By Douglas J. Hagmann
11 July 2011: Just after 10:00 a.m. on March 23rd, 1973, John Dean, White House counsel to former President Richard M. Nixon advised Nixon of a “a cancer within-close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily.” Within the same breath, he advised Nixon that “people are going to start perjuring themselves very quickly that have not had to perjure themselves to protect other people and the like.” That cancer became known as “Watergate,” and eventually led to Nixon’s resignation.
Nearly forty years later, another “scandal,” exponentially larger than Watergate, has the potential to bring down the occupant of the oval office along with other high ranking officials. While no one was murdered as a result of Watergate, two law enforcement officers are dead because of the current “scandal” that is leading closer and closer to the highest levels of the Obama administration, including the Department of Justice and the U.S. State Department.
Obama’s “war on guns”
After taking office, Barack Hussein Obama began a coordinated effort with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to control the purchases and ownership of guns in the United States. To justify the implementation of tougher gun control laws and in a direct assault on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, this administration cited a statement made to Congress by William Hoover, Assistant Director for Field Operations for the BATFE on February 7, 2008. According to that report, 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels were purchased from or originated from the U.S.
That stunning revelation empowered the Obama administration to solicit public support for banning so-called assault weapons in the U.S., and calling for tougher gun control laws. The problem, however, is that the 2008 statement is disingenuous at best.
First and perhaps most transparent, it has been noted that only 1 in 5 guns that have been recovered in Mexico actually underwent any form of tracing, leaving 80% untraced. Accordingly, the 90 percent figure is already factually inaccurate.
Secondly and perhaps the most scandalous of all is that all figures of cited by this administration pertaining to weapons tracing include weapons sold to the Mexican military via U.S. arms-trading policies under programs such as Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) initiatives. The fact is that the bulk of the arms used by the Mexican drug cartels did not – and do not originate from gun shop sales in the U.S., but from U.S. government sponsored programs that sell weapons and ammunition to the Mexican military as well as other third-world nations.
Many of the weapons used in Mexico and counted in border violence statistics actually arrived in that area from Central American countries involved in U.S. government sanctioned programs administered by the Pentagon and with the knowledge and imprimatur of the U.S. State Department.
Interestingly, confirmation of the government’s programs and knowledge by government officials, particularly Hillary Clinton was made public by the recent release of State Department cables published by Wikileaks. The cables prove that the U.S. State Department and Hillary Clinton knew the origins of the bulk of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels, although kept this information secret for the greater agenda of U.S. gun control.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Obama administration via Eric Holder, used various weapons tracking programs already implemented to inflate the statistics involving guns originating in the U.S. to advance even tougher gun control measures.
Research and investigation indicates that a series of programs implemented under the umbrella of a government sanctioned program known “Project Gunrunner” were purposely exploited with the knowledge and consent of government officials at the highest of levels.
Part of the Southwest Border Initiative (SBI), Project Gunrunner was an operation that was started under the Bush administration. Ostensibly, the program was established to conduct surveillance, identify and stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. into Mexico and eventually into the possession of drug cartels. The pilot project was initiated in Laredo, Texas by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) in 2005.
In April of 2006, the program was expanded to a national level as a weapons interdiction program under the BATFE, formerly known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).. Project Gunrunner also involved the use of an Internet based weapon tracking system known as eTrace, a program that would permit participating law enforcement agencies to track the origin of confiscated or questionable guns, through their serial numbers, to their point of origin.
On April 10, 2008, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey briefed the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on the status of the project. At that time, Mukasey stated that the “ATF has approximately 148 special agents…and 56 industry operation investigators (IOI) responsible for conducting regulatory inspections.” Mukasey also stated that the ATF “is also expanding its presence at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) which serves as the central repository and “clearinghouse” for all weapons related intelligence collected and developed by ATF’s field personnel and attaches in Mexico as well as by all other Federal, State and local law enforcement entities involved in narcotics interdiction and investigation along the U.S./Mexico border.”
By 2009, Project Gunrunner resulted in approximately 650 criminal cases being filed against about 1400 defendants. These cases involved about 12,000 firearms.
It is relevant to point out here that “Project Gunwalker” is not the name of any ATF operation, but a satirical moniker attached to Project Gunrunner.
Operation Fast & Furious
Under the Obama administration, “Operation Fast and Furious” was launched in early 2009. Under the umbrella of Project Gunrunner, The BATFE commissioned gun shops in the U.S. to sell weapons to known criminal suspects. Ostensibly, this operation was for interdiction purposes, but the agents involved were ordered not to interdict the weapons. What resulted was a mass amount of weapons that actually and genuinely originated in the U.S., with the knowledge and approval of the BATFE, being permitted to “walk” unmolested across the southern border (hence the satirical name “gunwalker”).
From early 2009 through December 2010, this process was repeated over and over in the southern U.S. despite the objections of numerous BATFE agents and gun shop owners. During this time, several agents began to notify congress and became “whistleblowers” about the stand-down orders.
On December 14, 2010, the inevitable happened. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down in Rio Rico, Arizona by an AK-47 that was “walked” across the U.S. Mexican border with the knowledge and allowance of the BATFE.
In addition to Agent Terry, Immigration Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata was also killed in a separate incident by a weapon allowed to “walk” into Mexico from the U.S.
With the tragic death of agents Terry and Zapata, the blame began to shift to those knowledgeable about the operation, including the acting director of the BATFE Kenneth Melson.
Much bigger than being reported
Unfortunately, the arguably illegal and certainly ill advised methodology implemented by the BATFE is not limited to the Project Gunrunner offshoot of “Operation Fast & Furious.” Other similar operations, each with the apparent knowledge and approval of the U.S. Justice Department, began to spring up elsewhere. There was also Operation Castaway in Tampa, which mirrored the methods of lack of interdiction as Operation Fast & Furious.
According to several agents who are now ready to offer testimony, each operation where weapons were allowed to “walk” into Mexico from the U.S. was approved at the highest levels of the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of State. Some believe that operations of this magnitude could not have been possible without the knowledge and approval of Obama himself.
Almost 40 years after the biggest scandal to rock the nation, it is again time to ask the question to Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama under oath and in front of congress: What did you know and when did you know it?