Friday, January 13, 2012

First there was Wide Receiver, then Fast and Furious, and now - "White Gun"

ATF had another "guns gone walking" plan, but forgot to tell Congress - and Mexico

The Los Angeles Times broke this story in its yesterday's (Jan. 12) edition. I have written many posts in recent months on the two secret U.S. arms sales programs which came to light early last year, but now it appears a third one is surfacing as well. All of them involved the deliberate trafficking of assault weapons, ammunition and military ordnance to Mexican drug cartels. A U.S. congressman says that at least 200 people have been killed by the weapons, and Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress last year that many more will likely die in the years ahead.

Congressional committees are already investigating the Fast and Furious program, in which some 2,500 assault weapons were sold through straw parties or nominal purchasers to Mexican drug criminals from various locations in Arizona between 2009 and early 2011. A similar program, Wide Receiver, lasted from 2006 to 2007. An assistant attorney general has testified that former president George W. Bush knew about Wide Receiver, and personally authorized the transfer of 350 weapons to Mexican drug gangs.

Fast and Furious was operated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Wide Receiver by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF). The existence of both programs was revealed early last year, and set off a firestorm of controversy in the United States and Mexico. Both president Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have denied knowing about either program until Fast and Furious was exposed in January 2011. But congressional Republicans point to documents suggesting that Holder must have known by October 2010, and perhaps as early as July of that year.

The weapons were embedded with microchip tracking devices. The DEA plan was to track Mexican cartels and the weapons they used, of which about 1,500 remain unaccounted for. It is unknown how many weapons were sold to Mexican drug traffickers under the ATF program. In internal documents ATF agents referred to firearms sold and lost during Wide Receiver as "guns gone walking."

Now it appears that there was a third operation which Congress knew nothing about -- White Gun -- which began in 2009, about the same time as Fast and Furious. To quote from the Times article:

"White Gun targeted nine leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. The list included Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who heads the cartel and is [one of the most wanted men in the world] ( U.S. intelligence showed that cartel members were setting up military-type training camps in the Sierra de Durango mountains, near Guzman's northern Mexico hide-out, and wanted to bolster their arsenal with grenade launchers and .50-caliber machine guns." So ATF decided to provide the goods, or at least a taste of them.

ATF undercover agents made contact with Sinaloa representatives on several occasions in and around Phoenix. According to the Times, one cartel buyer "told the undercover agent that if he would bring them a tank, they would buy it. He boasted he had $15 million to spend on firearms and not to worry about the money. He wanted the biggest and most extravagant firearms available."

In another case, "cartel members were seeking shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles and antitank rockets, according to ATF records. [An] undercover agent met them in February 2010 at a Phoenix warehouse. [They] brought 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine to trade for weapons. The undercover agent showed them shoulder-launched missiles, rocket launchers and grenades before ATF agents moved in and arrested them." The three buyers all later pleaded guilty to various federal offenses.

The Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that none of the nine primary targets of the Sinaloa sting was ever arrested. Moreover, when an ATF agent traveled to Mexico City in late 2010 to inspect weapons in police and military storage lockers which had been seized from drug traffickers and cartel operatives, she identified arms that likely had been sold under the White Gun program.

The inevitable conclusion is that once again "guns went walking," and some of them got into the hands of the cartel which the federal government says dominates the U.S. drug market ( How many may have died as a direct result probably will never be known.

A. U.S. congressman said last month that Mexico no longer fully trusts the United States, after all the gun-running operations:

Fast and Furious; Wide Receiver:;;
and: ;

Los Angeles Times article which is the source for this post:,0,3917291.story

No comments:

Post a Comment