International developments in Egypt and Syria – along with the Obama administration’s keystone Cops-like hunt for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – have distracted media and public attention from three extremely serious scandals; each one of which would justify the impeachment and criminal trial of several US cabinet members, including, arguably, the President himself. One of these scandals surrounds Operation Fast and Furious, and – related to this issue – it now seems that Attorney General Eric Holder has one more murder to answer for
According to internal Justice Department (DoJ) records, a police chief in the Mexican state of Jalisco was shot and killed in an ambush on January 29th. Also killed was one of his bodyguards, whilst his wife and a second bodyguard were wounded. The ambush was carried out by suspected members of a drug cartel; Jalisco, a western Mexican state that has Guadalajara as it’s capital, is the virtual battleground in a war between several rival criminal cartels.
Following the arrest, by local authorities, of eight suspects in the shooting, the rifle that killed Hostotipaquillo chief of police Luis Lucio Rosales Astorga, was recovered, along with a large cache of weapons, grenades and tactical equipment. The WASR rifle, a Romanian-manufactured AK-47 variant, was traced to the Lone Wolf Trading Company, a Glendale, Arizona gun store. It was originally purchased by Jacob A. Montelongo, an Arizona resident who was later sentenced to more than three years in prison, after pleading guilty to conspiracy, making false statements and smuggling goods from the United States. The purchase was made in February 2010, around three months after Operation Fast and Furious was begun. In this operation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sanctioned the purchase of hundreds of firearms, from gun stores in the United States, by arms smugglers, who then took the firearms to Mexico and sold them to drug cartels.
At the time, gun store owners were raising concerns about the high-volume sales, but were told, by the ATF, to make the sales, as the weapons were supposedly being tracked, in order to locate and apprehend high-level drug cartel members. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, court records show that Montelongo obtained more than 109 firearms, whilst Operation Fast and Furious was active.
The ATF failed to track the weapons, leading critics of the Obama administration to question whether the purpose of Fast and Furious was to flood Mexico with American weapons, in order to justify tighter laws, relating to firearms purchases; the President, along with other members of his administration, have long claimed that the drug-related violence in Mexico is largely due to the huge number of weapons that find their way across the US-Mexico border. The assertion, that the majority of weapons used by drug cartels originate from the United States, has never been substantiated.
Although neither Attorney General Eric Holder, who – as de facto head of the ATF – has numerous murders to answer for, nor any other high-ranking DoJ official has provided Congress with the full details of Operation Fast and Furious, it is understood that some 2,000 weapons, illegally purchased in the US during this operation, were smuggled into Mexico and then disappeared. A number of these weapons have since been recovered and linked to the killings of over 200 people – most of them Mexican citizens. One victim of the botched gun-trafficking operation was US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed, in 2010, with a weapon linked to Fast and Furious.
During the Presidency of George W. Bush, a similar operation – named Wide Receiver – had been conducted by the ATF. However; Wide Receiver involved less than 500 weapons and was conducted with the knowledge, approval and cooperation of Mexican authorities, whereas Fast and Furious was concealed from Mexican officials. Wide Receiver was scrapped after it was deemed ineffective; with very few of the weapons being successfully tracked.
Testifying under oath before a Congressional committee, Holder had denied any knowledge of Fast and Furious until mere weeks before the hearing. Documents subsequently obtained by the Committee showed that he had lied about this and had, in fact, been aware of the operation for some time. As a result, Holder was held in contempt but, inexplicably, remains US Attorney General. Ultimately, Eric Holder is responsible for what happens at the ATF and, as such, has over 200 murders to answer for. Now, he has one more.
Graham J Noble