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As Benghazigate continues to heat up, so too does the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. The gun-running operation was previously connected to the killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry after weapons found at the crime scene were traced back to a gun-walking scheme overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Now a bombshell report that the Spanish language television news network Univision aired on Sunday evening has linked more of the program’s guns to the massacre of at least fourteen Mexican youths and to other horrific crimes committed by Mexican drug rings against innocent Mexican citizens.
ATF is a division of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department. This agency, for which Holder is ultimately responsible, decided to use unsavory gun smugglers as intermediaries in the movement of guns the smugglers purchased from federally licensed firearms dealers in Arizona and sold to Mexican drug cartels. The idea was allegedly to follow the trail of the guns to locate the drug lords and put them out of business. Instead, the drug lords used the guns provided to them courtesy of ATF to continue their rampage of killings.
In April 2009, Holder delivered a speech at the Mexico/United States Arms Trafficking Conference held in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He said that he was “committed to putting the resources in place to increase our attack on arms trafficking into Mexico” and promised that the United States “will take responsibility by joining our Mexican counterparts in every step of this fight” against the Mexican drug cartels.
What happened instead? The ATF launched Operation Fast and Furious in the fall of 2009 without informing the Mexican government.
On January 30, 2010, according to the Univision report, hired hit men working for the Mexican cartel La Linea invaded a house and opened fire on nearly 60 teenagers who had gathered there for a birthday party. More shootings occurred outside against neighbors and fleeing students. Univision reported that three of the high-caliber weapons used by the hit men were linked to Operation Fast and Furious.
This massacre does not appear to be an isolated incident. There is a disturbing pattern in which the ATF lost track of weapons provided to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers, some of which later ended up at crime scenes in Mexico. In other words, it allowed suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns in order to try and catch bigger fish. But the big fish got away as well after using the guns to kill their prey.
“Many weapons cross the border and enter Mexico, but that [Fast and Furious] number, quantity and type of weapons had quite an impact in the war in this area” Jose Wall, an ATF agent stationed in Tijuana from 2009 to 2011, told Univision News.
Univision News reported that it had “identified a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation Fast and Furious, and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings, and at least one other massacre.”
Displaying the best of journalistic investigative reporting, Univision compared two lists and found some significant overlaps that had eluded congressional investigators – the list of serial numbers for weapons used in Fast and Furious and the list of guns seized in Mexico.
Mexican government officials claim that at least three hundred people in Mexico were killed with Fast and Furious weapons.
At least as far back as March 2010, some ATF agents were raising alarm bells about the operation, but were ignored by their superiors. ATF agents stationed in Mexico also expressed concern as they were aware that a large number of weapons being recovered at bloody crime scenes in Mexico were traced back to the beginning of the Operation Fast and Furious pipeline in Arizona. Still the operation continued.
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