Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry
Summary, Narrative, Condensed Timeline and Document Sources of the “Project Gunwalker” Scandal
16 February 2011
by Mike Vanderboegh
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126
David Codrea of The National Gun Rights Examiner, the War on Guns blog, and Guns Magazine columnist, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are now five separate but connected accusations against ATF and DOJ officials in what has been dubbed “Project Gunwalker“:
First, that they intentionally allowed to perhaps as many as 3,000 firearms "walked" across the U.S. border into Mexico. Second, that they instructed U.S. gun dealers to proceed with questionable and illegal sales of firearms to suspected gunrunners. Third, that they intentionally withheld information about U.S.-sanctioned gun smuggling from the Mexican government. Fourth, that one of the guns ATF allowed or helped to be smuggled into Mexico was involved in the death of CBP Agent Brian Terry. Fifth, that they are, now in tandem with the FBI, involved in covering up ATF and DOJ culpability in items One through Four.
Narrative and Condensed Timeline
For many months throughout 2010, the ATF's "Project Gunrunner" initiative was under fire for poor management, exaggerated statistics, etc. The agency was floundering to carry out an agenda that wasn't entirely covered by the law, stung by poor publicity and especially by an Inspector General's report which Michael Isikoff first reported leaks from on 21 September presaging the official report which was finally made public in November. Isikoff’s story said in part:
"A major Justice Department program aimed at intercepting the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexico’s drug cartels is misfiring due to bureaucratic turf battles and a failure to share critical intelligence about illegal firearms purchases, according to an internal department report."
The IG report excoriated ATF’s Project Gunrunner performance. It is now alleged by ATF's own agents that sometime in late 2009 or early 2010, the Phoenix office of ATF began to implement a policy of "walking" semi-automatic rifles south of the border -- at first with a wink and a nod, later, according to one agent:
“The agency was) not only looking the other way but actually facilitating trafficking, threatening and punishing agents who voiced objections, covering up trace information, the truth about the gun that killed BPA Terry, what I.C.E. knew, it goes on and on."
My own sources tell me that this was done at the direction of the "highest levels of Main Justice and the West Wing."
During this time, it is alleged by an experienced ATF street agent, the ATF deliberately did not inform the Mexican authorities that this was going on:
"Darren Gil, former attache to Mexico is an honest and honorable guy. He was forcefully removed from Mexico w o warning in Nov in large part because he wouldn't sit silent on these matters. He will tell the truth if asked by competent authority. He retired Dec 31 because of all this."
Also during this time, gun stores along the border were calling ATF and reporting multiple sales, only to be told to allow the sales to go through, and in some cases, follow the purchasers out into the parking lot to get license numbers. The case of Carter's Country in Houston (see below) is but one example. There are other firearm dealers who are willing to come forward and detail their similar experiences to the Congress if asked under oath. They are reluctant to do so without Congressional protection because their livelihoods are at the mercy of ATF regulation.
All of this, it is alleged, was done in order to boost the numbers of seized semi-automatic "assault weapons" in Mexico to justify continued, or expanded, Project Gunrunner funding.
On 12 December 2010, the Washington Post ran an article based on a leak from ATF headquarters claiming that Carter's Country gun store outlets in Houston area were guilty of flagrant straw-man sales. This storyline was attacked the next day by celebrated Texas criminal defense attorney Dick Deguerin, representing Carter's Country, who said:
“Let me tell you something about Carter's Country. They have been co-operating with ATF from the get go.” Deguerin says the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms asked Carter's Country to complete transactions, even when sales people strongly suspected the weapons were headed to Mexican drug gangs. "They were told to go through with what they considered to be questionable sales. They were told to go through with sales of three or more assault rifles at the same time or five or more 9 millimeter guns at the same time or a young Hispanic male paying in cash. It's all profiling, but they went through with it," said Deguerin.
A month later I discover the story and link it as corroborative of the ATF whistleblower’s narrative.
On 14 December 2010, Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed with a semi-automatic rifle in the hands of a smuggler. It is alleged by ATF street agents that this weapon was one of the "walked" rifles. An FBI murder investigation is proceeding, as is an internal ATF investigation, although the FBI has made precious few public statements and the ATF denies that they are investigating themselves. In the opinion of some ATF agents, these investigations have been used by ATF management to extort silence from agents in the furtherance of a cover-up of the complicity of ATF and Justice Department senior management in the death of BPA Terry.
What is known is that an unknown but significant number of ATF agents with personal knowledge and documents of this scandal, which has been dubbed "Project Gunwalker" by blogger and Guns Magazine columnist David Codrea, were willing to tell their story to any Senator who asked them. Although I had heard rumors of the circumstances of Brian Terry’s death from my own sources within and without the ATF and was trying to verify them as early as Christmas 2010, the first mention of these rumors in a public venue came out in postings by disaffected ATF street agents writing comments at their own website, CleanUpATF.org. I broke this story on 28 December 2010.
When David Codrea and I each became aware that there were a number of these agents who had spoken up within the agency and who were willing to tell their stories to “competent authority” -- meaning the United States Senate or House of Representatives -- we were also aware that the Congress needed to approach the agents, not the other way around. Having established round-about contact with some of these agents, we began to try to vector the proper “competent authorities” into contact with the agents.
It took some time, but we finally contacted the right person in Senator Jeff Sessions office, who put us in touch with Senator Grassley’s office. Thus it was the Senators who contacted the agents, not the other way around as has been reported.
Early on 25 January, I reported that my sources had told me that a press conference was scheduled for 10:00 AM in Phoenix. This was the announcement of the “Fast and Furious” bust which included (although the ATF did not admit the linkage at the time) the straw purchaser who bought the weapons which were recovered at the Brian Terry murder scene. Documents released as part of this press conference were later analyzed by an ATF whistleblower with damning results and published on my blog on 7 February.
The contacts with the whistleblowers and the 25 January press conference in Phoenix led to Senator Grassley’s first letter to ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson on 27 January 2011, laying out the whistleblower‘s allegation and requesting information.
Senator Grassley also warned of the curious timing of the Fast and Furious case:
On Tuesday, according to press reports, the ATF arrested 17 suspects in a Project Gunrunner bust. William Newell, the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF's Phoenix Field Office was quoted as saying, "We strongly believe we took down the entire organization from top to bottom that operated out of the Phoenix area." However, if the 17 individuals were merely straw purchasers of whom the ATF had been previously aware before Agent Terry's death, then that raises a host of serious questions that the ATF needs to address immediately.
On 31 January 2011, pursuant to reports that the Phoenix ATF management was threatening reprisals against agents who talked about the Terry case, Senator Grassley sent another letter to Acting Director Melson, reminding him strongly of the whistleblower protection laws.
David and I were the first to post these letters on the Internet.
On 4 February, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent a reply to Senator Grassley which was both preemptory and insulting to his character. David and I again were the first to post this letter.
On 7 February we published a damning “Open Source Analysis of ‘Fast & Furious‘ Bust” by one of the whistleblowers which confirmed it as an integral part of the Project Gunwalker cover-up using documents and court papers from the public record.
Also on 7 February, an ATF agent writing on CleanUpATF.org proposed this witness list and questions for Senator Grassley:
Melson, Carter, Hoover, Chait - did you know of these strategies and did you approve them? Who from DOJ and the White House helped you develop your plan? Explain.
ATF Chief Counsel Attorneys - what was your role in developing this investigative stratagy? Explain.
McMahon, Newell, Gillett - what EXACTLY did you do or not do in the management of this investigation? How closely were you monitoring this significant case? Explain.
Gil, Canino, Ortiz, Kumar, Rowley - did you protest the actions being taken in this investigation and what was the result of your complaints?
Case Agents and Supervisors - who, to the best of you knowledge, was approving and supporting this investigative path? What was your plan?
ATF Phoenix Division Agents - is there a track record of retaliation, mismanagement, reprisal, hostile work environment, cover-up, lying and blind defense of such in your job? By whom? Explain.
In retrospect I’m sure the Justice Department considered the 4 February letter ill-advised, because on 9 February Senator Grassley fired back a blistering three-page salvo directly to Attorney General Holder with attached documents he obviously obtained from whistleblowers that strongly supported their allegations. Once again, David and I scooped the rest of the media by posting the letter and the documents under the name “Rosetta Stone.“ Senator Grassley concluded this letter:
The Terry family deserves answers. The whistleblowers have expressed a desire to honor Agent Terry’s memory by disclosing this information. The Justice Department should work to do the same. The best way to honor his memory is to come clean.
The Senator in his letter again suggested a meeting with ATF. That meeting happened on 10 February, and according to an internal ATF source of mine, the briefing was done by James E. McDermond, Assistant Director of ATF’s Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information. McDermond was quoted as saying he thought the meeting went well.
Today, 16 February, Senator Grassley disabused the ATF, the FBI, Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Justice of that optimistic notion with a detailed, two-page demand to AG Eric Holder for specific documents in the “Project Gunwalker” Scandal. The “dog and pony show” of 10 February apparently did not impress Senator Grassley.
The scandal, it seems, is here to stay for a while.
Important Source Documents for “Project Gunwalker”
David Codrea’s Comprehensive Journalist’s Guide to “Project Gunwalker”
Can be found here: http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-national/a-journalist-s-guide-to-project-gunwalker
Michael Isikoff’s story of 21 September 2010 can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39282887/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/
Documentation and discussion of the disputation of ATF statistics used to justify Project Gunrunner can be had by contacting David Codrea, of the National Gun Rights Examiner column. Email: email@example.com.
The November 2010 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General report, "Review of ATF's Project Gunrunner" which excoriates ATF performance can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/ATF/e1101.pdf
Carter’s Country as example of ATF requests to gun dealers:
The 12 December Washington Post article is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/12/AR2010121202663.html
The 13 December Post follow-up with some of Deguerin’s remarks is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/13/AR2010121305395.html
Also on 13 December the local Houston FOX affiliate ran video with more Deguerin quotes: http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/local/101213-gun-dealer-atf-approved-sales-to-mexican-gun-runners
Open Source Analysis by ATF whistleblower of Fast and Furious bust can be found here: http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2011/02/open-source-analysis-of-fast-furious.html
27 December, Grassley to Melson: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47909152/ATF1-1
31 December, Grassley to Melson: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47909228/ATF2
4 February, Weich to Grassley: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48448953/atf-2
9 February, Grassley to Holder: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48549160/RosettaStone
16 February, Grassley to Holder, et.al.: http://judiciary.senate.gov/resources/documents/upload/021611GrassleyToHolder.pdf