Writing from the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, Richard Serrano reveals that at least six of the ATF’s targets in Operation Fast and Furious were paid FBI informants.
In a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, the investigators asked why U.S. taxpayers’ money apparently was paid to Mexican cartel members who have terrorized the border region for years in their efforts to smuggle drugs into this country, and to ship U.S. firearms into Mexico.
“We have learned of the possible involvement of paid FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious,” wrote Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The two have been the leading congressional critics of the program.
“At least one individual who is allegedly an FBI informant might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring,” they wrote.
The FBI and DEA did not tell the ATF about the alleged informants. The ATF and congressional investigators learned later that those agencies apparently were paying cartel members whom the ATF wanted to arrest.
To simplify: the Department of Justice was paying ATF agents to ignore federal laws in order to provide weapons to criminal informants paid by the FBI, who then distributed those weapons to other cartel members who killed federal agents from Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement plus an estimated 150 soldiers and police in Mexico.
The development draws FBI Director Robert Mueller further into the scandal, and suggests that acting ATF Director Ken Melson was being truthful when he claimed he was unaware of key elements of Operation Fast and Furious. Congressional investigators now need to interview the FBI director and determine if Mueller was also being provided with only partial details about the operation.
If that turns out to be the case, it is a damning indictment of the Justice Department and senior officials within the Department, who learned nothing about the disastrous and deadly effects of compartmentalization which were partially to blame for the success of Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001. The “wall of separation” created by Clinton-era Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick seems to have been embraced by her successor Eric Holder, who is now the attorney general under Barack Obama.
The “wall” was created to safeguard the civil liberties of terrorists by keeping counter-terrorists from communicating with federal prosecutors, but can be twisted to serve a far more nefarious purpose, as the various “Gunwalker” operations being uncovered seem to show.
“Operation Fast and Furious” was run out of Phoenix as a multi-agency operation, and Congress is now pursuing leads into “Operation Castaway,” an operation based out of Tampa that seems to have mirrored the goals and tactics of the Arizona operation while providing weapons to the violent MS-13 gang in Honduras. Additionally, ICE Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were ambushed — and Zapata killed — with a weapon traced back to a yet-unnamed operation based out of Dallas. A steady recovery of weapons to southern Mexico out of the Houston area seems to indicate the possibility of a fourth operation.
It has been know from the beginning of the scandal that Operation Fast and Furious was a multi-agency operation involving elements of the Department of Justice (ATF, DEA, FBI, etc.) the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, and almost certainly the State Department. It is suspected that this operation violated the Arms Export Control Act, and turned federal law enforcement officers into felons.
While the administration originally tried to scapegoat acting ATF Director Melson and a key source indicates that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco is now being set-up to take the fall, neither man has the authority or reach to initiate or approve this kind of operation. It is unlikely that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was unaware of such wide-ranging and vast operations that involved every law enforcement agency within the Department of Justice. It is also possible — even probable at this point — that he perjured himself in congressional testimony.
Holder either knew of the operation and purposefully committed his agencies to committing thousands of felony acts, or he is a serial incompetent playing the role of patsy for a cabinet-level peer or his superior.