The cover-up is always worse than the crime: considering the Gunwalker scandal, it’s hard to know if that is true — for the moment. America is now a bit closer to that answer, and is also closer to an answer for the question at the heart of all Washington scandals: what did the president know, and when did he know it?
July 20: The Examiner reported that the State Department, through a little-known program called “U.S. Direct Commercial Sales,” supplied considerable small arms to the Zeta cartel. In fact, a Zeta leader has said that all of their weapons were purchased in the U.S. Evidence indicates that weapons not obtained through the State Department were obtained through straw purchasers in the Gunwalker investigation.
The Zetas apparently purchased land in Columbus, New Mexico, which was used as a transshipment point for taking weapons directly across the border. Another method reportedly saw weapons flown out of Alliance Airport north of Ft. Worth, an air operations center of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
July 25: Fox News reported that two of the 20 people indicted in Operation Fast And Furious for making straw purchases of firearms which were primarily shipped to Mexican drug cartels were cleared by the FBI to make those purchases. Federal officials refuse to explain how this occurred.
Those who have been following the case will recall that when it began to blow up in public, 20 people — all bottom-level straw purchasers — were arrested, and claims were made that no guns were allowed to walk across the border (claims that have been exposed as false). The FBI runs the instant check system (NICS) that must be used to allow anyone to purchase a firearm, yet two convicted felons — apparently in the system as felons — were allowed to buy more than 360 weapons. The FBI has had no comment, however an ATF source told Fox that whenever the NICS flagged a felon trying to buy guns, the ATF in Phoenix was called. Obviously, the ATF and FBI allowed the purchases to go through.
July 26: The Examiner reported that in the fall of 2009, ATF agents in Mexico noticed an unusual number of American guns coming into Mexico, and were surprised to learn that many were traced back to the Phoenix ATF office. Over the year that followed, ATF agents in Mexico complained, and were told only that things were “under control” and that the investigation would end soon — but it did not end until the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in January 2011.
The agents sent their concerns to Phoenix, and up the chain of command to ATF headquarters and to the Department of Justice. This caused ATF agent Darren Gil to get into a screaming match with ATF International Affairs Chief Dan Kumor.
DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, on a visit to Mexico, praised the operation, to the horror of the agents in Mexico. The ATF withheld information from their own agents because they did not want the Mexican government to know what was going on.
July 27: The Los Angeles Times reported that shortly after the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, ATF officials in Arizona and D.C. made several arrests of straw purchasers. Also, William Newell — ATF head in Arizona — sent several e-mails to his D.C. superiors, one of which admitted that guns were “walked” across the border. He defended the operation, saying: “I don’t like the perception that we allowed guns to walk.”
After Terry’s murder, top ATF officials claimed that none of the guns found at the scene of Terry’s killing were used to kill him. FBI forensics reports, which came to light last week, prove that the ATF claim was at best misleading. Ballistics testing could not conclusively indicate which weapon was actually used to shoot Terry, but the weapons found were walked across the border during Operation Fast and Furious. The ATF continues to claim that their misleading statement is accurate because they saw a distinction between guns found at the scene and guns “used” in the murder.
July 27: Hot Air reported that before Rep. Darrell Issa’s committee on July 26, William Newell testified that in September 2010 he discussed the Gunwalker case with White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O’Reilly. In relation to that communication, Newell sent O’Reilly an e-mail in which he wrote: “You didn’t get this from me.” Newell explained that O’Reilly was a long-time friend, and he shouldn’t have informed him.
The revelations of this week not only support or confirm much of what was already known, but add new, more disturbing dimensions to the scandal. It has long been known that heads of the FBI and DEA were informed about the program, as well as officials in the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the State Department. However, the State Department’s role in selling significant quantities of military surplus and military grade weapons and other equipment to the Zeta cartel, possibly through a thinly veiled front company, was not previously known.
The FBI certainly had to have known that the ATF was misrepresenting their forensic findings in the Terry murder, but did nothing to correct that misrepresentation to Congress or to the public, and had no comment regarding this revelation.
The most significant revelation of the week is that someone in the White House was made aware of the operation. Did the president or his chosen officials not only allow but encourage the illegal purchase and smuggling of arms into Mexico, a foolish and cynical attempt to further gun-control policies unobtainable through the legislative process? We now know that knowledge of the program was within a few steps of Obama.
Meanwhile, the MSM continues to avoid perhaps the most important, most deadly scandal in modern American history.