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Gunwalker? Fast and Furious?

Every so often a big news story develops, or at any rate a story that a lot of people are saying is a big story, and I miss the bus, so to speak. At first I ignore it, in this case because it seemed a small, local American matter of no great interest to me, and then, when I keep on being told, by people whom I respect, how significant the story is, the stories I do read don’t make much sense to me, and often hardly any. Having failed to grasp the fundamentals of the matter at a time when that was what everyone who cared was talking about, I never from then on got told about them. In more recent reports, the fundamentals of the story are assumed, rather than spelt out again and again. Consequently, as far as this story is concerned, I lack any sense of the big picture, and each further burst of paintwork that someone adds to the big picture only adds to my confusion.

So it has been with “Gunwalker” (aka “Fast and Furious” which I assume is the name given to the operation in question by those responsible for setting it in motion), which is a story about American government officials selling guns to bad Mexicans, and other Mexicans (Good ones? Other bad ones?) being killed with these guns. I think. Instapundit seems to have linked to stories about this story on an almost daily basis, ever since it became a story, most recently here and here.

Rather than meander on at greater length about what (this being my entire point here) I do not understand, let me state my request simply. Could our ever industrious and informative commentariat take it in turns to try to explain this story to me, and why it matters, as if explaining it to someone who knows nothing about it. Because that, pretty much, is what I am.

I am particularly interested in what the possible motivations of the accused government officials might have been. What nefarious, illegally money-making motives might they have had? But also: What honourable but undiscussable motives might they have had? What greater good might they have been pursuing with the apparent evil that they seem to have been presiding over?

Instapundit is fond of comparing Gunwalker with Watergate, on account of nobody having been killed by Watergate, but on account of it having mortally wounded the Presidency concerned. He presents Gunwalker as a story involving, among other things, blatant mainstream media bias.

But I am also reminded a little bit of that Arms For The Nicaraguan Contras thing that Reagan got accused of. That never bothered me too much, because however illegally Reagan may have acted in obtaining the arms in question, arms for the Contras sounded good to me, given the people that the Contras were said to be fighting against, and who was supporting the people that the Contras were said to be fighting against. And it never bothered Reagan too much because Reagan was not only a genius in general but also a genius in particular at appearing to be the opposite of a genius, with no clue as to what his underlings got up to and therefore who couldn’t be blamed for anything they did that was considered bad.

But, although apparently a fairly typical affair of state, this Contragate (?) matter was used by the then left-dominated media to badmouth Reagan. Could this be what the right-leaning alternative media are doing now with this Gunwalker thing? Using it as a stick to beat Obama with, when actually there are quite good reasons for what has been going on? Or are there extremely good reasons to bang on about this thing? These are not statements disguised as questions, they are actual questions. I do not know. But, I now find that I would like to.

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46 comments to Gunwalker? Fast and Furious?

  • I guess this would be easier if we knew what bits and pieces you had managed to gather so far. Another major difficulty is that the events which we think happened keeps changing as new information comes to light.

    I’ve seen this summary at The Sipsey Street Irregulars, which seems to be as good as any.

    The Gunwalker Scandal Made Simple
    There are five key accusations against ATF and DOJ made by ATF whistleblowers and other sources within FedGov:
    1. That they instructed U.S. gun dealers to proceed with questionable and illegal sales of firearms to suspected gunrunners.
    2. That they allowed or even assisted in those guns crossing the U.S. border into Mexico to “boost the numbers” of American civilian market firearms seized in Mexico and thereby provide the justification for more firearm restrictions on American citizens and more power and money for ATF.
    3. That they intentionally kept Mexican authorities in the dark about the operation, even over objections of their own agents.
    4. That weapons that the ATF let “walk” to Mexico were involved in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE agent Jaime Zapata, as well as at least hundreds of Mexican citizens.
    5. That at least since the death of Brian Terry on 14 December, the Obama administration is engaged in a full-press cover-up of the facts behind what has come to be known as the “Gunwalker Scandal.”

    I’ve seen other sources that mentioned specific cartels, but I can’t recall which cartels or which sources. I should also note that there’s another project called “Operation: Gunrunner” which is completely distinct from Gunwalker, but sometimes reporters and bloggers get them confused.

  • llamas

    I will try. And probably fail, in part at least.

    The facts are that, by various means, large numbers of firerarms, which would be generally-legal to buy and own in the US, were diverted by US officials into the hands of persons connected with various criminal enterprises, mostly based in Mexico. They did this by suborning the activities of otherwise-legal and legitimate gun dealers. Some of these firearms made their way across the border into Mexico, and were subsequently used in criminal activities, the results of which include the death of at least one US Federal officer as well as who-knows-how-many Mexicans.

    The alleged ‘greater good’ that was supposedly being pursued was that this would enable intelligence to be developed about criminal activities on both sides of the border and how guns were ‘walked’ over the border. Quite how this was supposed to happen, is not yet clear. What is clear is that the vast majority of guns in the hands of Mexican criminals that have actually been traced back to US gun dealers, got there with the active knowledge and assistance of ATF.

    More-cynical persons than I have suggested that one of the outcomes, if not one of the goals, of this effort was to support the narrative of the present administration, which alleges that many of the firearms used by Mexican criminals are sourced through legitimate outlets in the US. This assertion was/is used as justification for more and more-onerous ‘gun control’ measures. In effect, the adminstration sought to prove their assertion that Mexican criminals get their guns from US gun shops by arranging for US gun shops to illegally sell guns to Mexican criminals.

    The scandal is that the US Federal agency involved (BATF) has now clammed up and is refusing to talk. Data is being winkled out of them by Congressional investigations, and it now appears that Attorney General Eric Holder was aware of this program some time ago and did nothing to stop it . He has now been caught denying knowledge of the activity well-after (as we now know) he was aware of it.

    The whole idea has been well-described as ‘a perfect storm of idiocy’, the kind of thing that only a Federal LEO could consider to be a good idea. To steal a meme from our friend Sunfish, the last time I had an idea this mind-blowingly stupid, the story began with the words ‘ . . . and then we started drinking tequila.’

    I hope this helps, but the story has a long way to go and we may not know the half of it yet.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Agammamon

    In a nutshell, there’s a lot of violence in Mexico at the moment caused by the drug war and lots of people are claiming that a great many guns are being smuggled across the border and ending up in the hands of the cartels.

    The ATF came up with F/F as an attempt to track theses guns and, I guess, get evidence on the people doing the tracking.

    So they conspired with some gun dealers north of the border to allow shady/straw purchases to go through.

    Unfortunately the ATF never actually came up with a way to keep tabs on the guns during transit, their only way of knowing where the guns ended up would be if they were seized later. I assume the ATF figured the guns would end up seized in drug raids but never used. Except that several guns were seized as evidence at *murders*, meaning the ATF is at least somewhat complicent.

    Also not clear is what the ATF actually planned to do with the evidence they gathered. While smuggling the guns across the border and possessing them would be against Mexican law, the ATF wouldn’t have any actual proof that this was done (short of the guns showing up at a raid – in which this would only be a few more charges added on) and purchasing a gun through fraud in America is not illegal in Mexico.

    Ultimately it was a poorly conceived and executed operation that, I wouldn’t say caused deaths but certainly helped enable some murderers – all without returning anything usefull in the way of evidence.

  • Amiable Dorsai

    The least insane hypothesis I’ve heard is that the guns were allowed to go to one of the cartels in order to keep another cartel from getting powerful enough to displace the Mexican government. To preserve the balance of thuggery, if you will.

    Alternate notions include outright bribery of high administration officials and an attempt to create voter support for more restrictive laws on the sale of guns in the US.

  • They were happily letting guns go through to Mexico while the president (and others) were saying that most of the guns involved in the Mexican drug wars were being bought in the United States- the implication being that your average American gun store owner was allowing this to happen rather than your average American government employee. As for potential good reasons, they probably thought they would get a better idea about the nature of the network the Mexicans were using to get their guns. We are seeing a similar thing with a few of the terrorist cases that are being brought up- the people being put on trail had ‘handlers’ FBI personnel who actually facilitated every stage up to some point where the guy pushes a button he thinks will blow up a bomb. So we end up with criminal activity that simply could not have happened at all if police had acted like police rather than encouraging and even funding illegal behavior. And then it seems these cases are sold in the media as a reason for having these organizations around to protect us.
    So, in this case, they let the guns go through, eventually a border guard gets shot with one of these guns, and now, if the Republicans are anything more than mere collaborators they can get Eric Holder for perjury right now and start indicting people. I won’t hold my breath.

    I don’t know whether or not the president himself is at risk. That might just be wishful thinking. There are no end of unconstitutional things someone could impeach him for, but it is unlikely he’ll get in trouble for any of them because all the other politicians want to be able to be just as unconstitutional as he is.

  • agn

    As so often, Iowahawk(Link) has the best illustration.

    But I’m with Brian on this – it seems important but I can’t quite understand what is or might be or should have been going on here…

  • RRS

    Well Brian,

    Let’s beegin with two of your words: big and story

    Big is a matter of context. In “media” contexts it may be relative to other stories available to intrigue the public. It may be relative to the reasons for “non-reporting” (particularly in correct factual details). And, it may be big for its duration and where it leads to other information.

    None of that should be news to you.

    But, story is in the telling, in the reporting on the development of the tale as it is told – finally in what the telling and the way it is told reveals.

    What is occurring here is that the telling of the story is shifting from the “media” to an investigative political body. Now the story becomes what that body is finding.

    The general details are the too familiar kind of case where actions of persons with governmental authority may contravene the very laws they should uphold or enforce. There follow apparent efforts to “cover-up” the actions, the sources of authority and the reasons for the actions; obfuscations, etc. that then raise the questions of why the cover-up, why the obfuscations. Thus the story, now being differently, becomes larger, or broader, or big

  • RRS

    sorry, that shouls have read “… differently told…”

  • CaptDMO

    from llamas above, parens/bold mine

    More-cynical persons than I (apparently me) have suggested that one of the outcomes, if not one of the goals, of this effort was to support the (roundly debunked by National Rifle Association et.al.)narrative of the present administration, which alleges (SEE: Hillary Clinton, Secy. of State, short term New York Senator, former Presidential candidate and White House “occupant”) that many of the firearms used by Mexican criminals are sourced through legitimate outlets in the US. This assertion was/is used as justification for more and more-onerous ‘gun control’ (disarm the populous) measures (by liberal/marxist/Democrat/Progressive/Green, by any other name). In effect, the adminstration sought to prove their (debunked) assertion that Mexican criminals get (most of) their (“assault” type) guns from US gun shops by arranging for US (illegal Mexican immigration plagued boarder state) gun shops to illegally sell guns to Mexican criminals.

    Current trends in decreased violent “protests”, and violent crime, in US metropolitan areas previously under strict firearm/ concealed handgun rules (ignored by criminals of course), now found to be “unconstitutional” after a more strict “interpretation”. suggest current scandal-plagued administration of Department of “Justice”/Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco,Firearms, and Explosives, desperation to “go-big” or lose cash/influence, with US gub’mint austerity trade-offs strong>pending in an increasingly Conservative/Republican/”Tea Party” elected US Legislative Branch.

  • Laird

    The previous posts have summarized the facts of the matter fairly well. I would add that not only did ATF fail to track the guns (which allegedly was their plan), there is documentary evidence that at least one aggressive agent who did try to do so was not only denied the resources necessary but was actually ordered to cease. So whatever the claims of the higher-ups at ATF and Justice, it is clear that they never really intended to follow the guns. The only plausible explanation is the one offered by llamas.

    As to why this is an important story, and not simply some rogue stupidity at the local level, it was conceived and explicitly approved at the highest levels of the ATF and the Justice Department. The Arizona US Attorney (since reassigned) was actively involved in every aspect of the operation, and kept his superiors in Washington closely advised. There is evidence showing that Eric Holder was briefed, in detail, on the operation at least as early as June of last year, although he testified before Congress that he first learned about it only in the spring of 2011. (That’s the basis for allegations of perjury, and the charge seems substantial). Justice and ATF are stonewalling at every step, of course.

    And I have doubts that an operation of this magnitude and importance, involving permitting literally thousands of automatic weapons to be delivered to violent criminal gangs in another country, could have occurred without the knowledge and consent of the President. But so far (so far!) there is no clear evidence of that.

    Gunrunner involved ordering lawful gun dealers to sell automatic weapons to known straw buyers, in complete violation of US laws. It only came to light when a US border agent was killed by one of the guns (apparently the deaths of a few hundred mere Mexicans was unimportant). The people involved in this are guilty of, at the least, accessory to murder, as well as a host of other crimes, and should be prosecuted.

    I have written to both of my Senators and my Congressman (twice) asking that Congress demand the appointment of a special prosecutor over this. Clearly Holder is implicated, and he cannot be permitted to investigate himself. He also appears guilty of perjury (as noted above), but to me that’s a lesser concern. Which is not to say that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for that, of course: in the Valerie Plame case Scooter Libby was prosecuted and convicted of perjury solely on the basis of mis-remembering the date of a meeting, not its substance; Holder is guilty of far worse. But there are greater crimes than perjury here, which should be thoroughly (and honestly) investigated and prosecuted. This is corruption at the highest level.

  • CaptDMO

    Current trends of “burying” the ongoing developments by demonstrably “progressive” biased US news-reader groups, and regular updates of factual revelations by impartial, and Conservative, media outlets lends heavily to the uproar over MANY current US Executive Branch circumventions the US Constitution, and established US Judicial Branch (Supreme Court) “interpretations” of the Constitution.

  • Steven Rockwell

    It’s a big deal, not just because the US government had a hand in arming the narco-insurgency in Mexico while not telling the Mexican government what was going on, but because the US government was then using the justification of US guns ending up in Mexico as the justification for more gun control laws. People were getting killed in Mexico, and then a couple of US citizens were killed by those same guns, all so Washington could say, “see? You need to have their Second Amendment rights curtailed because this is YOUR fault.”

    It’s a big deal because agents of the US governement created the prolem with the express intent of using said problem as an excuse to remove rights from American citizens.

  • the other rob

    Others have explained matters comprehensively, so I’ll only add that the weapons in question were semi-automatic, rather than automatic, firearms. The distinction is quite important in US law.

    This reminds me of a (perhaps rather dangerous) question that has been in the back of my mind for some time. Given the importance, in modern politics, of lobbying on behalf of interest groups and accepting the assertions that the profitability of the drug cartels is predicated upon the illegality of their product and that useful idiots can only carry a cause so far, what is the likelihood that the cartels are employing agents in DC to lobby against any relaxation of drug prohibition?

  • You have a twisted mind, other rob…I like it.

  • That said, I doubt there’s anything like that at play: there’s enough public support for the War on Drugs, and not nearly enough public calls to end it, to render such efforts needless.

  • Steven Rockwell

    the other rob wrote:

    what is the likelihood that the cartels are employing agents in DC to lobby against any relaxation of drug prohibition?

    They’d have to get in line. Between the blue hairs that think drugs are evil, and the boogeyman of increased crime and healthcare costs if we have legalization, and the police that are thrilled with court rulings allowing them to do pretty much anything thanks to the War on Drugs (Fourth Amendment? That old thing? Forget about it.) to the love of forfeiture laws by every government from town to national from drug laws, there is no chance that we’ll ever get legalization. While some drug money may end up in campaign war chests, there’s simply too much money and power involved to even consider legalization.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The importance is easily explained: think ‘Reichstag fire.” Then think about having a government in power – in America! – that sees nothing wrong with ‘Reichstag fire’ tactics.

  • RickC

    Nothing to add to the descriptions, but to Alisa and Steven Rockwell just want to say I’ve seen some polls lately that indicate a growing disaffection with the WOD. Hope it keeps growing. Things this big take time in a democracy.

  • Mark S.

    The blog, The Truth About Guns, (which Glenn Reynolds had often linked to about this story) has been providing regular coverage about Gunwalker under the tag of “ATF Death Watch.” This particular post from August 8, 2011, has a short summary of what was known at that point, plus some speculation as to the purpose of the program. (http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/08/robert-farago-and-ralph-dixon/atf-death-watch-53-the-truth-about-operation-fast-and-furious/). I would note that there have been significant developments since that time, including similar operations were apparently carried out in other areas of the United States, and evidence that Attorney General Holder and the White House had knowledge of the program contrary to earlier testimony before Congress.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Let me add a couple of points.

    1) The SEMI-automatic weapons sold were at the express demand of the BATFE, who threatened legitimate gun dealers who did exactly what the law required; a) refused the sale, and b) reported everyone concerned to the BATFE. The gun dealers were threatened with harassment and prosecution of they did not break the law.

    2) It has come out that at least some of the sales were directly paid for with government funds, from the FBI and BATFE.

    3) The phone records show that the BATFE regional supervisor in charge [and that is well down the government food chain] was making multiple calls every week to the White House.

    4) Congress is in possession of a briefing paper sent to Attorney General Holder in July 2010 laying out the whole project. In May of this year, Holder testified under oath that he had just learned of the alleged operation with the last few days. Since then, they are floating the trial balloons that either a) Holder misunderstood the question he answered under oath, or b) that he neither reads his briefing papers nor listens to his briefings.

    I would note that as Investors Business Daily said today

    http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/587002/201110041859/Indict-Holder.aspx

    political and and sports figures have been indicted, convicted, and imprisoned for lying to Congress under oath with less evidence.

    I would also note that in the case of the murder of US LEO’s that at least one recovered “walked” firearm that was involved was seized and concealed from investigators by the FBI; such concealment of material evidence in a Federal felony being also a Federal felony.

    The political goals of the operations, given the patently false statements made by the administration about the sources of the firearms used by the cartels [They are using primarily military, fully automatic weapons cheaply and easily obtainable on the world market or stolen from the Mexican military. Why would they be willingly seeking to pay full retail price for less capable weapons available to American civilians?], would seem to be the restriction of the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights as part of their overall assault on the entire Bill.

    We are at a cusp, where it will be determined whether the current administration is above the law and Constitution or not. With the Vichy Institutional Republicans we have, I am betting that we are going to prove to be a government of men, not laws; and the redress of that is going to be …. untidy.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Nathan A

    David Codrea has an exhaustive, six-part volume he’s titled “A Journalist’s Guide to ‘Project Gunwalker” with what I believe to be the most comprehensive collection of Gunwalker stories and information. There is lots to wade through, but here you are:

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five
    Part Six

    Mike Vanderbough and David Codrea are the two men who broke this story last December, and they continue to be a primary source of information. As someone who has been following this from day 1, it appears that the other commenters have given a pretty good outline of it all. The more information that comes out, the worse this administration looks. Which probably explains why Dept of Justice and White House spokespeople were “screaming and yelling” at a reporter for pushing this story in the mainstream media.

  • I posted this and then had to go and do something else, and have only just read all the above answers. Most helpful. Thank you. Please keep them coming if you think anything important has been missed out.

    I already understand this issue much better, and I hope that the same applies for quite a few others besides me.

  • Steven Rockwell

    There’s a huge thread on Gunwalker at AR15.com. with tons of information and links. It lays the whole thing out from beginning to end. Be warned: It’s a lot of information and it will take a little bit of work to digest it all, but I think it’s worth the effort.

    (Link)

  • The BATFE has 25 domestic field divisions plus an international one. We know that these gunwalking tactics were used at Phoenix, Houston, and Columbus. We have no reason to believe that they were not used in the other 23 field divisions other than our faith in the honesty and probity of the BATFE leadership.

    How widespread these tactics were and how many domestic and international gangs were armed by these tactics is a very big unanswered question. How many have died and in what countries is something that nobody knows.

  • MHG

    I’m surprised no one (here or elsewhere) is making the obvious point, which is that the US government appears to have committed an act of war against Mexico. Consider how the US government would react if it were engaged in a de facto civil war with a bunch of narco-terrorist rebels and then some other government helped arm them so they could kill hundreds of civilians.

    From the information so far available to the public, I don’t think jail time will be sufficient punishment for this. At the very least, it seems to me that the people responsible should be handed over to the Mexicans.

    To be sure, I can’t imagine any underlying scheme, however well meant, that would justify the obvious risks of Operation Fast and Furious.

  • The background to the Gunwalker story goes back to the 2008 presidential election. Obama and Clinton claimed that 90% of the guns seized in Mexico originated in the US. This was hotly disputed, and was referred to on some blogs as “the 90% lie”.

    After being elected, it is alleged that Obama told a meeting of gun control activists that his administration was working on gun control “under the radar”.

    “Gunwalker” is a term referring to a number of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) operations to allow guns to pass to Mexican drug cartels.

    “Fast and Furious” is the term for the operation in the Phoenix, Arizona area. The weapons from Fast and Furious have been linked to more than 200 deaths in Mexico, and the deaths of one US border agent, and two US immigrations agents within Mexico.

    In this operation, a number of dealers were allowed or encouraged to sell multiple weapons (up to and including Browning M82 rifles, capable of hitting targets at a couple of miles range, and of taking down vehicles). The volume was extremely suspect, since multiple purchases is illegal. It is alleged that the “Acting Director” of ATF had a video feed in his office from one of the gun stores.

    Despite the capability of the weaponry, there does not appear to have been a mechanism to trace the weapons. One early rationalisation was that ATF was hoping to develop informers. However, it later emerged that most of the guys buying the guns were known to the FBI or other agencies from the US Department of Justice.

    And it appears that Gunwalker is larger than Fast and Furious. There appears to have been operations in Dallas, Houston and Florida, as well as an operation to arm drug gangs in Indiana (sometimes referred to as “Gangwalker”. One of the operations was selling weapons to Central America. However, far less appears to be known about these operation than the Phoenix operation.

    The DOJ has been avoiding questions for some time. The questioning has been lead by Rep Issa from California. Seveal ATF agents have testified that they begged to be allowed to arrest the gun-walker guys. In the past month, a number of MSM and Democratic people has specifically attacked Issa for fairly spurious reasons.

    It now appears that the head of the Department of Justic, Eric Holder, has mislead Congress. He told them he became aware of F+F earlier this year. It now appears that he was receiving weekly briefings from the middle of last year.

    It also appears the White House is implicated. A member of the Obama national security team was in daily contact with one of the Arizona guys. The Obama administration is resisting requests for documents.

    The story appears to have broken out of the blogosphere this week when a CBS reporter appeared on the Laura Ingraham radio show to say that the DOJ and White House were screaming and yelling at her that she was the only reporter covering the story, and that neither was prepared to answer her questions in writing. CBS are now saying that she isn’t available for interview
    for the rest of the week, suggesting that the media itself could be part of the conspiracy.

    So, we have dead US agents, many dead Mexicans from an operation which probably broke US arm export laws, which had daily contact with the White House, and which Holder appears to have committed perjury. And we have a senior executive in CBS potentially part of the story. And we have the NYT attacking Issa at the point where Gunwalker broke open.

  • What were they thinking??? …Don’t answer that.

  • Midwesterner

    What bothers me more than the behavior of the leadership, which is always and everywhere worthy of suspicion w/o regard to party or platform, is the shear numbers of rank and file LEOs in multiple agencies that had to have knowledge of this, yet didn’t have screaming fits on a very public stage.

    For the Blue Wall of Silence to be that thick and soundproof is quite frightening and suggests these agencies may be incorrigible.

  • llamas

    Midwesterner wrote:

    ‘What bothers me more than the behavior of the leadership, which is always and everywhere worthy of suspicion w/o regard to party or platform, is the shear numbers of rank and file LEOs in multiple agencies that had to have knowledge of this, yet didn’t have screaming fits on a very public stage.’

    That’s because you don’t know how Federal law-enforcement generally works. Federal law-enforcement agencies seem to specifically select for congenital bone-headedness and institutional myopia in both leadership and RAF recruiting. Couple that with a culture in which any deviation from the current stated agency position is treated as an act of treason against the agency – a crime far worse than anything perpetrated by the actual criminals they are supposed to be pursuing – and you will soon develop agencies which only look inward and which never, ever, ever question the wisdom of anything that they do. They also have the unfortunate habit of developing officers who truly believe that they are God’s gift to law-enforcement, superior to all others in all ways, and incapable of any error, no matter how slight. They also tend to develop an almost-religious fealty to their agency, no matter what.

    This is how you get Federal prosecutors to put Lewis Libby in jail for mis-remembering the date of a meeting, or Martha Stewart in jail for (essentially) daring to question the allegations made against her. Or prosecuting a man for importing lobsters in plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes, or arresting a man at gunpoint for incorrectly-labelling a UPS shipment, or raiding the Gibson guitar factory and confiscating a million-dollars worth of goods. In a rational, reasonable world, none of these things are crimes.

    Once the Federal law-enforcement juggernaut starts to roll, nothing can stop it. And they specialize in – some would say, they take an especial, perverse delight in – prosecuting people to the ends of the earth for things which nobody knows are crimes and which nobody in their right mind thinks are worthy of being prosecuted at all. Meanwhile, you can’t find a Federal prosecutor who will take a check-fraud case for a loss of less than $50K – we have limited resources, you know, and we don’t have any to waste on things as trivial as that.

    And BATF is among the worst.

    True story.

    On the Federal firearms purchase form 4473, there is a space for the purchaser to enter the name of the county in which they reside.

    Because very, very few people normally write down the county of residence when they give their address, this box is sometimes left blank. Some people actually don’t know their county of residence.

    I have seen a BATF examiner threaten a federally-licensed firearms dealer with the loss of his license, confiscation of all his stock, and 5 years in the Federal joint for the ‘crime’ of allowing his customers to submit a form 4473 with the ‘county of residence’ box left blank. This was described as ‘deliberately falsifying transaction records’. And imagine the inspector’s joy when she found more than one form with this error, because now she was able to threaten him with a ‘conspiracy’ charge as well.

    That’s the kind of minsdet that pervades the BATF. In that environment, I can well-see where an idea this stupid would be put forward, approved and implemented, and why they are now desperately backpedalling and trying to cover it up. It’s in their institutional DNA.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Steven Rockwell

    The problem isn’t the incompetence of the BATFE. This is the same agency that was responsible for Ruby Ridge and that declared a shoestring really was a machine gun and then reversed themselves after all. And who needs published testing procedures anyways? Remember Waco started because it was appropriations time and the BATF needed a sexy operation they could put into a highlights reel for Congress to see.

    The problem isn’t even a possible act of war against Mexico by arming both sides and possibly even entering into some kind of an arrangement with Los Zetas. Mexico lost any moral high ground they had when they decided sending their poor to the US was a legitimate foreign policy position.

    The problem isn’t even that these guns are coming back into the States and are being used in crimes up to and including killing federal agents. Hey, you got to break a few eggs to make an omlet after all.

    The problem is this is a manufactured crisis that Holder and Obama were going to use to infringe on American civil rights. The US government’s primary job is to protect the very God given rights we have. I’m certain that when We The People sent Obama to DC it wasn’t to curtail our rights by creating a problem so they could enact a solution that goes against the whole reason we have the US government in the first place.

    The problem is none of this matters. The press won’t persue this because it would make Obama look bad. Obama won’t be impeached for this, Holder will get pardoned, a few mid-level functionaries might get jail time, but probably not, and no one will ever be held accountable. We’re certainly not going to extradite anyone to Mexico (and that would set a bad precident in any event) and any hearings or special prosecutors will go nowhere. Only the whistleblowers will lose in all this.

  • Midwesterner

    Steven,

    I don’t challenge any of your points bu I disagree with your conclusion. The problem is not that some idiot/devious/evil politicians had a really stupid idea.

    llamas nailed it. The problem is in the institutional DNA of agencies that don’t spontaneously abort this behavior.

    We will never find politicians with both the moral and intellectual capacity to administer the kind of power these agencies have. If the agencies cannot be made to abide by laws unless the are governed by good politicians, we are screwed. The agencies need to be dissolved. We do not need all of these newly invented ‘federal’ crimes.

    Decriminalizing these things will not help. We need to dissolve and permanently end the agencies created to oversee them.

  • Steven Rockwell

    I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition. There is a agency cultural problem. There’s a lot of power, there’s a lot of competition for budgets, there’s a lot of little people with Napoleon complexes that enjoy crushing normal people because they can. There are far too many laws that nobody knows about, including the agencies that are chartered to uphold them, and they don’t mind putting the ordinary citizen in prison because it looks good on their numbers at appropriation time. They’re helped by the idea that citizens want to obey the law and that the courts quit protecting the citizens and their rights in favor of procedural rulings.

    But these agencies get their marching orders from politicians and those politicians have agendas. If Holder really cared about our rights he could have nipped Fast & Furious in the bud, fired some folks, and had the US Attorney start the indictment process. But he wanted F&F and Gunrunner to go forward so Obama could use it as ammunition (pun definately intended) in restricting guns.

    It isn’t limited to guns either. ConAgra and Monsanto buy politicians, put former employees in positions of power in the USDA who then write the regulations. The beaurcrat know’s he’s doing the Lord’s work when he enforces that regulation and puts someone in prison who sold unpasturized milk to someone who wanted to buy unpasturized milk. Then, of course, the USDA can go to Congress and say, “see what we’re doing? We need more money to do more of this”. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    But with the guns issue, it isn’t just the Batmen (and how they hated that term according to Jeff Cooper) and a corrupt agency culture. The people they work for set the tone, said do what you want but get us the results we demand, and then used those results to try to get traction on their agenda. It blew up in their face this time because of a few whistleblowers, but what if it hadn’t? The whole thing stinks from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to the DOJ building on down, but nobody will ever be held accountable.

  • Paul Marks

    For many years now establishment elite types have been claiming that most firearms used in crimes in Mexico are from the United States. This is partly to present Mexico as a “victim” (standard third-world-exploited ism – an idea that goes back to Lenin and Hobson), but mostly to justfy “gun control” in the United States.

    The trouble is that their claims kept being expossed as bogus – based on rigged figures.

    So why not actually hand out American firearms to people you know are going to commit crimes with them?

    Then when you say “this innocent person was murdered by a criminal using a firearm from the United States” you are telling the truth.

    Too cynical?

    Not when dealing with these people.

  • Thomas

    When you buy a gun from a US gun dealer — who must have a FFL, a Federal Firearms License, basically government permission to operate a gun sales business — that dealer makes two phone calls. One call is to the state police, the other is to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Both agencies check their various databases to see if you’re a felon. If they both give the go-ahead the FFL takes your money and gives you the weapon.

    If the FFL suspects you’re a criminal or a straw buyer (a buyer intending to transfer the weapon — illegally — to someone not allowed to buy one) he can of course refuse to make the sale and not even bother calling.

    The O’Barry administration has been claiming that 90% of the weapons found at Mexican crime scenes came from the US. This is false. The truth is that many of the weapons the Mexican police *asked the US to trace* turned out to come from the US. Obviously, if the weapon were a Chinese AK47 variant the Mexican police wouldn’t bother asking anyone to check if it came from the US. Very few of the weapons used in Mexican crimes actually came from the US. Very few, that is, apart from the ones O’Barry sent there.

    Barry has been telling his supporters he’s pursuing gun confiscation — er, gun control, sorry — ‘under the radar’. In practice theat means forcing US gun dealers to transfer weapons to known or suspected straw buyers or the like, with the intention that these guns will end up at Mexican crime scenes. O’Barry can then use this flow of US weapons to Mexico to ‘crack down’ on gun sales in the US.

    The ATF has been forcing US gun dealers to transfer weapons to known or suspected straw buyers, over the dealers’ objections, and threatening them with prison if they talk. It’s like the sociopath who always tries to get other people involved in his lies, his crimes and so on.

    The notion that Mexican drug lords would go out of their way to obtain weapons in the US is quite stupid. They can get all the weapons they want cheaper and more easily elsewhere.

    In theory you could let these weapons “walk” across the border in an effort to trace their route through Mexico and thereby gain insight into how the cartels work. Problem is, no one possesses such a capability. I see no possibility at all that any law enforcement official anywhere ever said “Hey, this is a good idea, it will work, let’s do it.” And yet it was done. That means it was pushed forward at the politicial level, by Barry probably, or by his equally malignant Attorney General Eric Holder.

    Two US agents have been killed with these weapons. Probably hundreds of Mexican police have likewise been killed.

    There’s no comparison to the Contra affair. Reagan provided weapons to the contras as part of his Constitutionally assigned duty of conducting foriegn policy, keeping enemies of the US busy at home so they couldn’t cause us more mischief abroad. Here, Obama has been intentionally destabilizing a friendly democracy on our own border in order to undermine the US Constitution he is sworn to defend.

  • Bruce

    Most folk have no idea just how much paperwork and expense is involved in legally exporting a firearm OUT of the USA. It can often take a year of correspondence and the shuffling of many dollars to “exporters” and of course, to the Feds, just to get a basic bolt-action target rifle out of the place. And then you also have to deal with your own “public servants” at the receiving end. It is no cake-walk.

    This whole “gun-walker”caper just screams, “Political opportunity creation”.

  • Mike Lorrey

    The most recent important stuff about Gunwalker is that Attorney General Holder, who, along with Obama, is very anti-gun, and who, along with Obama, has previously said that administration officials (referring to the Bush administration) who lied to congress should be prosecuted and convicted (oh and forced to resign), in his own testimony before congress claimed that he had only “just heard about it”, but we now have written evidence that Holder was briefed at least FIVE, countem 5 times in the 10 months prior to his testimony.
    Additionally, the latest dirt on the MSM bias is that officials at Justice and the White House have yelled and cursed at a female reporter at CBS by the name of Attkisson who was investigating the story. She reported this on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. Since that time, CBS refuses to let this reporter report on the story OR be interviewed by other journalists about it, indicating that the Obama White House has used its extensive ties to General Electric (owner of CBS) to silence this reporter. So much for Obama running the “most transparent administration in history”

  • Laird

    GE owns NBC, not CBS.

  • Alisa

    What I find surprising is that FOX News was mostly silent about it, last I checked (which was yesterday). Is it just me?

  • Pat McCann

    RE: Brian Micklethwait

    There is no right leaning press in the US

  • I didn’t say right-leaning “press”. I said right-leaning “alternative media”. There are plenty of those.

  • A good synopsis of the beginning of the whole thing can be found here.

  • Laird

    Progress is being made.

    “Issa said a special counsel should be appointed because ‘Eric Holder cannot investigate himself,’ but he said he’s not going to let that get in the way of his investigation.”

    This should be an interesting week.

  • Paul Marks

    Alisa – Fox News has not been silent about the story.

    At least not if you mean the opinion shows (although, alas, G.B. is no longer there – he would have exposed the things behind this story in ways no one else can match).

    However, what Mr S. Smith calls the “Journalists of Fox News” (ever noticed how he puts stress on the word JOURNALISTS – to show that he, and they, are not really connected with the nasty conservatives and libertarians?) have been rather quiet about it.

    This is because they can not blame it on business interests, or demand that the government “do something”.

    Asking why the JOURNALISTS (as Mr Smith would put it) of Fox News have been rather quiet about this story is the same as asking why most other products of the Schools of Journalism have been quiet about it.

  • Laird

    The pressure is increasing. I think the only remaining question is when Obama throws Holder under the bus. You know it’s coming.

  • Clearly Washington is corrupt. In this case the problem runs to the core, it Chicago-style politics at its best.