Sunday, July 24, 2011
By Diana Washington Valdez \ El Paso Times
Posted: 07/13/2011 12:00:00 AM MDT
The brutally violent Zetas drug organization may be smuggling military-grade weapons through El Paso and Columbus, N.M., to feed its ongoing battles against other cartels and to possibly disrupt the 2012 elections in Mexico.
Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center and a former CIA operative, said the Zetas have shipped large amounts of weapons through the El Paso area.
A federal law enforcement agency in El Paso said it has no information about the allegations that the Zetas are smuggling weapons through El Paso.
"They are purchasing weapons in the Dallas area and are flying them to El Paso, and then they are taking them across the border into Juárez," said Jordan, a law enforcement consultant MEXICO IN FOCUS
Analysis on news out of Mexico and former DEA official who still has contacts in the law enforcement community.
Jordan said the Zetas were flying weapons caches out of the Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, and after they arrive in the El Paso vicinity, the Zetas smuggled them into Juárez.
"What's ironic is that the DEA also uses the Alliance Airport for some of its operations," Jordan said. "The Zetas were working out of a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in the Dallas area to smuggle the weapons to the border."
The DEA has its Aviation Operations Center at Alliance.
Robert "Tosh" Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot, supported Jordan's allegations and said the Zetas allegedly also purchased property in the Columbus-Palomas border region to stash weapons and other contraband.
He said purchasing property and setting up a weapons-smuggling network suggests that the Zetas were establishing a staging area for their operations.
DEA Special Agent Diana Apodaca, spokeswoman for El Paso's DEA office, said the agency did not have any information about the Zetas allegedly operating in this border region.
No one from the Border Patrol or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives returned calls Tuesday for comment.
Earlier this month, Plumlee had a debriefing with the Border Patrol in Las Cruces about the intelligence he gathered when he accompanied the U.S. military's Task Force 7 along the border. The military, which assists civilian law enforcement in counter-drug operations, was looking into allegations of gun smuggling along the border.
"The military task force became concerned that its information about arms smuggling was being compromised," Plumlee said. "From the intel, it appears that a company was set up in Mexico to purchase weapons through the U.S. Direct Commercial Sales program, and that the company may have had a direct link to the Zetas."
Under the Direct Commercial Sales program, the U.S. State Department regulates and licenses businesses to sell weapons and defense services and training for export. Last year, according to U.S. statistics, the program was used to provide Mexico $416.5 million worth of weapons and equipment, including military-grade weaponry.
The program is different from the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, which operates on a government-to-government basis.
Plumlee said military-grade weapons were found in a Juárez warehouse two years ago, and some of them were moved later to a ranch elsewhere in Juárez. Arms stash houses have also been reported in places across the border from Columbus and Antelope Wells, N.M.
"They've found anti-aircraft weapons and hand grenades from the Vietnam War era," Plumlee said. Other weapons found include grenade launchers, assault rifles, handguns and military gear including night-vision goggles and body armor.
"The information about the arms trafficking was provided to our U.S. authorities long before the 'Columbus 11' investigation began," said Plumlee, referring to recent indictments accusing several Columbus city officials of arms trafficking in conjunction with alleged accomplices in El Paso and Chaparral, N.M.
Jesús Rejón Aguilar, the number three man in the Zeta's hierarchy, disclosed last week that the Zetas bought weapons in the United States and transported them across the Rio Grande. Mexican federal authorities captured Rejón on July 3 in the state of Mexico, and presented him to the news media the next day. His recorded video statement was uploaded on YouTube.
Jordan agreed with Plumlee's allegations that the Zetas are operating in the Columbus-Palomas border.
Plumlee, who has testified before U.S. congressional committees about arms and drug trafficking, said the roads in Southern New Mexico provide smugglers easy access to Mexico's highway networks.
Recently, Juárez police removed a couple of "narco mantas" (drug cartel banners) allegedly signed by the Zetas that were left in two parts of the city. The message claimed that the Zetas had nothing to do with a July 8 massacre at a nightclub in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
Similar banners containing the same message appeared in cities in eight other Mexican states. The messages blamed the Gulf drug cartel for the attack in Monterrey that killed or injured 34 people.
Zetas have been reported in Juárez and other Chihuahua cities, but so far they have kept a low profile.
According to an FBI Investigation Intelligence Bulletin, "Los Zetas activities in the United States to date have largely been limited to the U.S./Mexico border area," but have expanded their reach into the Southeast and Midwestern United States.
Authorities in Arizona previously reported that Zetas dressed up as SWAT officers were implicated in the 2008 murder of a man in Phoenix.
The FBI said the Zetas emerged from an elite Mexican army unit known as Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE, that was created to fight drug-traffickers. Some GAFE members received special U.S. military training.
In 2002, "an unknown number deserted and joined the Gulf cartel, serving as the hired guns for cartel leadership," the FBI bulletin said. "Since that time Los Zetas has grown into a sizeable, semi-independent organization."
The FBI said the organization has been tied to public corruption, immigrant smuggling, kidnapping, assault, murder, extortion and money laundering.
"The group is well-armed, highly trained, and reputed for their brutal tactics as cartel enforcers," the FBI memo said.
Plumlee said most of the military-grade weapons that made their way into Mexico are not showing up at crime scenes where drug violence is rampant.
"Most of the military-type weapons have been found in stash houses, being stored up," Plumlee said. "This is getting into theory now, but I think the Zetas are saving them for the (2012) election season. They probably want to be included in a part of the government."
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6140.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
By Fred Lucas
Grassley is leading the Senate’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) knowingly allowed semi-automatic guns such as AK-47s to be straw-purchased in the U.S., then sent to Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
Grassley said he does not know definitively if there was a political motivation, but he suspects there was:
“My suspicion is they don’t like the Second Amendment the way it is, and they are going to do everything to hurt guns and restrict guns. So they could have been building a case for that. But I can’t prove that.”
Operation Fast and Furious began in September 2009 but was halted after two of the weapons were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Operation Fast and Furious ended with the indictment of 20 straw purchasers but no one from the drug cartels, which were a primary target of the program.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a second hearing on the matter next week, on Tuesday.
Even before the botched gun-tracking operation came to light, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and other high-ranking administration officials talked about the need to curb the alleged flow of guns from the United States into Mexico.
During a joint press conference on April 16, 2009 in Mexico City with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Obama talked about gun-tracing, calling it an area “where I think that we can make some significant progress.”
Holder mentioned gun smuggling as a priority in a speech to a police group on April 15, 2010.
“In particular, we'll be soliciting your assistance in our reinvigorated drug enforcement efforts -- work that is driving an enhanced focus on Mexico and on our southwest border,” Holder said. “To date, the (Justice) Department has launched a series of efforts aimed at confronting the threats posed by Mexican cartels, by sophisticated criminal organizations, by smugglers of guns, drugs and cash, and by those intent on illegally crossing into our country.”
Just last month, the Justice Department announced that all gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to notify the federal government about frequent buyers of rifles.
Under the new policy, federal firearms licensees in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico must report purchases of two or more of some types of rifles by the same person in a five-day span. The requirement applies to purchases of semi-automatic rifles that have detachable magazines and a caliber of greater than .22 – the kind of weapons favored by Mexican drug cartels.
NRA Executive Director Chris Cox called the reporting requirement "a blatant effort by the Obama administration and ATF to divert focus of Congress and the general public from their gross incompetence in the Fast and Furious scandal."
Thursday, July 14, 2011
By Jeff Knox
Manassas, VA --(Ammoland.com)- Most of the larger national media outlets are doing their best to ignore the Gunwalker scandal, but the word is dribbling out despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration and their lackeys in the mainstream press.
Those who know about the outrageous project should be demanding answers and accountability.
The recent hearings in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), showed clearly that agents of the ATF and other agencies, working with the approval from the highest levels of the Department of Justice – no more than one desk below Attorney General Erik Holder, if not Holder himself – actively conspired and facilitated the sale of some 2000 or more rifles to suspected illegal firearms traffickers and then intentionally allowed those guns to continue in illicit channels with no attempt to track, interdict, or disable them.
ATF field agents who objected to the program were threatened and even fired. On one occasion an agent pointed out that people were being killed with guns supplied by the ATF and his manager responded with the callous cliché that if you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.
Mexican authorities report that some 300 Mexican nationals have been killed with these guns along with at least one and possibly two US law enforcement officers. Those are some pretty costly eggs.
The President of the United States has told a Mexican journalist that he did not authorize the program and that Erik Holder didn’t either.
ATF and DOJ have claimed that the objective was to track guns up to Mexican “drug lords” and possibly topple a Mexican drug cartel, but the whole program was kept a secret from Mexican authorities and agents were ordered to make no effort to track the guns beyond the original purchaser. Agents watched as suspected firearms traffickers purchased dozens of AK-style firearms. They trailed the suspects, and guns, to a rendezvous where the guns were transferred to another vehicle, and then, in accordance with strict orders, they allowed the other vehicle, and the guns, to drive away without even an effort to identify the person or track or interdict the guns.
Meanwhile the ATF and DOJ have continued to promulgate inaccurate and deceptive statistics regarding firearms trafficking and the involvement of illegally trafficked firearms in crime in Mexico – statistics that are falsely inflated by the Gunwalker project itself. They have also continued with attempts to change congressionally mandated regulations to include the reporting and tracking of purchasers of more than one rifle in a given week.
While such reporting and tracking might seem reasonable on the surface, even including some firearm owners, the actual utility of the reporting program is questionable, and is a major usurpation of power by ATF. The Bureau is specifically forbidden in the same statute which authorizes such reporting for multiple handguns. What’s more, ATF is notorious for failing to delete information gathered in this manner as required by law, thus building a de facto registration system.
The evidence does not support the existence of any large-scale gun trafficking rings. The largest and most successful gun trafficking rings uncovered so far were those endorsed and supported by the ATF in Project Gunwalker, aka “Operation Fast and Furious.” Without ATF assistance forcing gun dealers to cooperate, these dealers would never have taken the chance of repeatedly selling large quantities of guns to suspicious-looking cash customers. And even then, ATF ignored the structure of these organizations. They were only interested in the straw buyers, not any of their immediate associates, and, as I mentioned above, ATF specifically forbade any disclosure of the Gunwalker program to anyone within the government of Mexico.
All that ATF seemed interested in was who bought the guns, how many they bought, and where the guns turned up in crimes. The fact that the guns did turn up at crime scenes – murders, maimings, and massacres, including of Mexican police officers or government officials – seems to have been of little concern to ATF and DOJ officials.
This limited interest suggests only two possible motivations: to build stronger, more incriminating cases against straw purchasers – the guys ATF has consistently insisted are the bottom of the food chain – or to generate statistical and emotional support for their requested increases in authority. Perhaps one was just a “happy side effect” of the other. In either case, the strategy was seriously flawed and hundreds of people lost their lives.
This administration intentionally allowed arms to flow into the hands of criminals and the policy factored in the deaths of hundreds of Mexican citizens and at least one US Border Patrol Agent. They have also intentionally blocked congressional and media inquiries into the matter and retaliated against ATF whistleblowers.
Compare the scope and reach of Gunwalker to Watergate.
Watergate began with a handful of overzealous political supporters incompetently trying to bug their opponent’s offices and the administration working to protect those loyal supporters. Gunwalker, from its inception, was a criminal enterprise directed from the cabinet level.
Where is the outrage and indignation – at the administration, at DOJ and ATF, at politicians for defending the guilty and intentionally obfuscating the issues, and at the media for virtually ignoring the story?
Don’t allow this story to fizzle out on the back pages, and don’t allow the ATF and this administration to be rewarded for this very bad behavior. Tell them that you want to see the administration held accountable. Write your local paper and television outlets. Tell them that you want to see better coverage of this scandal.
Your senators and congressmen will be home for the summer recess. Tell them that you want funding and authority to ATF curtailed until more safeguards against usurpation of rights can be established.
This is your government. It’s up to you to hold them accountable.About:
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition is a project of Neal Knox Associates, Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org
Monday, July 11, 2011
Posted 07/08/2011 07:02 PM ET reposted from Investors Business Daily opinions
This could be, no pun intended, the proverbial smoking gun in a growing administration scandal that deserves as much mainstream media attention as Iran-Contra or Watergate.
Right there in the stimulus bill that no one in Congress bothered to read is $10 million for Project Gunrunner (aka Operation Fast and Furious), which resulted in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and increased drug cartel violence.
Right there in the "shovel ready" stimulus, no black humor intended, is a provision for $40 million for "state and local law enforcement assistance" along our border with Mexico and in high drug-trafficking areas, "of which $10 million shall be transferred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, salaries and expenses for the ATF Project Gunrunner."
Attorney General Eric Holder's "I know nothing" imitation of TV's Sgt. Schultz has evaporated with the discovery of an April 2, 2009, speech to authorities in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in which he took Gunrunner credit for himself and the rest of the Obama administration.
Holder told the audience: "Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner. DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion."
So which administration official put the Gunrunner money in the stimulus? Which congressman insisted on this deadliest of earmarks?
The original Southwest Border Violence Reduction Act of 2009 was sponsored by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas. Rodriguez's co-sponsors were two other Texans, Henry Cuellar and Silvestre Reyes, plus Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Harry Teague, D-N.M.
During an interview with a Univision reporter that aired in March, Obama said he was "absolutely not" informed about the ATF program that deliberately funneled guns into Mexico. "I did not authorize it," he said. "Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. He's been very clear that our policy is to catch gunrunners and put them into jail."
Clearly somebody is lying here. At a House oversight hearing last month, three federal firearms investigators testified they wanted to "intervene and interdict" the guns at the border, but were repeatedly ordered to step aside and let the traffickers proceed.
Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson, in closed-door testimony in front of Rep. Darrell Issa's committee, said administration officials sought to control and limit his communications with Congress, including withholding documents that made Melson "sick to his stomach" after he reviewed them.
On Dec. 14, Terry was fatally shot in the Arizona desert while patrolling one of the region's most dangerous drug- and human-smuggling corridors. He was shot in the back with an AK-47 assault rifle. Two weapons that were allowed to cross the border as part of Project Gunrunner were found at the scene.
The evidence suggests that Agent Terry's death was financed by the president's stimulus package with the full knowledge and support of Attorney General Holder.
It makes us sick to our stomachs too.
Spending bill gave $10 million of taxpayers' funding to project Gun Runner
Posted: July 09, 2011
1:00 am Eastern
By Michael Carl
© 2011 WND
"We can say there's one thing that was stimulated by the stimulus bill and that was the Mexican undertaker business," Pratt said. "Mexican authorities say that 150 people were murdered using these guns."
Listen to an interview with Pratt:
Pratt said that the gun buyer involved was the subject of what he calls an "aspect of tragic comedy."
"This FBI informant was being surveilled by the ATF that was running the Fast and Furious Operation and they had no idea that he was an FBI informant," Pratt observed.
"But obviously they didn't need to be informed because they didn't care. They just wanted the guns to walk," he stated.
Today, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he would support the call for a special prosecutor if members of Congress investigating the issue believe that is the best solution.
Appearing on the Steve Gill show, he said, "The point of our inquiry is to find out who really signed off on this operation. Who is the one who said 'yeah, this is a good thing to do.' It might have sounded like a good idea, but it ended up with the murder of Mr. Terry, a border control agent, and two of the guns were found at the scene of that murder."
A report in the San Francisco Chronicle says that FBI informants were connected to the ATF's Project Gunrunner.
Firearms law analyst and writer David Codrea believes that even if there is evidence to prove that known criminals used taxpayer money to get guns to take to Mexico, nothing is likely to be done with the evidence.
"If left to Holder's Justice Department, nothing, because it shows this had to be top-level DoJ-authorized," Codrea explained.
Reports say other federal agencies have also been drawn into the operation. The DEA, FBI and upper-level DOJ officers, including the U. S. Attorney's office in Phoenix, have been named.
Attorney General Holder's office has not responded to WND's request for comment.
Codrea believes that it's possible that ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson's office was bypassed in decision-making about the operation.
"It's absolutely possible and may even be probable that they bypassed Melson in the operation. However, that does not excuse him from having no control of his agency," Codrea said.
"But this kind of thing cannot take place in your agency unless you have unless you have people ... who are absolutely flat-out lying to you," he said.
Pratt also believes that some of the guns were purchased by the Mexican cartels directly from federal agents.
"One of the founders of the cartel, one of their top 14 directors if you will, a guy whose nickname is El Mamito, has said that he was buying guns directly from the federal government," Pratt explained.
Jesus Rejon Aguilar, nicknamed El Mamito or "Pretty Boy," he third highest ranking member of the drug gang Los Zetas, was captured Monday by Mexican authorities.
Pratt said he believes for the guns to go across at a designated location, there had to be coordination between several federal law enforcement agencies.
"There had to be some kind of a deal with the Border Patrol. ... We know that in that '09 meeting that set-up Fast and Furious, those four or five agencies were all part of the deal," Pratt said.
Pratt said that it's not likely that many of the representatives who voted for the stimulus package were aware that money was allocated for Project Gunrunner.
"Anyone who voted for the stimulus bill has another reason to regret their vote. Obviously they didn't read the bill," Pratt asserted. "They don't read most of the bills up there at all."
Pratt illustrated his comment by citing former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comment about the health care bill: "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy."
Several border state representatives contacted about the stimulus package and its allocation of $10 million for Project Gunrunner have not returned WND's calls.
Pratt also said that he's supportive of West's call for the removal of Holder and for a special prosecutor to be appointed.
"This is something that is very appropriate. While Rep. Issa was very correct in his choice of words, he said he didn't think Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth," Pratt said. "He could have said it more sharply, that he thinks Eric Holder is a liar, but it comes out the same in the wash."
Codrea believes that the pressure felt by the administration may be the leverage needed for the Justice Department or the White House to force Melson to resign.
"I think they were hoping they could have him quietly transferred out but he saw what was going on and he has to understand which way the wind blows and he has things on higher ups and they want him to keep quiet," Codrea commented.
"It looks like [Melson] decided that going quietly is not in his best interest. What was in his best interest is to lawyer up and to go and talk to the congressional oversight committee," he said.
Listen in an interview with Codrea:
Codrea and Pratt believe that the issue is going to get bigger as more details become public. Pratt believes that if Issa's committee continues its work, the entire scenario may rise to the level of Watergate.
"Just like Watergate became the only thing the Richard Nixon administration could think about, I think 'Fast and Furious' is coming to the point where it's going to be an all consuming issue," Pratt said.
"It's going to take the Obama regime off their stride and they're going to have to be playing defense."
Thursday, June 23, 2011
By Tim Gaynor reprinted from Reuters
PALOMINAS, Ariz (Reuters) - Two Arizona wildfires that have scorched a quarter-million acres combined and destroyed dozens of homes just north of the U.S.-Mexico border were probably started by Mexican smugglers, the Cochise County sheriff said on Tuesday.
The remarks by Sheriff Larry Dever are likely to add to the furor sparked by Arizona Senator John McCain when he suggested that illegal immigrants were to blame for some of the massive wildfires raging out of control in the state.
The latest of those, the so-called Monument Fire, erupted a week ago at the Coronado National Memorial and spread quickly into the adjacent national forest. It roared through the steep slopes and rugged canyons of the Huachuca Mountains before breaking out into ranch lands and populated areas over the weekend.
A separate blaze in southeastern Arizona known as the Horseshoe 2 Fire has blackened some 223,000 acres and destroyed or damaged nine dwellings since it began May 8, though it is now listed as 90 percent contained.
Cochise Sheriff Dever told reporters the Monument Fire was "man-caused" and started in an area near the border fence that is closed to visitors and known to law enforcement for "high-intensity, drug- and human-trafficking."
"It wasn't the rabbits or the rattle snakes that started this fire, it was human beings, and the only human beings believed to be occupying (the area) were smugglers," he said during a news conference.
Dever said traffickers intentionally light fires to use as signals, to keep themselves warm and as diversions "to keep ... law enforcement off their backs." He added that the Horseshoe 2 Fire was likely sparked in the same way.
Federal officials stressed, however, that origins of the Monument and Horseshoe 2 fires remains under investigation.
Any statements at this point about a cause "would be speculation," said John Morlock, acting National Park Service administrator for the Monument Fire.
He told Reuters that while the grounds of the Coronado Memorial where the Monument Fire began were closed to the public due to extreme fire danger at the time, a road that runs through that 4,700-acre park was open to traffic.
Dever's statements appeared to give credence to statements McCain made on Saturday citing "substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally."
The Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate made that comment at a news conference after paying a visit to the site of a third, larger blaze farther north in Arizona, the Wallow Fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
Some critics have accused McCain of trying to single out illegal immigrants as scapegoats before the cause of the fires had been officially determined.
But Dever told Reuters, "I wouldn't take issue with the senator at all. In fact, I would support absolutely what he is suggesting."
The Monument fire has gutted at least 62 homes and a number of businesses, and an estimated 11,000 people were forced to flee at the peak of the fire threat in an area southeast of the town of Sierra Vista, Arizona. About 27,000 acres have burned in all.
Diminished winds since Monday have helped firefighters make headway against the flames, and by Tuesday ground crews had managed to carve containment lines around 40 percent of the fire's perimeter. But much of the Monument Fire continues to burn in remote terrain inaccessible to ground crews.
Federal fire authorities have said they suspect that an unattended campfire touched off the Wallow Fire, which has burned over 800 square miles and ranks as the largest ever in Arizona. Two "persons of interest" have been questioned by investigators, but they have not been identified, and no charges have been filed.
In response to McCain's remarks, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman was quoted by ABC News as saying there was no evidence to suggest illegal immigrants were to blame,
McCain has stood by his statement, saying he was speaking generally about "some" of the Arizona fires, not the Wallow Fire specifically.
On Monday, McCain, fellow Arizona Senator Jon Kyl and two Arizona congressmen, U.S. Representatives Jeff Flake and Paul Gosar, issued a joint statement saying that a Forest Service official who briefed them during their Wallow Fire visit told them that "some wildfires in Arizona are regrettably caused by drug smugglers and illegal immigrants."
(Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Greg McCune)
Editorial: reprinted from Investors Business Daily
Acting ATF director Kenneth Melson is apparently ready to take the fall for what may be the most morally repulsive scandal to befall the Obama administration so far.
Our neighbor Mexico lies bleeding from a long, vicious war to fight seven major drug cartels at once. Some 38,000 have been left dead since 2006. Amid all this, U.S. ATF agents had orders from on high to supply U.S. weapons to cartel middlemen buying them on U.S. soil for the odd purpose of "tracing" them.
The news that Melson is resigning seems to be a bid by the Obama administration to paint this as simply an example of Keystone Kop-style bungling being corrected. But many things suggest the operation may have been done for political purposes, and not merely stupidity.
The idea behind "Operation Fast and Furious" was to let gun dealers sell weapons to cartel middlemen, who would then ship them to criminal gangs in Mexico, and damn the consequences.
The operation was so contrary to the goals of ATF that its agents repeatedly raised anguished protests — only to be rebuffed from their superiors, according to testimony presented to House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is investigating the scandal.
The Issa hearings are having an effect, with Melson's rumored resignation the first sacrificial offering.
But does it really end there? So much doesn't add up.
First, as operations go, this one was "felony-stupid," as Issa put it in the hearings. There was no effort to trace the weapons even after letting them get out. If the weapons weren't traced, why was this operation sanctioned? The White House made a big deal about U.S. weapons flowing south to Mexico, claiming 90% of all weapons in the hands of cartels came from U.S. gun merchants.
But that argument was false, based on the cherry-picked samples Mexico offered for inspection. For Mexico, it was a chance to divert attention from their loose border controls and blame the gringos.
As for Obama, he wanted to reinstate an assault-weapon ban in 2008, but said he did not have the political capital to do it. Bob Owens, writing for Pajamas Media, noted that the administration seemed to want to whip up a crisis requiring a crackdown on guns in the U.S.
It gets worse. President Obama has long wanted gun-control-oriented ATF agent Andrew Traver to head the agency. Now, with Melson rumored to be ready to quit this week, he may get his way and benefit.
There are real questions that must be answered about who knew about this, and when. An American lies murdered for what may be political aims. He has a right to justice — as high up as it goes.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011
As field agents understood the term, however, gunwalking includes situations in which ATF had
Further questions for key ATF and DOJ decision makers remain unanswered. For example, what leadership failures within the Department of Justice allowed this program to thrive? Who will be held accountable and when?
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Published 30 March 2011
The radioactive core in the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and is now resting on a concrete floor; officials are now struggling with two crucial but contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out contaminated water; an investigation found that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological history that indicated that a massive earthquake -- and subsequent tsunami -- was far more likely than they believed; more than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion -- the most expensive natural disaster on record
Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appeared to have “lost the race” to save one of the reactors, a U.S. expert told the Guardian.
Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at the Japan plant, says the radioactive core in the Unit 2 reactor appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on a concrete floor.
“The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” Lahey told the paper.
Lahey did add there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe.
Japan was hit by another earthquake Wednesday after a magnitude-5.5 earthquake struck off the east coast of Honshu, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Fox News reports that Japan’s government vowed Tuesday to overhaul nuclear safety standards once its radiation-leaking reactor complex is under control, admitting that its safeguards were insufficient to protect the plant against the 11 March tsunami.
The struggle to contain radiation at the complex has unfolded with near-constant missteps — including two workers drenched Tuesday with radioactive water despite wearing supposedly waterproof suits. The unfolding drama has drawn increasing criticism of the utility that owns the plant as well as scrutiny of Japan’s preparedness for nuclear crises.
“Our preparedness was not sufficient,” Edano told reporters. “When the current crisis is over, we must examine the accident closely and thoroughly review” safety standards.
An AP investigation found that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological history that indicated that a massive earthquake — and subsequent tsunami — was far more likely than they believed.
That left the complex with nowhere near enough protection against the 11 March tsunami.
A massive offshore earthquake triggered the tsunami that slammed into Japan’s northeast, wiping out towns, killing thousands of people and knocking out power and backup systems at the coastal nuclear power plant.
More than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most expensive natural disaster on record.
The mission to stabilize the power plant has been fraught with setbacks, as emergency crews have dealt with fires, explosions and radiation scares in the frantic bid to prevent a complete meltdown.
The plant has been leaking radiation that has made its way into vegetables, raw milk and tap water as far away as Tokyo. Residents within twelve miles of the plant have been ordered to leave and some nations have banned the imports of food products from the Fukushima region.
Highly toxic plutonium was the latest contaminant found seeping into the soil outside the plant, TEPCO said Monday.
Safety officials said the amounts did not pose a risk to humans, but the finding supports suspicions that dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods.
“The situation is very grave,” Edano told reporters Tuesday.
Fox News reports that workers succeeded last week in reconnecting some parts of the plant to the power grid. As they pumped in water to cool the reactors and nuclear fuel, however, they discovered numerous pools of radioactive water, including in the basements of several buildings and in trenches outside of them.
The contaminated water has been emitting four times as much radiation as the government considers safe for workers. It must be pumped out before electricity can be restored and the regular cooling systems powered up.
That has left officials struggling with two crucial but contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out contaminated water.
Officials are hoping tanks at the complex will be able to hold the water, or that new tanks can be trucked in. On Tuesday, officials from the Nuclear Safety Commission, an expert panel of nuclear watchdogs, said other possibilities include digging a storage pit for the contaminated water, recycling it back into the reactors or even pumping it to an offshore tanker.
The latest mishap came Tuesday, when three workers trying to connect a pump outside the Unit 3 reactor were splashed by radioactive water that gushed from a pipe. Though they were wearing suits meant to be waterproof and protect against high levels of radiation, nuclear safety official Hidehiko Nishiyama said the men were soaked to their underwear with the contaminated water.
They quickly washed it off and were not injured, officials said.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Interview with Mexico Drug War expert Sylvia Longmire
Question: First, could you please briefly explain who you are and what you do?
Sylvia Longmire: I’m a former Air Force officer and Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and also a former senior border security analyst for the State of California. I’m currently a consultant, freelance writer, and author on Mexico’s drug war.
Q: For readers with little or knowledge of what is going on down in Mexico, could you lay out some of the basics of the situation?
SL: Right now, Mexican drug trafficking organizations, or DTOs, are the number one source for illegal drugs consumed by Americans. Because illegal drugs command such high prices on the black market, manufacturing and distributing these drugs to American consumers is a highly profitable business. Currently, there are seven major DTOs in Mexico fighting each other and the Mexican government for control of the drug smuggling routes that DTOs use to move drugs from their source to American consumers across the southwest border. The fighting between DTOs and with Mexican government forces has resulting in escalating violence since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006. The violence includes beheadings, public hangings of corpses, mutilation and torture, mass killings, grenade attacks, and shootings in public places with high-powered weapons.
right now. Why is it so complex?
SL: The situation in Acapulco is complex because there is more than one DTO fighting for control of that drug smuggling area, and those DTOs are themselves going through organizational changes. One of them, the Cartel Pacifico del Sur, split off from another major DTO, the Sinaloa Federation, a few years ago, and just recently split in half itself. The name is even new, as it used to be known as the Beltrán Leyva Organization, and also goes by two other names – “El H” and “La Empresa.” Keeping track of who’s doing the smuggling and who’s killing whom gets very complicated when so many DTO players are involved in just one corridor.
Q: How much effect do the cartels in Mexico have for us north of the border? How much effect do we have on them?
SL: DTOs operating in Mexico have a huge presence here in the United States, but most of us don’t know it. They’re actually active in more than 270 U.S. cities, and hundreds more small communities and towns. They use local gangs across the country to distribute drugs for them, and Mexican DTOs even grow marijuana in U.S. National Parks and National Forests. As a result of their proximity in Mexico and their infiltration of our communities, they have become America’s biggest supplier of illegal drugs. Because they’re so in tune with our drug market, Mexican DTOs are impacted by – and usually respond well to – changes in consumer demand. Cocaine demand has steadily gone down over the past several years, but demand for high-potency marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine has gone up. DTOs have made adjustments to their production and cocaine imports from South America to account for these changes.
SL: I think legalization of marijuana would make a financial difference in DTO profits, but would not end the drug war. DTOs are making a lot of money from the production, distribution and sale of other illegal drugs, as well as from kidnapping and extortion operations. They could also ostensibly go into the legal marijuana business, although the profits would be smaller. Just like organized crime groups in the U.S. didn’t go out of business after Prohibition ended, DTOs will still be around if marijuana were ever legalized. As far as legislation and policy goes, I think most of the pro-gun-lobby-backed legislation that limits what the ATF can do needs to be repealed so we can attack the southbound weapons trafficking problem head-on, starting with the Tiahrt Amendment. I think more resources – specifically money and trained people – need to go to border agencies like the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ATF, etc. But before those resources are distributed, the Department of Homeland Security needs to take a realistic look at what and where the need are. I think DHS management in Washington is too far removed from the border, and doesn’t fully comprehend the challenges along the border and what it takes to meet them head on. I also think both the U.S. and Mexican governments need to stop treating the Mexican DTOs like criminals and start regarding them as hybrid organizations, a cross between organized crime, insurgency, and terrorist groups.
Q: Is there anything specific you think readers need to know regarding the cartels which we have not covered?
SL: Readers need to know that the drug war south of the border affects everyone in the U.S., no matter where we live. DTOs use our highways to transport drugs to every U.S. state. They grow illegal drugs on our taxpayer-funded public lands, and they kidnap and kill people on U.S. soil. Worse yet, they use violent American street gangs to sell illegal drugs to our kids, our brothers and sisters, cousins, parents, coworkers, and friends. All of us have to pay attention to what’s going on if we’re ever going to successfully work with the Mexican government to stop it.
Thank you Sylvia for the eye opening interview. For more information, please visit her blog.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011