Concerns came early in U.S.-Mexico gun sting, lawmakers say

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:09pm EDT

A young man walks next to the border fence between Mexico and the United States at the site where Ramses Barron was shot on Wednesday in Nogales January 6, 2011. REUTERS/Alonso Castillo

A young man walks next to the border fence between Mexico and the United States at the site where Ramses Barron was shot on Wednesday in Nogales January 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Alonso Castillo

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Arizona gun dealer balked at continuing to sell weapons in a sting operation meant to track arms flowing to drug cartels in Mexico as early as December 2009, Republican lawmakers said on Monday.

Two guns sold in the operation, dubbed "Fast and Furious", ended up almost exactly a year later at the crime scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent died in a shootout with illegal immigrants trying to cross into the United States.

The sting operation is becoming a major headache for the Justice Department, which oversees the ATF and prosecutors in Arizona who ran the sting that was aimed at tracking guns to Mexican cartel leaders in hopes of nabbing them.

Republican lawmakers have accused the Justice Department of withholding for months requested documents and interviews with key officials about the program, a charge officials denied.

Representative Darrell Issa, head of the House Oversight Committee, and Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, renewed their demand for documents related to December 17, 2009 meeting with a gun dealer.

They said they have evidence that the dealer was worried about a spike in sales to those reselling the guns to the cartels: a handful of buyers bought 212 guns in a few days.

"According to witnesses, that meeting was for the purpose of convincing the gun dealer to continue selling to the suspects and continue providing information to the ATF despite misgivings caused by the high volume of purchases," Issa and Grassley said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

ATF correspondence released three months ago suggested gun dealers began balking in April 2010, not December 2009.

Prosecutors painted a different picture of the meeting in a January 2011 memo turned over to lawmakers. It said the dealer was concerned about endangering himself or violating the law. He was told he did not have to participate in the sting.

But the gun dealer was also told that information he did give about large firearms sales was "very important and useful to ongoing ATF investigations," said the memo, obtained by Reuters, suggesting he was pressured to continue in the sting.

U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry died in a December 2010 shootout and two guns found there have been traced to the sting. It is not yet known if they fired the fatal shots.

Acting ATF director Kenneth Melson accused the Justice Department of missteps in a closed-door interview with congressional investigators earlier this month, saying the agency should have given information to lawmakers more quickly and officials were trying insulate political appointees.

"My view is that the whole matter of the department's response in this case was a disaster," he said in a transcript included in the letter.

The Justice Department has denied blocking the probe.

"Any notion that the department has failed to cooperate with the investigation is simply not based in fact," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (2)
OIFVetAtUSC wrote:
Well, everything was going according to plan — sort of. In 2009, Hillary Clinton and the president of Mexico announced that illegal American gun runners were selling guns to Mexican gangs. Almost immediately, they were proven wrong since almost all of the guns were provided by corrupt Mexican police and soldiers or purchased from Venezuela. Again in 2009, Obama and Holder hatched a scheme to bolster Secretary Clinton’s claim about the guns coming from America and Operation Gun Runner was put into effect where the Justice Department, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, funneled enormous numbers of guns into Mexico creating the “illusion” of a gun massive smuggling problem. The planned reason-de-affair was be to pave the way for more gun control laws to pacify liberal anti-gun voters in time for the presidential election next year. However, in the interim, two U.S. Customs Officials were killed with some of those same “walked” guns.

Now the cover up begins with Eric Holder lying to the U.S. House subcommittee investigating both procedural and criminal wrongdoing by DOJ and BATFE. The intrigue heightens when BATFE Director Kenneth Melson, with his attorney present, disputed Eric Holder’s testimony, implying that the gun scheme was actually planned, sanctioned, and monitored by the attorney general and the president. It therefore doesn’t surprise anybody that among the anti-2nd Amendment laws being pushed is a repeal of the hard fought and earned Tiahrt Amendment which protects gun owners from an abusive government.

The conspiracy is now out in the open and it is being reported even by much of the same mainstream media that once turned a blind eye to this administration’s wrong doing. In the meantime, Obama and Holder are walking around with blood on their hands, hoping to change the subject and that nobody will notice, and hoping that there won’t be any talk of criminal hearings and impeachment. It is over for them. A best case scenario for the president and the attorney general now is that Obama will be allowed to peacefully lose the 2012 presidential election and quietly return to Chicago while Holder gets a pardon from the outgoing president and avoids time in federal prison for lying to congressional investigators. An angry American citizenry is standing by and gearing up as this drama unfolds.

Jul 20, 2011 10:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Publiustica wrote:
The President of the United States IS ultimately responsible for the actions of his administration’s appointees. The head of the BATFE has gone on record as stating the Fast and Furious operation was in fact known about by members in the Dept of Justice and FBI. Consequently this also includes DOJ head Eric Holder. The operation allowed some 2000 guns to pass across the border into Mexico. These weapons were then used to murder hundreds if not thousands of Mexican citizens and at least 2 US law enforcement officials. These murders lie at the feet of those who authorized, approved and knew about the illegal transfer of these weapons. The Obama administration continues to stonewall the investigation(s) and block/limit any and all participation of DOJ/FBI participation in an effort to either hide or lie about the facts as to who knew what and when in an effort to pprotect Obama appointees. What a nice and open government we have that Obama promised!

Jul 20, 2011 1:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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