Friday, April 8, 2011

LA Times: "Gillett had received death threats before making the decision to cooperate."

Key figure in ATF's Gunrunner operation cooperating in congressional inquiry.

George Gillett Jr. is expected to reveal crucial information about how a federal operation allowed weapons from the U.S. to pass into the hands of Mexican drug gangs.

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

April 9, 2011

A key leader in the federal law enforcement operation suspected of allowing high-powered assault weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels is now cooperating with congressional investigators, providing a crucial new window into the controversial operation known as Project Gunrunner.

George Gillett Jr., assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' field office in Phoenix, has met with congressional investigators and is expected to provide crucial information about how dozens of U.S. guns may have been transported with the ATF's knowledge into Mexico. Agents say Gillett provided much of the day-to-day oversight of the Gunrunner operation.

Two guns involved in the operation were found at the scene of a shootout in southern Arizona in December in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Brian Terry was killed, prompting at least three inquiries on Capitol Hill.

ATF officials have acknowledged that at least 195 weapons sold under the investigation have been recovered in Mexico, traced as a matter of routine via serial numbers after their recovery from crime scenes, arrests and searches.

Several ATF agents who objected to the gun transfers but were rebuffed by their supervisors already have provided extensive information to Congress and in interviews with The Times.

Gillett, who supervised the group running the Arizona component of Project Gunrunner, known as "Fast and Furious," initially dismissed those concerns and previously ordered ATF agents to avoid all communications with whistle-blowers who were cooperating with the congressional inquiries, several agents said in interviews.

Now, though, Gillett is talking. In a letter Friday to ATF management, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, disclosed that Gillett was cooperating with a congressional inquiry and had participated in two preliminary meetings with investigators.

Gillett, who was named to the Phoenix field office's No. 2 post in June 2008, previously served as an ATF field supervisor in Los Angeles.

After repeated refusals by the ATF and the Justice Department to provide detailed information about the conduct of the Gunrunner investigation and how the guns found at the scene of Terry's death got into criminal hands, Gillett's decision to come forward is crucial, agency sources said.

Vince Cefalu, an ATF agent in California who says he has suffered retaliation for criticizing ATF management in another case, said Gillett would be able to provide crucial information on who approved the operation. He will also be able to say to what degree ATF supervisors deliberately allowed guns bought by known "straw purchasers," acting on behalf of Mexican drug cartels, to be "walked" into Mexico under the eyes of ATF agents in an attempt to arrest higher-level suspects, Cefalu said.

ATF officials acknowledge they were monitoring the sale of guns to suspect buyers but say they did not deliberately allow any guns into Mexico — an assertion contradicted by several ATF agents and the agency's policy document.

Gillett "has the key to all the skeletons in the closet. You can rest assured he's going to be pointing the finger at everybody but himself," Cefalu said. "I should also add that I'm disgusted by the fact that only to protect himself is he coming forward. We came forward when we didn't have to, and we've taken a beating for it. He's coming forward with a lawyer, and he's going to glide through it with some kind of immunity."

Gillett could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Peter Noone, said he could not discuss the case. In response to questions, he confirmed that Gillett had received death threats before making the decision to cooperate.


Kurt '45superman' Hofmann said...

Gillett's lawyer's name, Noone, amuses me. With one space, it becomes "No one"--close enough to "Nobody."

I doubt Noone will be much of an Odysseus, but I hope to see a vanquished Polyphemus or two before this is over.

Anonymous said...

What is it today with people just being honest?
"dozens" of guns, wow, just "dozens" were smuggled into Mexico?
Almost everything I hear, almost everyone I talk to, downplays facts and statistics, because they don't want to hear it or face up to the enormity of the crisis. Making excuses for other peoples' bad behavior and then censoring me for having the bad taste to bring up the corruption we face every day.
It is going to get real ugly, no matter what comes our way, but as far as I'm concerned, the nay sayers have earned every bad thing coming their way. Suffer you morons!
Fact after fact is presented to them and they choose to talk down to us like we are stupid, uninformed children. We are too dumb to understand the real situation at play here, so we get the child's version of reality, from an expert! This could almost make for a great comedy if it weren't so ugly in the end. It's a good thing we have the media to translate for us.


- 181- said...

When I first heard of this I thought, "...if it's true - which I doubted - it'll be swept under the rug & if not it'll (ATF) will be replaced x some other bureaucracy w/ merely another name...". Well it's certainly true, now to see what actually is done.

Anonymous said...

Is that the Peter Noone of "Herman and the Hermits" fame?

Second verse, same as the first, and all that.

Keep up the good work. Prayers sent.


Anonymous said...

"Everything that is in the dark, will come to the light"!
This is a major scandal, and needs investigation into the highest office!

Anonymous said...

" What is it today with people just being honest? "

Information is power. If you seek power and information (data) exists which will complicate or destroy your attempts, you must seek to control that information or you will fail.

I give you the "news" Media.