Thursday, September 20, 2012

U.S. Inspector General files Fast and Furious Report

Disclosures are likely to further incite congressional Republicans as presidential election approaches

On November 1, 2011, an assistant U.S. attorney general told Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. Calif.), that of the then approximately 94,000 weapons seized by Mexican troops since the drug war began in December 2006, at least 64,000 could be directly traced back to the United States. That number represented about 68%, but Mexico has said that 80% of all firearms it seizes from drug traffickers came from the United States ("Dear friends in the United States - please, no more assault weapons to Mexico")

U.S. congressional committees are currently investigating two secret arms sales programs which were conducted by federal law enforcement agencies. They were revealed last year. In Fast and Furious, over 2,000 assault weapons were allowed to be sold to Mexican drug criminals from Arizona between 2009 and early 2011, after Barack Obama took office. A similar program, Wide Receiver, lasted from 2006 to 2007 during the second administration of former president George W. Bush. The purpose of both was to monitor the use of the military grade firearms, and track cartel movements via hidden GPS devices embedded in the guns. The operations were spectacular failures.

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). When the existence of the programs was acknowledged in early 2011, it set off a firestorm of controversy in the United States and Mexico. Both president Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder denied having knowledge of either operation until shortly before whistle blower reports about them publicly surfaced.

Earlier this year Holder was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over certain documents concerning Fast and Furious to a subcommittee, after Obama invoked executive privilege. The vote was along partisan lines. But it was an idle act, since the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who is charged with prosecuting congressional contempt citations, refused to do so, citing the claim of privilege (which historically has been shown deference by Justice Dept. officials).

This week the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Inspector General published its report on Fast and Furious, which today is a hot topic on both sides of the border. The document states that many of the weapons were used in violent crimes in Mexico, causing dozens of deaths. The Inspector General's Office is an independent watchdog agency which reports to Congress. Every Cabinet-level department of the United States government has its own Inspector General.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R. Calif.) chairs a House committee investigating the secret arms sales. In October 2011 he said that they were used to kill at least 200 people during Mexico's drug war. In a December interview with Spanish language media, Issa claimed that the progams have caused Mexico to lose confidence in the United States. Attorney General Holder has acknowledged to a Senate committee studying the matter that the operations were mistakes which "should never have happened".

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R. Ohio) has characterized Fast and Furious as "an abuse of power by the United States government." U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has said that "serious errors" were committed in both operations, which must not be repeated.

Oct. 2 - How did 141 AK-47s sold in Phoenix find their way into the Mexican drug war? This excellent story explains. The depressing part is that it was all done under the watchful eye of U.S. ATF agents. The Russian-designed machine guns left dozens dead just a few hundred miles across the border.

Opinion: In drug war, boundaries and "national sovereignty" mean nothing
Opinion: Mexico's Continuing Agony
Aug. 27: Le Monde lashes out at Mexico's "spiral of barbarism" - and takes a swipe at U.S., too

Previous MGRR reports on U.S. gun running operations
Two U.S. Officials Quit Over "Fast and Furious" Scandal
Can guns really walk from the U.S. to Mexico?
U.S. Attorney General in the cross-hairs over Fast and Furious
Obama will "stand by his man," Eric Holder
First there was Wide Receiver, then Fast and Furious, and now - "White Gun"

Reporte Final del Departamento de Justicia sobre Operación Fast and Furious

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