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Indictment in Border Agent Murder Turns up the Heat on Holder

A 14-count federal indictment has been leveled against an illegal alien and “other unnamed fugitives” in the Dec. 14, 2010 murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Terry was shot in the back with an AK-47-type weapon. At the scene were found weapons which had allegedly been knowingly allowed across the border by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives as a part of the now-notorious operations “Gunrunner” and “Fast and Furious.”

Rep. Darrel Issa, (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement taking Attorney General Holder to task over the indictment and the program:

The announcement of an indictment against Manuel Osorio-Arellanes for the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is certainly good news, but leaves critical questions unanswered. The Justice Department still hasn’t said how and why guns purportedly being tracked and monitored by federal law enforcement officials as part of Operation Fast and Furious ended up in the hands of Agent Terry’s killers.

It angers me to think that this death might not have occurred had it not been for reckless decisions made by officials at the Department of Justice who authorized and supported an operation that knowingly put guns in the hands of criminals. For these officials to imagine that this operation would result in anything other than a tragic outcome was naive and negligent.  Sen. Charles Grassley and I continue to demand accountability as we investigate this matter.

According to Examiner.com, others have been charged in the death, but the Justice Department has sealed those names.

The timing of the indictment is interesting, coming as it does shortly after Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled by both Issa and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Holder has claimed he had no knowledge of the operation, which allowed as many as 2,000 weapons, including .50 caliber sniper rifles, to be purchased by so-called “straw buyers” who bought the weapons legally with the intention of selling them illegally to gun trafficking rings and the Mexican drug cartels. The story was broken by CBS News earlier this year.

At least two American law enforcement deaths have been linked to weapons allowed across the border as part of the program. In addition to Terry, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata was also murdered with weapons sold under the ATF program.

Holder has repeatedly claimed the first time he or President Barack Obama heard about the program was on the news.

Likewise, according to an ABC affiliate out of Tuscon, Arizona, the first place Terry’s family heard about the indictment was on the news:

“It’s going to be some satisfaction for myself when I can see the person who could take part in killing Brian” said Carolyn Terry. She and her husband were disappointed to learn of the indictment from a telephone call from ABC News after it had happened. They hope those working the case will keep them better informed in the future.

Last week, in testimony before Issa’s committee, Holder took umbrage with the charge that the ATF operation had been responsible for the death of Terry or Zapata:

The notion that somehow or another that this Justice Department is responsible for those deaths, that assertion is offensive.

What is offensive is the frivolity with which the ATF approached this entire affair. An email sent by the ATF agent in charge of the operation, David J. Voth, reads in part:

I don’t know what all the issues are but we are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have a exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law enforcement tool box. If you don’t think this is fun you’re in the wrong line of work — period! This is the pinnacle of domestic U.S. Law enforcement techniques. After this the tool box is empty. Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day.

We need to get over this bump in the road once and for all and get on with the mission at hand. This can be the most fun you have with ATF, the only one limiting the amount of fun we have is you!

Voth was responding to very real concerns and complaints by fellow ATF agents. CBS reported that they were living in fear that the weapons they allowed across the border would be used to kill Americans:

One agent called the strategy “insane.” Another said: “We were fully aware the guns would probably be moved across the border to drug cartels where they could be used to kill.”

CBS News has been told at least 11 ATF agents and senior managers voiced fierce opposition to the strategy. “It got ugly…” said one. There was “screaming and yelling” says another. A third warned: “this is crazy, somebody is gonna to get killed.”

One agent argued with a superior asking, “are you prepared to go to the funeral of a federal officer killed with one of these guns?” Another said every time there was a shooting near the border, “we would all hold our breath hoping it wasn’t one of ‘our’ guns.”

Holder must stop obfuscating, and the DoJ must release all relevant information to congressional investigators — something PJM reported last month they have refused to do. And Holder must answer two simple questions truthfully — what did you know, and when did you know it?

(Also read “Holder holds on to closing Gitmo” at the Tatler.)