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Almost everyone is now critical of the bait-gun programs conducted to stop smuggling of US guns to Mexico. The most well-known of these is Fast and Furious, an unfortunate and self-important name of the kind favored by “the Feds.”

But is the idea of using bait guns a good one or a bad one? And is using bait to catch criminals unusual? No matter what you think about the rightness of the tactic, using various kinds of bait in organized crime, drug, and conspiracy investigations is a common -- and proven -- method. Use of bait guns is more unusual than using money or drugs as bait, but it is hardly unheard of.

Bait is an important part of the investigator’s toolbox

Bait guns are primarily sold by informants as a way of making a straw-purchase case (where someone buys guns intending the transfer them to someone who can’t legally own them.)

The fact that about 2,000 bait guns were part of Fast and Furious and about 300 were lost (more hyperbolically described as “gun-walking”) is not particularly competent but also not particularly notable either. Generally, when bait is lost, all of it is gone. Three hundred represents 15% of the bait guns from this investigation.

When criminal bait is lost, some guns end up in gun crimes; some money is used to fund fraud; and some drugs winds up overdosing junkies. Still most of it serves the important function of catching bad guys. Lost bait doesn’t cause these bad things to happen. It simply supplants the other ready supply.

Smuggling US guns to Mexico is widespread

Without Fast and Furious, Mexican drug cartels would not be unarmed. Not hardly. According to the 2010 report by the US group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 75% of the guns used in crimes in Mexico were originally purchased in the United States. They also cited an ATF statistic: 19,000 guns bought at US dealers were directly tied to crimes in Mexico. Forty percent of these were bought in Texas alone, where it is dead easy to buy guns for “export.”

Perhaps hundreds of thousands of guns may have been purchased in the United States and smuggled into Mexico. The Mayors identified 19,000 from three years of records. In the years prior to that, ATF was prevented by Congress from revealing the numbers. In 2011, US Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer told Congress that of 94,000 guns recovered from Mexican cartels, 70% – some 64,000 – came from the US.

The problem is so bad that Congress budgets the ATF $37.5 million annually to stop it. The other option, of course would be to say “guns don’t kill people” and do nothing.

Fast and Furious didn’t kill Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry

There is no evidence that a bait gun was used to kill Agent Brian Terry. Guns from the bait gun program were found at the scene and could have been used. But anyone who says bait guns were used to kill the agent is lying. If we’re speculating, one could just as easily speculate that these guns were on their way to Mexico. As planned.

Even if one of these guns was used in the shootout, the importance of that is largely symbolic. Darrell Issa has made the claim that without bait guns drug dealers would not have had access to this sort of “high quality” weapon. But drug dealers have unlimited money and unlimited access to any weapon for sale to American straw buyers, including every kind of military-style weapon. The most popular guns are new AR-15 and AK-47 spec. weapons. You can find either one in any gun store in any of the Border States.

The House Oversight Committee isn’t investigating Agent Brian Terry’s death

Despite frequently invoking the slain agent’s name when the cameras are rolling, Issa and the House Republicans are not investigating the death of Brian Terry. No recent activities of the committee have focused on this event.

Instead Issa’s current effort is attempting to draw a conspiracy from a letter that the Department of Justice sent that contained incorrect information about guns lost in the program. The misinformation was provided by an ATF field office director who has testified under oath that he relied on misinformation from field agents. Chairman Issa has repeatedly refused to allow that field office director to appear before the committee and be questioned by its members.

And then there is Issa himself

Darrell Issa is the Congressman who famously earmarked highway dollars to a road where it only “coincidentally” increased the value of property he owned. In 2010, when Issa was appointed Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he said, “I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks [a year.]” He said he planned to investigate the Obama Administration’s role in economic stimulus, bank bailouts and the collapse of housing prices. He promised to investigate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Countrywide Mortgage, Toyota, and steroids in baseball. He said he would look into “presidential earmarks” (there is no such thing) and presidential grants (there aren’t many.)

Two years later (at election time) It looks like Chairman Issa is staring “Epic Fail!” straight in the eye. His political job -- to paint the Obama Administration as a criminal and hypocritical enterprise -- is left with this: A botched ATF initiative that relied on proven investigative techniques. A single “scandal” that was in response to a real and widespread crime involving international drug cartels. And just one “investigation” of a program that began during the Bush Administration.

For Darrell Issa, what a letdown it must be.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip'd rec'd tweeted! Great work (0+ / 0-)

    This is a great synopsis.  You have done a great job compiling lots of info in a concise presentation.

    Good grief, the Gun Running/Walking program began in 2005 in Texas.

    I would like to add information about William Newell, the ATF agent that began the Gun Running program.

    Issa did call him before Congress; however, in Newell's opening statement, no mention is made of his entire history of gun running, which began in 2006.

    His opening statement:

    Statement of William Newell, former Special Agent in Charge Phoenix Field Division Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform July 26, 2011

    William "Billy" Hoover shut down the Gun Walking program in 2007.

    TPM has posted the emails.  Email # 9 from Hoover sums up his negative respons to how Newell's Phoenis office handled gun running w/o permission (or so it seems)

    October 6, 2007, Hoover Email

    Email #13 from Newell states that he "used to do it all the time in Columbia"

    Issa's fixation with Eric Holder is a distraction covering up

    1.  ATF's efforts to find the kingpin gun buyers in Columbia and Mexico that may or may not have been fully sanctioned by the US DOJ, etc.  Again, William Hoover shut it down in 2007.

    2.  That most of the guns, as you have stated above, used by criminals in Central America/Mexico were PROVIDED BY US GUN SELLERS, many working ON THE BORDERS in states with LAX LAWS about who and what quantities of guns are sold through proxies to criminals.

    The person who should be grilled by Congress, imo, is William Newell and the others who worked with them.  Newell is ATF  kingpin.  Gun running began in 2005 UNDER THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION.

    I made this jpeg for you.  Feel free to use it in your diary.

    ATF Gun Running Timeline 2005 - 2010

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 08:29:08 AM PDT

    •  A few correx to you and OP. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      War on Error

      Ballistics testing on THE bullet that killed Brian Terry are ambiguous, yes. But F&F guns were recovered from the scene, and there is even some question that there was a third gun from a Texas operation that is being hidden:

      Transcript of taped conversation between ATF agent and gun dealer who sold the two known weapons:

      Agent: Well there was two.

      Dealer: There's three weapons.

      Agent: There's three weapons.

      Dealer: I know that.

      Agent: And yes, there's serial numbers for all three.

      Dealer: That's correct.

      Agent: Two of them came from this store.

      Dealer: I understand that.

      Agent: There's an SKS that I don't think came from.... Dallas or Texas or something like that.

      Dealer: I know. talking about the AK's

      Agent: The two AK's came from this store.

      Dealer: I know that.

      Agent: Ok.

      Dealer: I did the Goddamned trace

      Agent: Third weapon is the SKS has nothing to do with it.

      Dealer: That didn't come from me.

      Agent: No and there is that's my knowledge. and I spoke to someone who would know those are the only ones they have. So this is the agent who's working the case, all I can go by is what she told me.

      As for Bill Newell, investigators would love to get some testimony out of this guy, but something strange happened after his incredibly lame and self-damning testimony: he was promoted.

      Critics of the operation speculate that Holder or someone in Justice wanted those guys out of the field and in the warm, protective environs of D.C. I'm sure Issa would love to get documents about Newell's operation. Holder could dump those docs if he wanted to.

      •  Issa did question Newell (slaps forehead) (0+ / 0-)

        I knew it was somewhere.

        And what did he say? That he and a White House official had discussed Op F&F as early as September 2010.

        Unfortunately, Issa could not get that White House official before his committee.

        Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said on a conference call Wednesday evening that he will try to get a White House official who may have had knowledge of the botched Fast and Furious gunrunning operation to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

        But Issa, who chairs the committee, was not optimistic about the effort. “Try? Yes,” he said, asked whether he would try to get the official into his committee room.

        The official was White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O'Reilly, an old pal of Newell's.

  •  Issa's checkered past includes theft, arson... (0+ / 0-)

    The last sound on earth will be the squawk of an optimist.

    by CT yanqui on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 12:38:32 PM PDT

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