Friday, March 25, 2011
"In order to ascertain the extent to which these accounts are accurate, please ensure that CBP officials are prepared to answer questions."
PDF of letter and attachments here.
March 16, 2011
Via Electronic Transmission
The Honorable Alan D. Bersin, Commissioner
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20229
Dear Commissioner Bersin:
Since January, I have been investigating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) operation called “Fast and Furious”—part of the broader “Project Gunrunner” initiative. According to several agents, ATF leadership encouraged gun dealers to engage in sales of multiple weapons to individuals suspected of illegally purchasing them for resale to Mexican cartels. Specifically, I am seeking information on whether CBP officials had an opportunity to seize weapons from straw purchasers on two specific occasions.
First, on March 8, 2011, federal authorities indicted 11 defendants, including the Mayor and the Police Chief of a small town in New Mexico, for conspiring to smuggle weapons from the United States into Mexico.1 According to the indictment, on January 14, 2010, Blas Gutierrez and Miguel Carrillo were pulled over near the border and were found in possession of eight weapons, including three AK-47-type pistols. 2 Also according to the indictment, two of the weapons were later smuggled to Mexico, where they were found this month, March 2011.3 I understand that CBP may have been the agency that conducted the vehicle stop referenced in the indictment and that some of the weapons may have been connected to Operation Fast and Furious. However, CBP allegedly let the individuals go, perhaps because it failed to determine that the weapons or individuals were connected to ATF operation at the time of the vehicle stop.
Second, CBP officials allegedly stopped Jaime Avila near the border in the spring or summer of 2010. He allegedly had the two WASR-10 rifles in his possession that were later found at the scene of Agent Brian Terry’s murder, along with over thirty additional weapons. CBP officials contacted ATF or an Assistant United States Attorney who allegedly instructed CBP to allow Avila proceed without seizing the weapons.
1 Indictment, filed March 8, 20l1, United States v. Villalobos, Case 2:11-cr-00487. (Attachment 1)
2 Id. at 3.
In order to ascertain the extent to which these accounts are accurate, please ensure that CBP officials are prepared to answer questions about these two incidents in addition to questions about the use of force policy at the staff briefing scheduled for this Friday. If you have any questions about this request, please contact Brian Downey at (202) 224-5225. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.
Charles E. Grassley