There has been a storm brewing in the right-wing blogosphere for months. Accusations of corruption and conspiracy have been flying about in regards to the department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s (ATF) program titled “Fast and Furious.” If you listened to the blogosphere, the ATF was knowingly handing the guns to dangerous criminals.
The program was set up to target a group of young men who did street racing that, despite their low incomes were managing to purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-firepower firearms. In one case a recipient of food stamps managed to procure over $350,000 worth of high-caliber firepower, including $10,000 for a 50 caliber sniper rifle. This drew parallels to the movie “The Fast and the Furious,” hence the name given to the operation. They set up a tracking web with local gun shops, recording the serial numbers of the kinds of weapons that these kids were purchasing to then track and see where they would wind up, in order to see how this network was operating.
Throughout the time of F&F, there were inter-department conflicts happening. Various memos have surfaced showing a department at odds with itself, with agents no longer cooperating with each other, and all in conflict with the state prosecutors office they were to work with.
Then where did the accusations of gun walking come from? The ATF department handling Fast and Furious had another case open, a direct investigation of suspected gun trafficker named Isaiah Fernandez. In this case, 6 handguns were procured, sold, but then the lead investigator and instigator of the purchase, John Dodson, went on vacation without having performed the interdiction as instructed, even resorting to some rather childish arguments when he was reminded that he had 5 days to interdict those firearms. He retorted in an interoffice memo, “Do the orders define a ‘day’? Is it; a calendar day? A business day or work day….? An Earth day (because a day on Venus takes 243 Earth days which would mean that I have plenty of time)?”
This is the same John Dodson who later “broke” the news on CBS News that the ATF was running guns in Arizona.
The F&F group had put in requests to arrest 20 different people before July of 2010, including Jamie Avila. All of these requests were denied by the Arizona prosecutors office. They continued to push until December, when Jamie Avila murdered ATF agent Brian Terry. He and the other 19 men were arrested, and indicted. Two of the weapons found at the crime scene were part of the group of tracked weapons from the F&F investigation, and were the evidence required to gain the guilty verdict for Mr Avila on gun smuggling. The murder case is still ongoing.
The six handguns from the Fernandez investigation are still unaccounted for according to sources in the ATF.
The true revelation came in that the Sinaloa Cartel drug cartel operatives which were the financing behind the gang which operation F&F was set up to target were in fact FBI informants, something not revealed to the ATF at the time.
This is not the first time a government investigation in Arizona was blocked, with the result being the death of innocent Americans. With the recent revelations behind F&F showing a very different picture than the blogosphere is presenting, time must be taken to study the root causes behind the prosecutors blocking of the arrests. Were they under pressure to not disrupt the FBI’s work on the cartel? Was it pressure from gun rights groups? The F&F case gives a glimpse into the dysfunction apparent within the Justice Department.