Stand-down orders stymied ‘Fast & Furious’ gun tracking, memo says – Washington Times

Stand-down orders stymied ‘Fast & Furious’ gun tracking, memo says – Washington Times.

By Jerry Seper – The Washington Times

Concerned that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were “too close and would burn the operation,” the lead investigator in a Fast and Furious surveillance operation ordered an ATF team monitoring the pending transfer of weapons to Mexican drug smugglers to “leave the immediate area.”

While the agents were repositioning themselves, the transaction took place and the smugglers took possession of weapons purchased by “straw buyers” at a Phoenix area gun shop — leaving the area without any agents in a position to follow.

The guns were among more than 2,000 weapons purchased that ended up in the hands of drug smugglers during the Fast and Furious investigation, which began in September 2009 and was halted only after the December 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry. Two Fast and Furious-purchased weapons — both AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles — were found at the site of the Terry killing.

The surveillance snafu is outlined in a Feb. 3, 2011, memo by ATF agent Gary M. Styers recounting for agency supervisors what he told two investigators for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, about his experience with Fast and Furious. He said the weapons transfer was to occur at a gas station, and an ATF surveillance team was in place when it was ordered to back off by lead investigator Hope McAllister.

It’s not the only time a surveillance was called off or that field agents questioned the tactics used in Fast and Furious, a risky strategy to allow weapons to flow south into Mexico. The goal was to identify the drug-cartel bosses in Mexico who were paying for the weapons. ATF supervisors had no interest in prosecuting the straw buyers on charges of “lying and buying.”

ATF senior agent Olindo James Casa told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that when surveillance teams did follow weapons purchased by straw buyers, they always were terminated without interdicting or seizing the firearms. He said the stand-down orders came from Ms. McAllister or ATF Group VII Strike Force supervisor David J. Voth, who oversaw the Fast and Furious operation.

Mr. Casa testified that he and other agents “sternly warned” their supervisors of the “consequences of their actions (or lack thereof), but were repeatedly ignored.” He said when he and others asked Ms. McAllister and Mr. Voth if they were prepared to attend the funeral of a slain agent or officer killed by a Fast and Furious weapon, neither answered “or even seemed concerned by the question.”

Mr. Grassley wants to know whether the Styers memo was forwarded to the Justice Department in Washington. Its Feb. 3 date falls one day before the department denied in a letter to him that any weapons had been “walked” to gun smugglers in Mexico.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the veteran Iowa lawmaker said his investigators were told that the memo “caused such a stir that ATF planned to put a panel together to address the allegations but someone within DOJ suppressed the idea.”

A report by Mr. Grassley and Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Fast and Furious field agents often were told to stand down rather than interdict weapons, and when they complained, they were ignored.

ATF agent John Dodson told Mr. Issa’s committee that he and others were ordered to observe the gun smugglers but not to intervene. He said he and others monitored the purchase of weapons “almost daily,” but rather than interdict them, the agents took notes, recorded observations and tracked the movement of some of those involved for short periods, “but nothing more.”

“Knowing all the while, just days after these purchases, the guns we saw these individuals buy would begin turning up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico, we still did nothing,” he said.

The strategy continued until Dec. 14, 2010, when two Fast and Furious AK-47s turned up just north of the Arizona-Mexico border at the site of the Terry killing.

In his memo, Mr. Styers said ATF agents were not permanently assigned to surveillance on Fast and Furious, a practice he described as “unheard of.” Instead, he said, supervisors polled offices for “agents who were available to respond at short notice.”

Bombshell: DOJ Considering Elimination of ATF – Katie Pavlich – Townhall Conservative

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

Image via Wikipedia

Bombshell: DOJ Considering Elimination of ATF – Katie Pavlich – Townhall Conservative.

Multiple sources, including sources from ATF, DOJ  and Congressional offices have said there is a white paper circulating within the Department of Justice, outlining the essential elimination of ATF. According to sources, the paper outlines the firing of at least 450 ATF agents in an effort to conduct damage control as Operation Fast and Furious gets uglier and as election day 2012 gets closer.  ATF agents wouldn’t be reassigned to other positions, just simply let go. Current duties of ATF, including the enforcement of explosives and gun laws, would be transferred to other agencies, possibly the FBI and the DEA.  According to a congressional source, there have been rumblings about the elimination of ATF for quite sometime, but the move would require major political capital to actually happen.

“It’s a serious white paper being circulated, how far they’d get with it I don’t know,” a confidential source said.

After a town hall meeting about Operation Fast and Furious in Tucson, Ariz. on Monday, ATF Whistleblower Vince Cefalu, who has been key in exposing details about Operation Fast and Furious, confirmed the elimination of ATF has been circulating as a serious idea for sometime now and that a white paper outlining the plan does exist.

Sounds great right? Eliminating ATF? But there is more to this story. Remember, low level ATF field agents, like ATF whistleblower John Dodson, were uncomfortable conducting Operation Fast and Furious from the beginning, but were told by high level officials within ATF that if they had a problem with the operation, they could find a job elsewhere.

“Allowing loads of weapons that we knew to be destined for criminals, this was the plan. It was so mandated,” ATF Whistleblower John Dodson said in testimony on Capitol Hill on June 15, 2011.

In fact, not only were the ATF agents forced to carry out the operation, they were told to go against what they had been taught in training.

 “This operation, which in my opinion endangered the American public, was orchestrated in conjunction with Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley. [Emory Hurley is the same Assistant U.S. Attorney who previously prevented agents from using some of the common and accepted law enforcement techniques that are employed elsewhere in the United States to investigate and prosecute gun crimes.] I have read documents that indicate that his boss, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, also agreed with the direction of the case,” Special Agent Peter Forcelli said in testimony on Capitol hill on June 15, 2011.

“I recall my first days at the ATF academy, where it was drilled into us as new agents that under no circumstances would any firearms, in any investigation, leave the control of ATF. Instructors stressed that even if a weapon was lost “by accident,” the agent was still subject to termination,” former ATF Attaché to Mexico Darren D. Gil said in testimony on June 15, 2011.

ATF field agents weren’t the problem with Operation Fast and Furious, high ranking officials within ATF and the Department of Justice were and still are. DOJ would eliminate ATF only to take the heat off of the Obama Administration. By eliminating the bureau, it makes it seem like DOJ is taking Operation Fast and Furious so seriously, they decided to “clear out the corruption, clean house,” however, it would only be a distraction away from the people at the top of the investigation. In fact, evidence shows the DOJ has been stonewalling the Oversight Committee investigation into the operation to protect Obama political appointees.

“It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the Department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the Department,” former ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson, who has since been moved to a position within DOJ, said of his frustration with the Justice Department’s response to the investigation in transcribed closed door testimony with the Oversight Committee in July 2011.

When I called the Department of Justice last week (five times) to request the white paper and receive a comment surrounding the idea of eliminating ATF, I received the following response: “Everyone is away from their desk right now.”

Up to this point, the Department of Justice has denied all allegations or involvement in Operation Fast and Furious, yet journalists and the House Oversight Committee have proved allegation after allegation to be true. For example, during a Congressional  hearing in July, former ATF Special Agent in Charge William Newell, who has since been promoted to a position within the Justice Department, denied that his agency was trafficking guns to Mexico, despite overwhelming evidence and testimony from other ATF agents proving otherwise.

“At no time in our strategy was it to allow guns to be taken to Mexico,” Newell said on July 26, 2011, adding that at no time did his agency allow guns to walk.

We’ve heard this was a low level, “rogue” operation, turns out high level officials in the Justice Department, DEA, FBI, DHS, and even members of the White House national security team knew about Operation Fast and Furious.  

Last week, ATF offered 400 agents buy outs to avoid budget cuts and is expecting 250-275 agents to take the offer through Voluntary Early Retirement. These buyouts come at a convenient time for the Justice Department, which can eliminate ATF, then say it’s because of budget cuts, when really, it’s to cover their tracks.