‘Gunwalker’ Under Fire
Will the Justice Department be held to account for arming lethal Mexican cartels?
June 14, 2011 - 12:00 am
Rumors began to fly over a week ago that a .50 BMG weapon supplied to Mexican drug cartels by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was used to bring down a Mexican military helicopter in May. According to CBS News, the use of that weapon can be confirmed, and it turns out the helicopter was one of two fired upon by suspected cartel members.
The raid on the cartel that the helicopters were supporting was successful, netting more than 70 weapons, including the helicopter-down .50 BMG rifle and other weapons traced back to the botched ATF Operation Fast and Furious, also know as “Gunwalker.”
To date, the ATF operation, which encouraged gun shops in the American southwest to sell weapons to suspected criminals and let them carry the weapons across the border, has resulted in an estimated 150 Mexican law enforcement officers and soldiers shot with ATF-supplied weapons. While the theory behind the plot was different, the end result is no more deplorable than Iran’s arming of Iraqi terrorists.
At least two American law enforcement officers have been murdered with ATF weapons as well. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed with “Gunwalker” firearms in Arizona, while ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata was killed in an ambush in Mexico with a gun the ATF allowed to be sold to a cartel gun smuggler in Dallas.
The damning evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice agency is a major supplier of cartel weapons will go in front of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week, in what could be a damning indictment of the ATF’s senior leadership and Eric Holder’s leadership of the Department of Justice.
Attorney General Holder has apparently ordered the DOJ to fight Congressional oversight, with the DOJ and ATF ignoring seven letters and a subpoena from the committee. Neither Holder nor ATF Director Ken Melson will answer questions — which may lead to them being held in contempt of Congress.
Holder and Melson have little reason to tell the truth about what happened with Operation Fast and Furious, which may be the most incompetent ATF operation since the agency’s ill-advised 1993 raid of the Branch Davidian compound left four agents dead and 16 wounded. (After the raid failed, the Justice Department then had the FBI take over a siege which ended in the deaths of 74 men, women, and children.) In responding to the subpoena and the letters directed to the agencies by Congress, they may reveal not just glaring incompetence, but perhaps open a door to political motives for the gun-running that point higher in the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama has long pushed the 90 percent lie, a bit of fiction in which he claims that 90 percent of cartel weapons in Mexico originate in U.S. gun shops along the border.
The fact of the matter is that of the 100,000 weapons that had been recovered by Mexican authorities at that time, only 18,000 were determined to have been manufactured, sold, or imported from the United States, and of those 18,000, just 7,900 came from sales by licensed gun dealers. He was only fabricating the truth by 81 percent.
Now that we know that the ATF directed U.S. gun dealers to allow more than 2000 — and as maybe as many as 2,500 — of those 7,900 guns, it now seems that something approaching a third of the guns sold by dealers to the cartels were conveyed at the order of Barack Obama’s Justice Department. Not only was the president lying about the percentage of guns coming from the U.S. in order to drum up support for gun control measures, his executive branch agencies were responsible for padding the numbers almost another 50 percent.
In addition to the civilian guns, the U.S. government is indirectly responsible for many of the cartels’ heavy weapons as well, though there is no indication that the Justice Department or ATF had any hand in what appears to be greed, graft, corruption, and theft south of the border.
So what do we have before us?
We have a rogue federal agency in the ATF that has been rudderless, without a permanent director since 2006, and with little hope of getting one anytime soon. (The president chose to nominate Andrew Traver for the post; he was immediately blocked by Republicans because of his anti-gun views and association with the Joyce Foundation.) We have a Justice Department that intends to deeply encroach upon individual liberties, emulating by deed, if not name, the same sort of lawless power King George gave to the redcoats. And we have a president that promised the most “unprecedented level of openness” in government, who has the power and responsibility to order the ATF and DOJ to respond to Congressional requests for information and subpoenas, and who refuses to do so.
Our executive branch has armed narco-terrorists as violent as any of the jihadis we’ve faced in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they owe it to the nation to explain both how and why.