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Posted Jun 28, 2012, 2:58 pm
June 28, Washington DC – Bombshell reporting in Fortune Magazine and the Washington Post sheds new light on the festering, wormy mess that is Darrell Issa’s Fast and Furious investigation. Fortune reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation was nothing like U.S. Rep. Issa has claimed. In fact, Fast and Furious was so different that it is virtually impossible for Issa to be so utterly misinformed. He appears to be lying.
Let’s catch up…
ATF never bought, held or had '2,000 guns'
Fortune reported that the “2,000 guns” often named by Issa, a California Republican, as having been a part of the program were actually guns that were purchased ordinarily by suspected straw purchasers who were under investigation. They were not guns purchased by ATF, with ATF funds, or for ATF investigations.
As it turns out, only five guns appear to have been purchased with ATF funds. They were all part of an operation conducted by ATF Agent John Dodson, congressman Issa’s ostensible “whistle-blower.” So it appears that John Dodson described his own operation, but made it sound like everyone was doing it. In reality, his investigation was the only example among seven ATF gun-running units.
Given where he worked, Dodson too, could not have been honestly mistaken. Though not proven, he appears to have made inaccurate claims about the other 1,995 guns under investigation, which would be perjury if he had made them under oath instead of under federal protections for whistleblowers.
All of Dodson’s bait guns were lost and the investigation closed without an arrest. They – these five guns – were the only bait guns bought or lost by ATF, according to Fortune. (Notably, Dodson’s investigation proposal had been rejected by his immediate supervisor but approved by his supervisor’s supervisor.)
Guns recovered from the Brian Terry shooting were not ATF guns
Here’s the biggest shocker: Fortune reported that a transient named Jaime Avila purchased three WASR-10 rifles (an AK-47 knockoff) at a Glendale Arizona gun shop. A gun shop employee notified ATF by faxing the bill of sale conveying his suspicions. The serial numbers from these guns were entered into the Phoenix office gunrunning database from the faxed bill of sale.
These were not the Dodson guns. Agents never saw, touched, funded, or purchased the guns found at the Terry murder scene.
Based on prior experience, the agents knew they didn’t have a case against Avila yet. In Arizona, it is not against the law to buy guns with someone else’s money. Nor is it against the law to then give them away, even immediately.
The problem is Arizona
According to Fortune’s reporting, state laws in Arizona make it a mecca for gunrunners and its proximity to Mexico makes it ground zero for drug-cartel straw purchasers. There is no limit or waiting period, or any resale or gift limits.
Fortune quoted ATF Agent Dave Voth, “In Arizona, someone buying three guns is like someone buying a sandwich.” The lax gun laws also made it almost impossible to prosecute the 31 men identified by ATF agents as suspected straw purchasers for the Sinaloa drug cartel. Prosecutors repeatedly declined or slow rolled these cases due to the impossible hurdles created by Arizona law.
Phoenix ATF chief says Justice Dep't didn’t lie
Thursday’s Washington Post reported that Agent William D. Newell, former head of the ATF Phoenix office said that there is no evidence that AG Eric Holder knew any details of his office’s efforts to stop straw purchases for the Sinaloa drug cartel. So when the Justice Department reported to the Oversight Committee that ATF didn’t buy guns or let them walk, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that they were reporting:
You can’t convict gun runners in Arizona
Fortune discovered that ATF agents gathered evidence about one suspect who was on food stamps but had spent $300,000 for 476 firearms during the previous six months. A prosecutor declined to authorize an arrest because – according to Agent Voss – agents didn’t have clear evidence that the suspect hadn’t purchased the guns for himself. Even if he had, it turns out, Arizona law allowed him to change his mind and give them away immediately. The weakness of Arizona statutes and penalties creates an environment of unimpeachable impropriety.
Agent Newell confirmed that prosecutor’s offices (saddled by Arizona’s ineffective laws) were where arrests and prosecutions languished, not at the agent or field level.
Congress has now voted to hold Holder in contempt. The National Rifle Association promised to score the vote. In the end, it divided along NRA/non-NRA lines. The Mexican government estimates that 2,000 US-bought weapons cross the border into Mexico every day. It is not incidental that the NRA has an interest in protecting over half a million gun sales.
When it happened, Eric Holder was spending the day at Disney World. Darrell Issa was in Washington where the circus is in town. No kidding.
TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”