Richard A. Serrano of the Los Angeles Times broke an exclusive story this morning that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had top Operation Fast and Furious gun smuggler Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta in custody while he was attempting to smuggle ammunition into Mexico, and made the decision to let him go:
Seven months after federal agents began the ill-fated Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation, they stumbled upon their main suspect in a remote Arizona outpost on the Mexican border, driving an old BMW with 74 rounds of ammunition and nine cellphones hidden inside.
Detained for questioning that day in May 2010, Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta described to agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives his close association with a top Mexican drug cartel member, according to documents obtained this weekend by the Times/Tribune Washington Bureau.
The top Fast and Furious investigator, Special Agent Hope MacAllister, scribbled her phone number on a $10 bill after he pledged to cooperate and keep in touch with investigators.
Then Celis-Acosta disappeared into Mexico. He never called.
Had they arrested him red-handed trying to smuggle ammunition into Mexico, Fast and Furious might have ended quickly. Instead, the program dragged on for another eight months, spiraling out of control.
If you choose to believe Attorney General Eric Holder, the multi-agency strike force composed of assets from the ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Department of Homeland Security, and (if conducted legally with waivers from the Arms Export Control Act) the State Department wanted to catch drug cartel higher-ups by using this gun-walking plot. To anyone even remotely familiar with how professional criminals use guns, the Department of Justice’s public justification for Operation Fast and Furious never made sense, and how Operation Fast and Furious was designed to work discredits the attorney general’s claim.
The DOJ claims that higher-ups were the plot’s goal. This is entirely untrue.
In the world of drug cartels, firearms are a disposable consumable, much as copy paper is in a normal company. Just as Warren Buffett has far more pressing issues on his plate than determining where to buy copy paper and other office supplies, cartel ringleaders have more pressing concerns. With shifting alliances to maintain and exploit, and the need to cultivate relationships with politicians and law enforcement officers across international borders, they simply don’t have time for what amounts to obtaining consumable office supplies in their line of work.
Ask any federal law enforcement agent and they will corroborate that fact. Fast and Furious never would have caught higher-ups, because higher-ups simply aren’t involved in such pedestrian matters as small-batch gun acquisition. Even if the ATF/DEA/FBI had tracked the guns, and had worked with Mexican authorities, the operation never would have been able to bring down cartel leaders. No cartel gun investigation of this type ever has, and none ever will. The official line provided by Attorney General Holder is a bald-faced and rather obvious lie.