• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Operation Fast and Furious: The ATF Gunrunning Scandal

    The U.S. government intentionally sells assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels. Those cartels use those weapons to kill, among others, a U.S. law enforcement officer. The White House deflects questions on the subject. The director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who watched the gun sales on video in his office, stonewalls Congress. So does the Justice Department. The whistleblower that exposed it all is fired.

    Paperback novel or real-life Obama Administration scandal? Time’s up.

    Just last week, Vince Cefalu, a special agent in the ATF for 24 years, was dismissed from his job after helping expose an operation code named “Operation Fast and Furious,” which was designed to purposefully put assault weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartels so they could then be tracked to collect intelligence.

    The operation itself is an exhausting series of unbelievable mistakes and lapses of judgment, but the Administration’s response is even more disturbing, as is the subdued media reaction.

    According to the written testimony of Supervisory Special Agent Peter Forcelli: “ATF agents assigned to the Phoenix Field Division, with the concurrence of their local chain of command, ‘walked’ guns. ATF agents allowed weapons to be provided to individuals whom they knew would traffic them to members of Mexican drug trafficking organizations.”

    The goal was to uncover larger criminal conspiracies across the border. Without informing Mexican authorities, the ATF facilitated over 2,500 assault weapons entering Mexico illegally. The only modern “tracking” method was a rigged-up GPS from Radio Shack that Forcelli took it upon himself to install, since the only other tracking method would be serial numbers on the guns. That device failed.

    ATF agent John Dodson, who feared that this operation would cost lives, was told to stand down and “fall in line” by supervisors. Dodson testified to Congress: “Although my instincts made me want to intervene and interdict these weapons, my supervisors directed me and my colleagues not to make any stop or arrest.”

    ATF agent Olindo James Casa agreed. Casa testified:

    On several occasions I personally requested to interdict or seize firearms, but I was always ordered to stand down and not to seize the firearms.

    Later, guns sold in this operation were discovered at the scene of a shootout in Arizona in December 2010 in which Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was killed. As Forcelli testified: “To allow a gun to walk is idiotic.… This was a catastrophic disaster.”

    Since then, we have learned that this operation had support in Washington and that its tactics were not a secret. Forcelli testified that Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley helped orchestrate the operation and that U.S. Attorney Dennis Burk “agreed with the direction of the case.” E-mails show that Deputy Assistant Director for ATF Field Operations William McMahon was “so excited about Fast and Furious that he received a special briefing on the program in Phoenix.”

    Acting ATF director Kenneth Melson actually watched—yes, watched—live video surveillance of the operations from his office in Washington. He and his deputy were briefed weekly on the operation.

    President Obama said in a press conference today: “My Attorney General has made clear that he wouldn’t have ordered gun running into Mexico.… That would not be an appropriate step by the ATF.” He then deflected further questions by citing an “ongoing investigation.” Press Secretary Jay Carney had previously said that the President “did not know about or authorize this operation.”

    If that’s the case, how could neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder not know about an operation that everyone else at the Department of Justice seemed to be actively involved in, including the Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Attorney and head of the ATF? Melson has finally agreed to testify in the Senate in July, and hopefully that will answer some of those questions.

    And it’s about time that Melson was finally authorized by Holder to testify. The Administration’s stonewalling on this subject has been embarrassing. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to Senator Chuck Grassley (R–IA) in February that “the allegation described in your January 27 letter—that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico—is false.” We now know that this is not true.

    Weich went on:

    I also want to assure you that ATF has made no attempt to retaliate against any of its agents regarding this matter. We recognize the important of protecting employees from retaliation to their disclosures of waste, fraud, and abuse. ATF employees receive annual training on their rights under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

    Of course, last week, Cefalu was dismissed, allegedly as retaliation for his disclosure of waste, fraud, and abuse.

    Grassley then responded with a letter to Holder with the specifics of the operation that he had previously delivered. The Department of Justice continued to ignore Congress’s requests for information. Only recently, when Congressman Darrell Issa (R–CA) held a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, did details begin to emerge and the media begin to take notice.

    However, even as stories have been written, and some broadcast outlets, including Fox and ABC, have run some stories on it, the attention this story merits is not matched by the attention it is getting. ABC’s Jake Tapper asked the White House: “What is the exact date that the President learned about the Justice Department ATF operation?” Carney deflected the question.

    An anonymous Justice Department source had been circulating a false story last week that Issa had been briefed on the operation in April 2010. The Washington Post published the claim despite clear evidence to the contrary and only anonymous sources. More credible and transparent reporting on the operation is vital.

    As of today, the only person punished for Operation Fast and Furious has been someone who helped expose the details. Accountability for this massive operational failure is essential, and it will come only with more media attention.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    32 Responses to Operation Fast and Furious: The ATF Gunrunning Scandal

    1. carol,az says:

      Thank You Rory Cooper for finally getting this story here.You have my admiration.

      I have written about this under your main pg ,(todays) featured article. I had no idea this pervasive timely update was posted also today, until I stumbled here.
      Since comments under your new format are now limited, for any real exchange for detail, I had to post my comments in three parts. I hate the new format and feel this well researched site has lower standards to exchange valuable information, for quick off the cufft exchanges like any gossip website. That has discouraged good valuable exchanges for information.
      Your detailed update to this corruptive action by the DOJ, and all law enforcement agecies responsible as you have said, is on-going.

    2. GRBW says:

      Can anyone say, "Special Prosecutor?"

    3. Eric M. says:

      Next up: We'll see how this whole mess is spun to depict the firearm dealers to be the bad guys. Just leave it to the ignorant, biased and misguided mainstream media to fill the population's skulls with mush about these "evil" gun dealers. "More gun control!" will be the inevitable cry. As an FFL dealer myself, I cringe to think of what's coming. Imagine what Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, etc. would think about such blatant corruption of our federal government today. It is utterly disgusting.

    4. @marde716 says:

      The program worked as planned: the focus was NOT buyers and Cartels, but sellers and public opinion toward gun owners. The question now is who's idea was it?

    5. Guest says:

      This utter, foul systemic corruption is toxic to a free republic. America is circling the drain if we don't get it straightened out.

    6. Aren't we still in the "War on Drugs"? Isn't this giving aid & comfort to the enemy?

    7. RCzar says:

      As expected, the Dems are already pushing the gun control cries. The efforts will be stepped up now that the administration's "Fast and Furious" plan to plant guns at crime scenes has been exposed. Cummings today released his "Outgunned" report. Others are pushing again for an assault rifle ban and re-instatement of the Brady bill which was a complete failure in reducing gun violence.

      More on the "Fast and Furious" debacle at: http://bit.ly/iC4Z9H

    8. jweb says:

      How much longer will we allow this? When civil servants cease to keep there oath to the Constitution; it is then the RESPONSIBILITY of the people to ensure iss upkeep. The government is not our friend. They lie. Our government is ran by evil people. In ten years from now, what will be the reaction of the North American Union citizens when they learn from de-classified documents that 9-11 was the workings of an "invisible government"? The CIA runs Al-Qaeda. The military industrial complex provides services to the bankster elites that control currency. The time for 1776 is at hand. It is time to decide were you stand and prepare accordingly. Observe Greece, that is our near future…most likely before the next presidential election.

    9. Tim AZ says:

      What did you expect? It is the Chicago way after all. Had enough yet?

    10. Mike says:

      This should be Obama's "Iran-Contra" scandal…….."Guns for re-election".

    11. Lloyd Scallan says:

      This is a direct, ill fated attempt to blame American gun owners for Mexican drug gang's killings. But when we find the direct communications, to and from the Mexican government, proving the overwhelming majorty of these guns are actually coming up through Central America, Obama and Holder had to envent other means to support their deliberate attempt to deceive the American people. This Obama bunch is attempting to convince Americans that guns are the problem, not the criminals, thus we must give up the only protection the citizens have against a tyrannical government.

      Throughout history, we are taught the very first freedom taken is private ownership of firearms. To some, this may sound unbelivable. That a U.S. president would encourage such a government. Just look at what Obama is doing to every aspect of this country as we know it. Look at the gun ban Hillary signed with the U.N. This is not a bad dream. It's real and happening now. Wake up America and realize we are in a war with this administration. We are fighting to save our way of life.

    12. William says:

      Lest we forget: Mr Issa and parts of his staff were briefed in 2010 on the proposition currently aflame. He did not make any objectiions then. Nor does he seem to be interested in discussing his prior knowledge, for reasons unknown to Brother Cooper. It is a fact that the "war on drugs" is a failure that America can little afford. But that is not a fault attributible to Mr Obama.

      And unless Eric M is a member of a militia, his references to founding fathers is a joke, evidence of a failure to understand the times of the founding fathers. The typical colonial had no long gun unless it was purchased for him by a wealthy land owner for use for a specific period of time. Then it was returned to the armory.

      • fwed says:

        Dude, where did your understanding of colonial America come from? Most households possessed at the very least a fowling piece which was a smoothbore musket. Many hunters possessed fully rifled Pennsylvania long arms which were superior in both range and accuracy to military muskets at the time. Now it may be true that some communities provided arms for the militia and some even uniforms, IF they had the funding to provide such. Most functioned with the use of personal arms. The phrase "A well regulated militia, being neccessary…." Actually has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the term "regulation" as we understand it. Back then it was a military term refering to a soldier's equipage. Even in todays Army a soldiers gear his unit requires him to have is known as his "regs". Also the phrase is merely a qualifier explaning why the people must not be denied the right to arms. You need to study works such as the Federalist Papers more closely to understand that the RKBA was indeed include in the Constitution to BREAK away from the European monarchist mindset that ONLY aristocracy possessed a right to arms.

    13. Chris says:

      Breaking the law is only permitted if you are this administration, Eric Holder, and the DOJ.
      I agree, can anyone say, "Special Prosecutor?"

    14. William says:

      jweb pretty much sums up the way the Founding Fathers thought about that time in history. A good deal of insight into the way America works.

    15. William says:

      But wait a minute. Other sources say that Mr Issa was given a briefing on this matter in 2010. Why is he so hot now to find fault when he had a good deal of time to make political hay from his knowledge?

      • fled says:

        A "briefing" is just that….brief. Issa was likely told the operation was simply a "study" of the trafficking patterns of illegal arms making their way to Mexico. I seriously doubt that he was informed as to the fact that BATFE would be providing the firearms or how many guns would be involved. He would have assumed it was merely a surveillance operation of existing traffickers in operation.

    16. Joey says:

      We have a problem with traitors in high places. Not admitting that fact is getting closer and closer to collaboration in the treason as days go by.

    17. TinBrooks says:

      It's time for Holder to go! This was a plan to attack the Second Amendment!

    18. Bobbie says:

      It's time for all the accountable to go! This is a disgusting display of no leadership and someone used the terms aid and comfort to the enemy!!!!!!!! What has Obama turned this country into????? Put in harms way by the government controlled! This is the matter of human life the American government is accomplice to murdering!!! Immediate action is necessary! These people are dangerous and cowards at the same time running a civil society uncivilly!!!!!

    19. carol,az says:

      Interesting that the recent ,"Phone Scandal" from England and the hearings, are being broadcasted on Prime time by media.
      Where is the same coverage for "Fast and Furious?"
      It is one of the dirtiest scandals in the 21st century here in America and the question must be answered after the storm:
      Has the distraction worked?.

    20. Pingback: Honoring Fallen Border Security Agent Brian Terry

    21. Pingback: Honoring Fallen Border Security Agent Brian Terry | Americas Review

    22. Pingback: Honoring Fallen Border Security Agent Brian Terry | The Conservative Papers

    23. Maria says:

      This one we will not forget!!! It's well past the time for Americans to do something about this terrible mess this country is in. Society is backwards…hollywood stars are admired…and for what! … drinking drugging, living terribly immorally…AND our men and women who risk their lives for the country are treated in this way!!! Outrageous! A teenage girl knows better than this administration on NOT arming the enemy!! We'll support the family to get to the truth! WE ALL NEED TO FILE COMPLAINTS, CALL CONGRESS, INSIST THE INCOMPETENT BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY!! I AM FILING A CITIZENS COMPLAINT AGAINST ATTORNEY BURKE…HE should be shamed into exile for telling the Terry family they are not a "CRIME VICTIM'!!

    24. This is just another reason that this whole administration needs to go! Eric Holder needs to resign or be fired for this! The pressure needs to be kept up so this is NOT swept under the rug. After Holder refused to pursue with the prosecution of the new black panthers for voter intimidation he should have been let go, and now this! It's just confirmation of the total incompetence of the people that the president surrounds himself with!

    25. Pingback: Latin America Missing from the SOTU | PERSUASION IN INK

    26. lucia shorts says:

      I think that ERIC HOLDER should be held accountable for his oart in this so called operation that didn't go the way they planned. But now he is hiding behind the EXECUTIVE PRIVILEDGE which is a line of crap. He needs to be held accoutnable for that border patrol's death. Everyone in gov't thinks that they are beyond the law that is a line of crap. He know that now he has blood on his hands and doesn't care. Well i say we need to get him out of office NOW.

    27. brokenwing says:

      Roger Clements was charged with contempt to congress for lying about his allegedly using steroids. He is now going through his second trial for that contempt charge. Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, should be charged with contempt to congress for his refusal to provide the information requested by the committee investigating the Fast and Furious fiasco. How long will he be able to hide behind executive privilege? Which is more important to find the truth, a baseball player using steroids or the U.S. attorney General breaking the laws of the United States and Mexico? How many lives will be lost for Eric Holders blunder?

    28. ryan says:

      Lets get past how this potentially legitimate operation went bad. These tactical are used by local, state, and federal policing agencies regularly with not only firearms but also drugs, counterfeits, etc. This has and will only become more of a political card for parties to play. Very sad to see loss of a life used as a poker chip in the game of politics.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×