risk, laissez-faire tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. For instance, earlier this month the Washington Times did a story on Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, the No. 3 leader of the notorious Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, who admitted to Mexican police that “all the weapons” the Zetas use were “bought in the United States” and that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons.” As of right now, it is still unclear whether the Los Zetas member who gunned down Jamie Zapata, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement Agent (ICE), used guns trafficked as part of Operation Fast and Furious.
What is clear, and what is mentioned in the findings, is that U.S. Border Patrol Agent, Brain Terry was murdered in December 2010 with guns linked to this investigation.
The Joint Staff Report also gives figures as to the number of guns purchased and the number of guns still unaccounted for, it states, “According to the Justice Department’s July 22, 2011 response to Questions for the Record posed by Senator Grassley, Fast and Furious suspects purchased 1,418 weapons after becoming known to the ATF. Of those weapons, 1,048 remain unaccounted for, since the Department’s response indicates that the guns have not yet been recovered and traced.”
Acting ATF Attache in Mexico, Carlos Canino was questioned about the strategies used in Operation Fast and Furious and their long-term implications for the U.S and Mexico. Here is part of that transcript:
Q. When you first go the impression that this was part of a strategy to let guns walk into Mexico, what was your reaction to that strategy?
A. The guys in Mexico will trace those… I’m beyond angry. Brian Terry is not the last guy, okay, guys? Let’s put it out there right now. Nobody wants to talk about that. Brain Terry is not the last guy unfortunately… Unfortunately, there are hundreds of Brian Terrys probably in Mexico… We ATF armed the [Sinaloa] cartel. It is disgusting.
Like Los Zetas, the Sinaloa cartel is just one of the many associated with Operation Fast and Furious.
And as telling as Canino’s answer was, perhaps his most trenchant description of Operation Fast and Furious is, “That is, I mean, this is the perfect storm of idiocy.”