Senator Grassley struggles to get to the bottom of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death and the role of ATFThursday, February 17th, 2011
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is like a dog that has gotten his chops on a bone and won’t let go.
Grassley found out that 2 of the weapons found at the site of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder scene in Rio Rico actually came from a gun shop in Phoenix. Of this there is no doubt any more.
Second, Grassley found out that ATF was running an investigation that called Project Gunrunner, allowing guns to be sold to “straw men” illegally, with said guns slipping into Mexico and into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels. The guns found at Agent Terry’s murder scene were tracked by ATF via Project Gunrunner.
Grassley raised the question how come ATF looked the other way while hundreds of guns are slipping into Mexico under ATF’s watchful eyes.
What Grassley has gotten from ATF and the US Department of Justice is a giant stone wall.
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I appreciate the staff briefing that Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) officials provided on February 10, 2011. However, the briefers focused on general issues related to challenges in successfully prosecuting gun trafficking cases. They refused to answer specific questions about the facts and circumstances that led me to request the briefing.
Specifically, they refused to say whether the approximately 103 weapons seized
according to the Jaime Avila indictment were the only seizures related to the nearly 770 weapons mentioned in the indictment. They refused to say whether the third assault rifle purchased by Avila in January 2010—the one not found at the scene of CBP Agent Brian Terry’s shooting—has been recovered elsewhere. When asked whether ATF had encouraged any gun dealer to proceed with sales to known or suspected traffickers such as Avila, the briefers said only that they did not have any “personal knowledge” of that.
Therefore, please provide the following documents to the Committee:
1) All records relating to communications between the ATF and the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) who sold the weapons to Avila, including any Report of Investigation (ROI) or other records relating to the December 17, 2009 meeting “to discuss his role as an FFL during this investigation.”
2) All records relating to communications between ATF headquarters and Phoenix Special Agent in Charge (SAC) William Newell from December 1, 2010 to the present, including a memorandum, approximately 30 pages long, from SAC Newell to ATF headquarters following the arrest of Jaime Avila and the death of CBP Agent Brian Terry.
3) A copy of the presentation, approximately 200 pages long, that the Group 7 Supervisor made to officials at ATF Headquarters in the Spring of 2010.
4) Copies of all e-mails related to Operation Fast and Furious, the Jaime Avila case, or the death of CBP Agent Brian Terry sent to or from SAC Newell, Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) George Gillette, Group 7 Supervisor, or the Case Agent between November 1, 2009 and January 31, 2011.
Please provide documents in batches on a rolling basis as they are identified and located. Also, please prioritize your search for documents and produce them in the following order: (1) documents in response to requests one through three, (2) documents in response to request four dated between December 13, 2010 and January 31, 2011, and (3) documents in response to request four dated between November 1, 2009 and December 13, 2010.
I look forward to receiving your response. Please provide the first set of requested documentation by no later than February 23, 2011. If you have any questions please contact Jason Foster or Brian Downey at (202) 224-5225. All formal correspondence should be sent electronically in PDF format to Brian_Downey@judiciary-rep.senate.gov or via facsimile to (202) 224-3799.
Charles E. Grassley
cc: The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Kenneth E. Melson, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
The Honorable Alan D. Bersin, Commissioner, United States Customs and Border Protection
What Grassley is focusing on is that ATF announced a big bust of this guy Avila, but 2 of the guns found at Agent Terry’s murder scene were bought by Avila.
What ATF is trying to do is beat their chests how good a job they are doing investigating the sale of guns…and Grassley is trying to dig deeper and find out if this isn’t just a smoke screen to hide the facts that hundreds of assault weapons have flowed into Mexico under ATF’s surveillance, including the 2 guns found at Agent Terry’s death site.
A really interesting fact of this growing story is apparently there are ATF “boots on the ground” agents who are ratting out their bosses in the cover-up.
Called “whistle blowers”, the ATF agents who are feeding Grassley and others the real skinny on what is going down are either heroes if you want truth and justice and an honest government, or traitors if you are high-ranking Obama Administration lackeys who want to sweep under the rug the fact that if they had not let the 2 guns slip, Agent Terry might still be alive today.
This whole mess gives new meaning to the “friendly fire” definition…our law enforcement folks being killed by our law enforcement folks pursuing their mission to the disregard of the safety of other law enforcement officials. This is the ultimate betrayal of our law enforcement people.
One thing I learned as a prosecutor working in the field with cops and as a city attorney is that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers take their oath of service seriously, and since they routinely put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us, they don’t cotton to political games being played by their bosses…especially if one of their own is killed as a consequence.
Some of the field law enforcement people will go so far as to risk their careers to expose corruption in the management of the agencies they work for. God bless them and protect and keep them!
Looking round the world one of the biggest problems in societies that yearn to be free are the secret police used by dictators to smash opposition. ATF is looking like the secret police accountable no one and especially any system of truth and justice.
Another big problem, especially in Mexico, is there is not a community of oath-oriented law enforcement or military people who put “protect and serve” above lining their pockets with drug cartel money.
A huge problem in Mexico is that no one right up tho the President of that country can trust his cops or military to protect the people of Mexico. In Mexico you only get the “justice” you pay for. No one can outbid the cartels.
One of the things the United States has done is create an entire community of “oath people” who swear an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic and who dedicate their lives to creating a civilized society of law and justice so you and I can go about our lives without being crime victims.
They don’t take bribes from drug catrelistas or anyone else. They don’t think first about how to protect their political bosses.
They are the “oath people” –fire fighters — who run into buildings on fire to save people like on 9/11.
They are the “oath people” –soliders –who go to Afganistan or Iraq or wherever they are sent and risk their lives daily to protect our freedom.
They are the “oath people” — police officers –who work in our comunities as law enforcement officers to make sure the criminals don’t take over.
They are the “oath people” –Border Patrol — out in the desert hunting down border bandits to protect illegal immigrants from rape, robbery and murder…even if the illegals broke the law sneaking into our country.
They dobn’t run away when the chips are down.
Here is a “blow by blow” account of the evolution of the Project Gunrunner (now called “Gunwalker” scandal from Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars. Mike and Dave Codrea have done what the maionstream media failed to do….open up a can of worms that needed to be opened…backed by courageous ATF agents who take their oath seriously.
Updated Summary, Narrative, Condensed Timeline and Document Sources of the “Project Gunwalker” Scandal.
16 February 2011
by Mike Vanderboegh
David Codrea of The National Gun Rights Examiner, the War on Guns blog, and Guns Magazine columnist, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are now five separate but connected accusations against ATF and DOJ officials in what has been dubbed “Project Gunwalker“:
First, that they intentionally allowed to perhaps as many as 3,000 firearms “walked” across the U.S. border into Mexico. Second, that they instructed U.S. gun dealers to proceed with questionable and illegal sales of firearms to suspected gunrunners. Third, that they intentionally withheld information about U.S.-sanctioned gun smuggling from the Mexican government. Fourth, that one of the guns ATF allowed or helped to be smuggled into Mexico was involved in the death of CBP Agent Brian Terry. Fifth, that they are, now in tandem with the FBI, involved in covering up ATF and DOJ culpability in items One through Four.Narrative and Condensed Timeline
For many months throughout 2010, the ATF’s “Project Gunrunner” initiative was under fire for poor management, exaggerated statistics, etc. The agency was floundering to carry out an agenda that wasn’t entirely covered by the law, stung by poor publicity and especially by an Inspector General’s report which Michael Isikoff first reported leaks from on 21 September presaging the official report which was finally made public in November. Isikoff’s story said in part:
“A major Justice Department program aimed at intercepting the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexico’s drug cartels is misfiring due to bureaucratic turf battles and a failure to share critical intelligence about illegal firearms purchases, according to an internal department report.”
The IG report excoriated ATF’s Project Gunrunner performance. It is now alleged by ATF’s own agents that sometime in late 2009 or early 2010, the Phoenix office of ATF began to implement a policy of “walking” semi-automatic rifles south of the border — at first with a wink and a nod, later, according to one agent:
“The agency was) not only looking the other way but actually facilitating trafficking, threatening and punishing agents who voiced objections, covering up trace information, the truth about the gun that killed BPA Terry, what I.C.E. knew, it goes on and on.”
My own sources tell me that this was done at the direction of the “highest levels of Main Justice and the West Wing.”
During this time, it is alleged by an experienced ATF street agent, the ATF deliberately did not inform the Mexican authorities that this was going on:
“Darren Gil, former attache to Mexico is an honest and honorable guy. He was forcefully removed from Mexico w o warning in Nov in large part because he wouldn’t sit silent on these matters. He will tell the truth if asked by competent authority. He retired Dec 31 because of all this.”
Also during this time, gun stores along the border were calling ATF and reporting multiple sales, only to be told to allow the sales to go through, and in some cases, follow the purchasers out into the parking lot to get license numbers. The case of Carter’s Country in Houston (see below) is but one example. There are other firearm dealers who are willing to come forward and detail their similar experiences to the Congress if asked under oath. They are reluctant to do so without Congressional protection because their livelihoods are at the mercy of ATF regulation.
All of this, it is alleged, was done in order to boost the numbers of seized semi-automatic “assault weapons” in Mexico to justify continued, or expanded, Project Gunrunner funding.
On 12 December 2010, the Washington Post ran an article based on a leak from ATF headquarters claiming that Carter’s Country gun store outlets in Houston area were guilty of flagrant straw-man sales. This storyline was attacked the next day by celebrated Texas criminal defense attorney Dick Deguerin, representing Carter’s Country, who said:
“Let me tell you something about Carter’s Country. They have been co-operating with ATF from the get go.” Deguerin says the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms asked Carter’s Country to complete transactions, even when sales people strongly suspected the weapons were headed to Mexican drug gangs. “They were told to go through with what they considered to be questionable sales. They were told to go through with sales of three or more assault rifles at the same time or five or more 9 millimeter guns at the same time or a young Hispanic male paying in cash. It’s all profiling, but they went through with it,” said Deguerin.
A month later I discover the story and link it as corroborative of the ATF whistleblower’s narrative.
On 14 December 2010, Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed with a semi-automatic rifle in the hands of a smuggler. It is alleged by ATF street agents that this weapon was one of the “walked” rifles. An FBI murder investigation is proceeding, as is an internal ATF investigation, although the FBI has made precious few public statements and the ATF denies that they are investigating themselves. In the opinion of some ATF agents, these investigations have been used by ATF management to extort silence from agents in the furtherance of a cover-up of the complicity of ATF and Justice Department senior management in the death of BPA Terry.
What is known is that an unknown but significant number of ATF agents with personal knowledge and documents of this scandal, which has been dubbed “Project Gunwalker” by blogger and Guns Magazine columnist David Codrea, were willing to tell their story to any Senator who asked them. Although I had heard rumors of the circumstances of Brian Terry’s death from my own sources within and without the ATF and was trying to verify them as early as Christmas 2010, the first mention of these rumors in a public venue came out in postings by disaffected ATF street agents writing comments at their own website, CleanUpATF.org. I broke this story on 28 December 2010.
When David Codrea and I each became aware that there were a number of these agents who had spoken up within the agency and who were willing to tell their stories to “competent authority” — meaning the United States Senate or House of Representatives — we were also aware that the Congress needed to approach the agents, not the other way around. Having established round-about contact with some of these agents, we began to try to vector the proper “competent authorities” into contact with the agents.
It took some time, but we finally contacted the right person in Senator Jeff Sessions office, who put us in touch with Senator Grassley’s office. Thus it was the Senators who contacted the agents, not the other way around as has been reported.
Early on 25 January, I reported that my sources had told me that a press conference was scheduled for 10:00 AM in Phoenix. This was the announcement of the “Fast and Furious” bust which included (although the ATF did not admit the linkage at the time) the straw purchaser who bought the weapons which were recovered at the Brian Terry murder scene. Documents released as part of this press conference were later analyzed by an ATF whistleblower with damning results and published on my blog on 7 February.
The contacts with the whistleblowers and the 25 January press conference in Phoenix led to Senator Grassley’s first letter to ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson on 27 January 2011, laying out the whistleblower‘s allegation and requesting information.
Senator Grassley also warned of the curious timing of the Fast and Furious case:
On Tuesday, according to press reports, the ATF arrested 17 suspects in a Project Gunrunner bust. William Newell, the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Phoenix Field Office was quoted as saying, “We strongly believe we took down the entire organization from top to bottom that operated out of the Phoenix area.” However, if the 17 individuals were merely straw purchasers of whom the ATF had been previously aware before Agent Terry’s death, then that raises a host of serious questions that the ATF needs to address immediately.
On 31 January 2011, pursuant to reports that the Phoenix ATF management was threatening reprisals against agents who talked about the Terry case, Senator Grassley sent another letter to Acting Director Melson, reminding him strongly of the whistleblower protection laws.
David and I were the first to post these letters on the Internet.
On 4 February, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent a reply to Senator Grassley which was both preemptory and insulting to his character. David and I again were the first to post this letter.
On 7 February we published a damning “Open Source Analysis of ‘Fast & Furious‘ Bust” by one of the whistleblowers which confirmed it as an integral part of the Project Gunwalker cover-up using documents and court papers from the public record.
Also on 7 February, an ATF agent writing on CleanUpATF.org proposed this witness list and questions for Senator Grassley:
Melson, Carter, Hoover, Chait – did you know of these strategies and did you approve them? Who from DOJ and the White House helped you develop your plan? Explain.
ATF Chief Counsel Attorneys – what was your role in developing this investigative stratagy? Explain.
McMahon, Newell, Gillett – what EXACTLY did you do or not do in the management of this investigation? How closely were you monitoring this significant case? Explain.
Gil, Canino, Ortiz, Kumar, Rowley – did you protest the actions being taken in this investigation and what was the result of your complaints?
Case Agents and Supervisors – who, to the best of you knowledge, was approving and supporting this investigative path? What was your plan?
ATF Phoenix Division Agents – is there a track record of retaliation, mismanagement, reprisal, hostile work environment, cover-up, lying and blind defense of such in your job? By whom? Explain.
In retrospect I’m sure the Justice Department considered the 4 February letter ill-advised, because on 9 February Senator Grassley fired back a blistering three-page salvo directly to Attorney General Holder with attached documents he obviously obtained from whistleblowers that strongly supported their allegations. Once again, David and I scooped the rest of the media by posting the letter and the documents under the name “Rosetta Stone.“ Senator Grassley concluded this letter:
The Terry family deserves answers. The whistleblowers have expressed a desire to honor Agent Terry’s memory by disclosing this information. The Justice Department should work to do the same. The best way to honor his memory is to come clean.
The Senator in his letter again suggested a meeting with ATF. That meeting happened on 10 February, and according to an internal ATF source of mine, the briefing was done by James E. McDermond, Assistant Director of ATF’s Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information. McDermond was quoted as saying he thought the meeting went well.
Today, 16 February, Senator Grassley disabused the ATF, the FBI, Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Justice of that optimistic notion with a detailed, two-page demand to AG Eric Holder for specific documents in the “Project Gunwalker” Scandal. The “dog and pony show” of 10 February apparently did not impress Senator Grassley.
The scandal, it seems, is here to stay for a while.
Important Source Documents for “Project Gunwalker”
David Codrea’s Comprehensive Journalist’s Guide to “Project Gunwalker” Can be found here:
Michael Isikoff’s story of 21 September 2010 can be found here: Documentation and discussion of the disputation of ATF statistics used to justify Project Gunrunner can be had by contacting David Codrea, of the National Gun Rights Examiner column. Email: email@example.com.
The November 2010 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General report, “Review of ATF’s Project Gunrunner” which excoriates ATF performance can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/ATF/e1101.pdfCarter’s Country as example of ATF requests to gun dealers:
The 12 December Washington Post article is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/12/AR2010121202663.html
The 13 December Post follow-up with some of Deguerin’s remarks is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/13/AR2010121305395.htmlAlso on 13 December the local Houston FOX affiliate ran video with more Deguerin quotes: http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/local/101213-gun-dealer-atf-approved-sales-to-mexican-gun-runners
Open Source Analysis by ATF whistleblower of Fast and Furious bust can be found here: http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2011/02/open-source-analysis-of-fast-furious.htmlGrassley/ATF/DOJ Letters:
27 December, Grassley to Melson: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47909152/ATF1-1
31 December, Grassley to Melson: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47909228/ATF2
4 February, Weich to Grassley: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48448953/atf-2 http://www.scribd.com/doc/48549160/RosettaStone http://judiciary.senate.gov/resources/documents/upload/021611GrassleyToHolder.pdf
For obvious reasons at the highest levels of the US government, there are those who do not want you to know if Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by a gun that was being tracked by ATF.
The “mainstream” media seems disposed to ignore this story… which goes way beyond the circumstances of Terry’s death and reaches into the heart of what standards our government operates at.
Are the “oath people” of our country being betrayed to cover someone’s political ass?
How many other victims of cartel violence were shot with guns that ATF “walked” into Mexico?