Monday, May 16, 2011

A question of legitimacy and a post that bears repeating. "The Official ATF Field Manual of the Gunwalker Scandal."

In political science, legitimacy is the popular acceptance of a governing law or régime as an authority. Whereas “authority” denotes a specific position in an established government, the term “legitimacy” denotes a system of government — wherein “government” denotes “sphere of influence”. Political legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, without which, a government will suffer legislative deadlock(s) and collapse. -- Wikipedia.

Dia de los Muertos -- the Mexican "Day of the Dead" -- the new Obama administration's Gunwalker Scandal logo?


I received this email from a federal employee about my Saturday morning post "The Official ATF Field Manual of the Gunwalker Scandal."

PLEASE consider leaving up for at least MONDAY after 6 p.m. before doing another post that shoves this classic down; this NEEDS to sink in, be looked at, copied, linked to, and less than 12 hours isn't good enough for that, with respect.

Others have emailed me with similar wishes. The blogger format is like a river and if your attention is diverted for a day or so, like over a weekend, you'll miss a lot of water and what's being carried along with it.

This is an important piece. Perhaps the most important Gunwalker scandal analysis I've done since I broke the story here on 28 December. I know from friends and correspondents that it has already been forwarded to the offices of Issa, Smith and Grassley, for their in-boxes this bright and shiny Monday morning.

What they do with it is up to them, but, and it is impossible to overstress this point: the entire legitimacy of the federal system, and that of both political parties, and not just the transient hopes of Barack Obama for a second term, hangs on the outcome of this scandal.

History teaches that regimes demonstrated to be illegitimate to their own people are swept away. This is just such a moment. The federal fireman has been caught setting deadly fires. What happens to the arsonists -- and those who gave them the gas, matches and sent them on their bloody way -- will demonstrate to all if this system DESERVES to continue to be tolerated by the victimized people who pay for the entire fire department. In fact, tax receipts will be the least of the system's worries if justice is not done in this monstrous offense to the Constitution and the inalienable, natural and God-given rights and liberties that it merely codifies.

On that cautionary note, I repeat Saturday's story and the reaction to it. Yes, it is that important. If you think so too, please forward it to your Congresscritter, newspaper editor, or anyone else who might be able to help break this scandal out into the public consciousness.

A very great deal hangs on the outcome of the Gunwalker Scandal.

A very great deal.

Mike Vanderboegh

PS: I will resume posting this evening.

From Saturday: The Official ATF Field Manual of the Gunwalker Scandal: "This report might as well be the outline for Gunwalker hearing questions."

"It is essential that our efforts support the strategies and policies of the President and the Attorney General and where possible, complement the strategies of other agencies." -- "Project Gunrunner: A Cartel Focused Strategy," internal ATF report, September 2010, Page 2.

(Note to SSI readers: Get yourself a cup of coffee, shut the door and prepare for a long but vitally important read. -- Mike)

I am belatedly trying to finish a time-line of the Gunwalker scandal for Congressional purposes and in doing so I went back over all that is in the public sphere about Project Gunrunner, Fast and Furious, changes in policy early on in the Obama administration, etc. In the course of doing this I discovered an internal document from September 2010 that I had missed, although how I did so is beyond me, for this ATF document is nothing less than an official ATF field manual of the Gunwalker scandal. I forwarded a copy to one of my DC friends, a long-time federal government insider, who commented: "There's so effing much here---this report might as well be the outline for Gunwalker hearing questions. Really. Hiding in plain sight, too. I'm flabbergasted."

This story begins with a story posted on the MSNBC website back on 24 September 2010 by Michael Isikoff: "ATF targets gun dealers to stem sales to Mexican cartels. New strategy comes in wake of stinging criticism of current interdiction effort."

I've written about this story previously, but here are the significant chunks, with some comments interspersed:

U.S. law enforcement officials have devised an aggressive and potentially controversial new strategy to crack down on the illegal gun trade to Mexico by targeting cartel networks inside this country and "corrupt" U.S. firearms dealers, according to internal Justice Department documents obtained by NBC News.

The documents also state that the drug traffickers appear to have expanded efforts to acquire firepower in the U.S. by tapping well-developed supply networks beyond the Southwest border region in order to acquire high-powered assault rifles as well as components for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The new strategy was prepared in recent weeks by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)’s Office of Field Operations, in the wake of stinging criticism of current ATF efforts to stem the flow of weapons to the cartels by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

(MBV: The Center for Public Integrity wrote a story on Gunrunner in March, based in part on on an interview with Mark Chait, ATF's Director of Field Operations:

The tactics employed in the Fast and Furious case were part of an evolving change in the strategic direction of firearms investigations, ATF officials told the Center.

Mark Chait, ATF’s assistant director in charge of field operations, told the Center he personally decided to change the strategy in September 2010 after years of futile efforts to interdict guns from small-time straw buyers with little hope of dismantling major drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. The agency’s earlier focus on straw buyers was criticized last fall in a review by the Justice Department’s inspector general of ATF’s border effort, known as Project Gunrunner.

In addition, ATF officials have so far been frustrated in efforts to persuade the White House to implement even a simple change in firearm sales reporting requirements to help detect possible gun-running at the border.

“When we look at the complexities of the organizations working around the border of Mexico, just dealing with the lowest level purchaser, the straw purchaser, doesn’t get you to the organizer, the money people and the key people in that organization to shut that down. We found that if we don’t attack the organization and shut the organization down, they will continue to move guns across the border,” Chait told the Center. “It’s kind of a somewhat common sense approach that if you don’t get to the higher-level folks that are making the calls, then guns will continue to cross the border.”

I covered this story at the time but missed the vital connection. I rightly ridiculed the idea that Chait had come up with this idea in September 2010 when the project had been going on for at least a year prior to that. But we can conclude from Chait's mea culpa statement that he was the author of this report, or, at least, it was produced by his office at ATF. Still, as we will see, this report does not mark the beginning of the policy change that led to the Project Gunwalker scandal, but rather is a policy document, something on the order of a U.S. Army field manual, of lessons learned in the previous year and a half.)

Isikoff continues:

Labeled “law enforcement sensitive,” it calls for ATF agents to put more emphasis on monitoring the activities of U.S. guns stores and other federally licensed firearms dealers who may be assisting or turning a blind eye to gun purchases by drug cartel operatives. The report describes such “corrupt” U.S. firearms dealers as “high value targets” -- a phrase that could rile gun rights groups and their supporters in Congress who charge ATF is already too aggressive in regulating the firearms industry.

The principal thrust of the revised strategy directs that ATF agents focus on taking down the operations of high-level gun traffickers working for specific Mexican cartels rather than simply trying to arrest low-level “straw buyers,” as they have often done in the past. It also calls on agents to use more sophisticated investigative methods, such as analyzing financial and telephone records, routinely used in terrorism and organized crime cases, and to work more closely with other federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The new strategy document, entitled “Project Gunrunner; A Cartel Focused Strategy,” appears designed in part to address criticisms of enforcement efforts contained in a recently circulated draft report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. That report reviewed the efforts of Gunrunner, an ATF initiative that involves dispatching teams of agents known as Gunrunner Impact Teams (or GRITs) to cities near the border that are believed to be primary sources of weapons for the cartels.

(MBV: Isikoff was right. This report -- if not prepared as a response to the criticism -- seems to me to certainly have been released by Chait to dampen the negative PR created by the DOJ Inspector General's report, "Review of ATF's Project Gunrunner" which although not officially released until November of that year was already well into the draft stage. Chait and the agency were certainly well aware of it when this report was written.)

Isikoff continues:

But, as disclosed this week by NBC News , Justice Department investigators found that Gunrunner was riddled with “significant weaknesses,” including interagency turf fights, failures to share intelligence and a misguided investigative strategy that focused on low-level street buyers rather than the sophisticated criminal organizations employing them.

Some U.S. national security officials believe that the drug-related violence in Mexico is getting increasingly dire. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, recently suggested the threat from Mexico’s drug cartels was beginning to resemble “an insurgency. In a Sept. 8 internal memo accompanying the new strategy, Mark Chait, ATF’s assistant director for field operations, wrote that “perhaps at no time our history has the investigation of firearms trafficking schemes and networks been more important to public safety, and increasingly, to national security, than now.”

Dancing to the master's tune. The ATF's Gunwalker scandal architects at headquarters: Second from left, Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson, and, on the far right, ATF Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait.

The embarrassing thing to me in retrospect is that, once aware of Isikoff's article, I didn't seek out the report upon which it was based. It is all the more embarrassing since MSNBC posted a pdf of it here. It was, as my DC friend commented, "hiding in plain sight."

It is ironic in the extreme that a report released for the short-term goal of deflecting what in the final analysis was minor criticism from the DOJ's Office of Inspector General will, I believe, prove to be the Gunwalker coverup artists' ultimate downfall. For this report is THE "outline for Gunwalker hearing questions."

Project Gunrunner existed before the Obama administration took power. But the executive summary of this internal report makes plain why and when Gunrunner became Gunwalker.

In response to the increased trafficking of firearms from the United States to Mexico, ATF developed Project Gunrunner, a firearms trafficking and firearms-related border violence strategy designed to deny drug trafficking organizations access to U.S. firearms. Initially implemented in our four primary Southwest border field divisions, Project Gunrunner has evolved into a national strategy as we have seen Mexican cartels reach further into the interior of the United States to acquire firearms in support of their lucrative drug trafficking operations.

It is important to note that this revised strategy does not replace Project Gunrunner. It is intended to complement Project Gunrunner and where appropriate clarify and expand Gunrunner capabilities and tactics. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

This document is not intended to provide detailed guidance concerning how to conduct cross border trafficking investigations; but rather is intended to be used by ATF personnel to ensure that investigative activity aligns with ATF strategic goals. Personnel should refer to ATF orders and publications, such as the recently revised Firearms Trafficking Guide, as well as training provided by the Office of Training and Professional Development for specific tactical and investigative guidance.

Since 2006, there has been a significant increase in drug and firearms-related violence in Mexico and increasingly along our Southwest border. Governments on both sides of the border have begun to view the evolution of cartel inspired violence in terms of criminal activity that increasingly threatens the stability of the Mexican state. Impacting this trend along our Southwest border, particularly in the post-9/11 world, requires new energy, vision and creativity. Over the past few years the White House, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and even the U.S. Northern Command have developed various strategies and policies designed to leverage the full capabilities of the U.S. Government in this effort. It is essential that our efforts support the strategies and policies of the President and the Attorney General and where possible, complement the strategies of other agencies. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.

Read those last three sentences again. "It is essential that our efforts support the strategies and policies of the President and the Attorney General and where possible, complement the strategies of other agencies."

Whatever happened in the Gunwalker scandal, the ATF thought it was dancing to its political master's tune.

The summary continues:

In response to the evolving nature of firearms and explosives trafficking and related violence along and across our Southwest border we have increased our resources along the border and in Mexico and placed greater national emphasis on suppressing the trafficking of firearms and explosives to Mexico. Additionally, we have increased our efforts to partner with the Government of Mexico and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies with shared responsibilities.

As part of this process, we have deemed it necessary to revise both our Gunrunner strategy and the manner in which ATF headquarters monitors and supports certain field investigations.

While our strategy will remain multi-faceted and continue to include the inspection of licensed gun dealers and the targeting and arresting of straw purchasers, our revised approach will place greater emphasis on investigations that target specific cartels and the persons responsible for organizing and directing firearms trafficking operations in the United States. We have come to understand that we can best impact firearms trafficking to Mexico and Southwest border violence by linking our investigations to drug trafficking organizations and where possible to specific Mexican cartels. Our efforts will also be enhanced through increased coordination with our Federal counterparts. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

"We have deemed it necessary to revise both our Gunrunner strategy and the manner in which ATF headquarters monitors and supports certain field investigations." Here is the codification of the change, when Gunrunner became Gunwalker. Note, too, that here and throughout this report specific measures are taken to insure greater ATF headquarters involvement in major Gunrunner cases and "increased coordination with (ATF's) Federal counterparts." The "rogue Phoenix office" excuse is just so much bovine scatology. In the next paragraphs, we are told that Houston (can you say "Carter's Country"?) is at least as important as Phoenix.

Through analysis of Mexican crime gun traces and other intelligence data, it has been determined that the Gulf, the Zetas (once aligned with the Gulf Cartel), and the Sinaloa cartels are the criminal organizations most responsible for acquiring firearms in the United States to support their drug trafficking operations and where ATF can potentially have the greatest impact. Therefore, ATF Southwest border enforcement operations will place particular emphasis on the investigation of firearms and explosives trafficking operations organized, directed, and financed by these particular cartels.

Based on the areas in Mexico controlled by the Gulf, Zetas, and Sinaloa cartels; the locations of U.S.-sourced firearm recoveries in Mexico; and the U.S. locations where firearms recovered in Mexico are most often acquired, the Houston and Phoenix Field Divisions will be primarily responsible for investigating trafficking schemes associated with these cartels. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) However, this strategy is not intended to limit the initiative of any ATF field division and in fact recognizes the increasingly important role played by non-Southwest border field divisions in combating firearms and explosives trafficking to Mexico. As a result, all ATF field divisions are expected to initiate investigations on cartels and/or their surrogates operating in their geographic areas of responsibility; however, investigations pertaining to the Gulf, Zetas, and Sinaloa cartels must be deconflicted and closely coordinated with the Houston and Phoenix Field Divisions.

"Deconflicted and closely coordinated." So much for the Houston SAC's denials that "no weapons were walked" with the knowledge of the HIS office. Jaime Avila could tell you that, were he still alive. The report summary continues:

This approach requires conducting our border-related firearms and explosives investigations in a more creative and comprehensive manner by fully incorporating our agency’s regulatory, investigative, analytical, technical, and legal capabilities and resources, as well as those available from other law enforcement agencies, particularly DEA. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) At the heart of this increased emphasis on cartel focused investigations is greater use of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program and intelligence capabilities available from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and the DEA Special Operations Division. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) Recent changes to OCDETF program policy encourage the use of OCDETF in firearms trafficking cases provided there is a nexus to high value drug trafficking targets.

Effective implementation (and documentation) of this strategy will enhance public safety and provide essential evidence of performance and accomplishments necessary to the continued growth and reputation of our agency. Although ATF headquarters possesses resources and capabilities necessary to the success of this strategy, success ultimately rests with the vigorous implementation of this strategy by field division and Mexico Country Office personnel at the front line of these operations. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

"Vigorous implementation." Well, I guess they got that all right.

I have written of the links between the Gunwalker scandal and OCDETF and EPIC before.

The records of each, and the testimony under oath of principal actors at each, will go a long way to uncovering the Gunwalker scandal coverup.

From the Background section of the report:

While the United States is not the only source of firearms and munitions used by the cartels, it has been established that a significant percentage of their firearms originate from gun stores and other sources in the U.S. Improvised explosive devices, military ordnance, and counterfeit firearms manufactured in clandestine facilities play an increasingly important role in emboldening Mexican cartels. Intelligence indicates these criminal organizations have tasked their money laundering, drug distribution, and transportation infrastructures with reaching into the United States to acquire firearms, ammunition, and the components necessary to modify firearms and/or construct improvised explosive devices. It is also well-established that firearms traffickers often use the same routes as drug traffickers. Increasingly, we find that Mexican cartels transport firearms and munitions into Mexico from Guatemala, situated on Mexico’s southern border. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

The analysis of trends based on seizures and human intelligence have provided some meaningful insights into the methods of acquisition and transportation utilized by the Mexican cartels. Furthermore, over the past few months enforcement strategies (and other guidance) that address firearms trafficking to Mexican cartels have been developed and released by the White House and the Department of Justice. It is essential that ATF efforts support strategies promoted by the White House and Department of Justice. An examination of these and other strategies reveals similarities among the strategies, but also suggests that some revisions to ATF’s current strategy are necessary. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

"It is essential that ATF efforts support strategies promoted by the White House and Department of Justice." There's those jingles of the master's tune again. The next section explains that in the past ATF has had programs and initiatives but everything has to be revisited because NOW, courtesy of the bright boys at the White House and DOJ, they have a STRATEGY.

ATF has over time initiated a variety of enforcement programs, operations, and initiatives related to our overall efforts to suppress firearms and explosives trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border. However, it is worth noting that these programs, operations, and initiatives are intended to advance the objectives of our Southwest border strategy---they are not in and of themselves strategies.

A recent example of an investigative initiative developed in support of Project Gunrunner (strategy) is the April 2009 Gunrunner Impact Team (GRIT) initiative. The GRIT, largely intelligence driven and investigative in nature, involved the deployment of approximately 100 investigative (special agents and industry operations investigators), analytical, and administrative personnel to Texas to target the persons, groups, and organizations responsible for the trafficking of firearms to Mexico from the Houston Field Division area of responsibility. Other important elements of GRIT included the inspection of numerous Southwest border FFLs and public service announcements designed to discourage the unlawful acquisition of firearms by straw purchasers. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

An effective strategy should coordinate and direct all the resources of the organization toward the attainment of one or more specific goals. In this particular case, the goal of our Southwest border strategy is the suppression of firearms and explosives trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border and firearms-related border violence.

"The April 2009 Gunrunner Impact Team (GRIT) initiative." There's Houston again. It would be a profitable area of inquiry to plumb the depths of GRIT, I think, and its specific "lessons learned" that later were applied to what became the Gunwalker scandal.

Under "Purpose and Scope":

The purpose of this document is to reiterate ATF’s commitment to Project Gunrunner while directing a more focused investigative approach. Specifically, with this document ATF will emphasize targeting the drug cartels principally responsible for the illegal acquisition and trafficking of firearms from the United States to Mexico. This document is not intended to replace Project Gunrunner; nor is it intended to provide a comprehensive tactical blueprint for the investigation of cross border firearms trafficking schemes. Project Gunrunner is incorporated into this document in its entirety unless a specific portion is deleted or amended herein. Specific ATF capabilities and/or responsibilities are mentioned to highlight their importance to our efforts to suppress firearms and explosives trafficking to Mexico and to better leverage ATF capabilities.

This revised strategy acknowledges and incorporates an investigative approach already being implemented by several ATF field divisions and reiterates the primary responsibility of the field special agents in charge for effective implementation of the strategy. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) This document recognizes that Project Gunrunner is both an ATF strategy and a component of a larger U.S. Government counternarcotics strategy. Our success is contingent on the use of all appropriate regulatory, investigative, technical, intelligence, training, liaison, and public/industry outreach capabilities. . .

While our strategy will continue to include targeting persons who acquire firearms in a suspicious and/or unlawful manner, additional ATF investigative resources; improved information sharing and data analysis capabilities; improved interagency cooperation (both domestic and international); and improved technology have resulted in our ability to place greater emphasis on the end users of trafficked firearms in the market area---the cartels and their confederates who organize the trafficking schemes and facilitate the movement of firearms across the U.S. Southwest border.

"This revised strategy acknowledges and incorporates an investigative approach already being implemented by several ATF field divisions." Like I said, this is a Gunwalker field manual based on previous experience. Gunwlaker did not spring forth from Chait's desk in September 2010. Rather, the report is based on a year and a half of previous Gunwalker effort.

Under "Current Cartel and Firearms Trafficking Strategies" the report lays out the bureaucratic origins of Gunwalker:

On April 27, 2009, the Department of Justice released guidelines for the consideration of OCDETF designation in firearms related cases involving Mexican cartels. The memorandum identified firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico as contributing to the escalating levels of cartel-related violence and as a particular concern for law enforcement on both sides of the border. The memorandum emphasized the important role that the OCDETF program plays in connection with the United States' government-wide efforts to stem the southbound smuggling of arms to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and stated that investigations principally targeting firearms trafficking are eligible for OCDETF designation if there is a sufficient nexus between the firearms and a major Mexican drug trafficking organization. . .

In June 2009, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released its National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. (MBV Note: Previously covered at Sipsey Street here.) The strategy represents another key contribution to the U.S. response to the threat along the Southwest border. The strategy acknowledges the close link between drug trafficking and firearms trafficking and the increasing powerful nature and sophistication of the firearms acquired and used by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. . .

On June 25, 2009, ATF released a memorandum detailing a revised national firearms trafficking enforcement strategy focusing on among other things the identification and investigation of specific domestic trafficking corridors. While not a Southwest border focused document, the national firearms trafficking enforcement plan makes reference to Project Gunrunner and firearms trafficking cases with an international nexus. The document is referenced here since it provides guidance for conducting firearms trafficking investigations generally and may include information pertaining to investigative, technical, and preventive tactics that may be applicable when investigating matters related to the Southwest border. (MBV Note: My DC "old hand" states, this "gives us a 'birth certificate' for what turned into the Project Gunwalker abomination.")

On January 7, 2010, the Department of Justice reemphasized its commitment to combating firearms trafficking to Mexican cartels and the use of the OCDETF program as a means of disrupting the cartels by releasing its own strategy. The strategy is premised on the notion that a significant share of the violence, drug trafficking and corruption along the Southwest border is perpetrated by a relatively small number of hierarchical criminal organizations. The DOJ strategy concludes that “the most effective mechanism to attack those organizations is the use of intelligence-based, prosecutor-led multi-agency task forces that attack all levels of, and all criminal activities of, the operations of the organizations.” A significant component of the DOJ strategy pertains to attacking the southbound flow of firearms. The strategy states that “given the national scope of this issue, merely seizing firearms through interdiction will not stop firearms trafficking to Mexico. We must identify, investigate, and eliminate the sources of illegally trafficked firearms and the networks that transport them.” (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) The DOJ strategy calls for closer collaboration between ATF and the efforts of multi-agency drug task forces along the border, including OCDETF strike forces. All ATF field divisions with an OCDETF strike force must consider assigning a complement of special agents to the multi-agency strike force and/or establishing a collocated ATF-led OCDETF group within the strike force.

The DOJ strategy states "merely seizing firearms through interdiction will not stop firearms trafficking to Mexico." And there, boys and girls, is the origin of the misbegotten, stupid and ultimately fatal "strategy" known as "gunwalking."

Regarding "The DOJ strategy calls for closer collaboration between ATF and the efforts of multi-agency drug task forces along the border, including OCDETF strike forces. All ATF field divisions with an OCDETF strike force must consider assigning a complement of special agents to the multi-agency strike force and/or establishing a collocated ATF-led OCDETF group within the strike force," "Old Hand" comments: "Egad. Talk about a shitload of interagency documents! This can't be covered up; too many documents are in too many systems, and disappearing them would be operationally impossible --- well, nothing's impossible, but it would be like trying to relocate the Washington Monument to its correct location without anybody noticing."

Under "A Cartel Focused Strategy," the report states that from now on, straw buyers are merely the means to an end.

Historically, ATF has placed much emphasis on the roles of the straw purchaser and the Federal firearms licensee in identifying and disrupting firearms trafficking schemes. However, straw purchasers by definition lack serious criminal records and therefore are frequently viewed as undesirable targets for criminal prosecution. Straw purchasers are also an easily replaced component of the trafficking scheme and the criminal laws that ATF generally relies upon to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers do not expose these violators to significant criminal penalties. This is particularly true when straw purchaser cases are presented for prosecution individually and not as part of a multi-defendant trafficking conspiracy case; or when there is little or no evidence that their unlawful acquisitions were financed by and intended to support a DTO.

Therefore, to more effectively disrupt firearms trafficking operations and to make our cases more appealing for criminal prosecution, greater emphasis will be placed on targeting the persons with greater responsibility for the trafficking schemes. In furtherance of this goal, we will attempt to conduct investigations focusing greater attention on the cartels that finance and direct these trafficking operations.

Straw purchasers will continue to be investigated and prosecuted according to their overall level of culpability and cooperation. Straw purchasers must be held accountable for their conduct and made ineligible to purchase or possess firearms in the future. However, straw purchasers should more frequently be viewed as persons whose conduct should be investigated as part of a larger conspiracy and as persons whose information, cooperation, and assistance should be exploited to the extent possible in furtherance of the ultimate goal of identifying key members of the trafficking enterprise and disrupting and/or dismantling of the trafficking operation.

And how do you do that? By letting firearms walk without surveillance? Well, I guess you just let them go under the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow theory of criminal investigation:

I shot an Arrow into the air
It fell to earth I know not where,
For so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

Only in this case the "arrows" were found in the bodies of a lot of dead Mexicans and at least two U.S. law enforcement officers.

The next sentences are, in retrospect, perhaps the most cynically ironic in the entire report, given the pleas of the Federal Firearms Licensees who begged the ATF not to let guns "walk" from their establishments.

FFLs remain both an important source of firearms (often unwittingly) to firearms traffickers and an investigative source of information. On occasion, FFLs become targets of criminal investigation and prosecution. When criminal wrongdoing by FFLs is suspected they will be aggressively investigated and recommended for prosecution. Corrupt FFLs constitute high-value targets due to the damage they cause and the special responsibility they hold to ensure that firearms are not illegally diverted from lawful commerce. The potential damage to public safety caused by even one corrupt FFL is difficult to calculate. In the meantime, we will continue to inspect FFLs who serve as a source of firearms to Mexican cartels according to an intelligence driven inspection plan and actively pursue investigative leads developed by industry operations investigators.

Additionally, we must not overlook the fact that firearms traffickers and other violent criminals also obtain firearms from secondary sources. While disrupting and/or dismantling secondary sources of crime guns present unique challenges, we should not overlook the benefits of doing so. Analysis of source location trace data for specific market areas, when adjusted for time-to-crime, may not only reveal actionable investigative leads, but also that secondary sources (e.g., gun shows, thefts and private sales) are a greater source of trafficked crime guns than licensed dealers. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

Here we have the entire point of the White House policymakers when they envisioned this back in early 2009. Always, always, they have coveted another "Assault Weapons" Ban and a "Gun Show Loophole" law. Their appetite was politically unattainable. The Obamanoids needed a crisis to justify their conspiracy to subvert the Second Amendment. So they set the ATF the task of aggravating a bad situation into a more bloody crisis that could be exploited, and gave them the additional task of documenting the body count as they did so, attempting to make their case that it was American civilian market firearms that were being used to do all the killing.

After all, what could go wrong? The ATF controlled all the statistics coming out of E-Traces from Mexico, right? What could go wrong? Who could upset that plan? Courageous whistleblowers like John Dodson, that's who. Absent the whistleblowers this bloody conspiracy would still be kicking along, bolstering the demands for law-abiding American firearm owners to give up more of their liberty in the "public good."

Not that ATF headquarters didn't understand the dangers involved:

This strategy will present certain challenges as some of the persons we seek to investigate, indict, and apprehend will reside outside the United States and/or may be priority targets of other U.S. law enforcement agencies. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) When appropriate, this strategy envisions that ATF will refer information and actionable intelligence to the Government of Mexico and/or other U.S. law enforcement agencies.

There are also practical considerations that may require bringing investigations to a conclusion or dictate a change in investigative tactics prior to the identification of persons directly affiliated with the DTOs. Examples include high volume trafficking investigations in which numerous diverted firearms identifiable with one or more purchasers are being used in violent crimes and recovered by law enforcement, and high volume trafficking investigations in which over an extended period ATF cannot reasonably determine where or to whom such firearms are being trafficked. SACs must closely monitor and approve such investigations, assessing the risks associated with prolonged investigation with limited or delayed interdiction. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) In some instances, the best answer may be to provide actionable intelligence to other law enforcement agencies and/or the Government of Mexico.

Well, we know from the testimony of Darren Gil that the decision was taken at the highest levels to NOT inform the government of Mexico about "Project Gunwalker." So, knowing the dangers in advance, they did it anyway. What's the legal phrase? "Depraved indifference," I think. Yes, that's the right term.

There's much, much more in this report. I draw your attention particularly to the "Headquarters Oversight and Coordination" section (page 17) that completely blows apart any fragment of a fig leaf that somehow Melson and Co. didn't know about "gunwalking."

Under "The Mexico Country Office," page 19 tells us:

"The controlled movement of firearms, ammunition, explosives, explosives devices, and/or components or non-functional 'props' of such items across the U.S.-Mexico border from the United States shall be coordinated with and approved in advance by Bureau headquarters and the MCO."

"Old Hand" comments, "Does this bear out the ATF whistleblowers, or what? Connect the dots back to DOJ, too."

More on DOJ complicity can be found under "DOJ Assistance and Prosecution Strategy":

Although it is expected that cases investigated as part of this strategy will be prosecuted by the appropriate local United States Attorney, DOJ has shown interest and support of the approach outlined in this document and has designated a Criminal Division attorney to serve as the Department’s liaison to ATF. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) In some cases, the Criminal Division may become directly involved in the prosecution of OCDETF and cartel focused cases.

The interlocking intelligence gathering and management structures codified in this report in the chapters "Information Collection, Management and Exploitation" (pp. 22-23) and "Performance Goals and Performance Indicators (p. 26) spread Gunwalker scandal knowledge and complicity throughout the entire management of ATF, other agencies, DOJ, and, ultimately, the White House.

So, you see, this document is in fact The Official ATF Field Manual of the Gunwalker Scandal. Ironically the ATF leaked it to Michael Isikoff to deflect the agency from blame. Now it will be the blueprint for the destruction of the Gunwalker scandal coverup by Congressional inquisitors. Like The X-Files promo used to say, "The Truth Is Out There." But whoever suspected it was posted in plain sight on MSNBC?

Not me.

Mike Vanderboegh
Strategic Scandalmonger, First Class and the alleged leader of a merry band of Three Percenters.

LATER PS: If you feel that this is a useful piece of information to help your Senator, Congresscritter, local editor or other interested person advance the Gunwalker Scandal investigation, feel free to circulate it.

From Sunday: Gov't employees comment on "The Official ATF Field Manual of the Gunwalker Scandal." An old spook* calls it: "the Holy Grail of Rosetta Stones."

A jar of slippery eels.

Yesterday's post elicited a number of comments from current and former federal government employees.

From an experienced ATF field agent:


To further point out:

"Prosecutor-led multi-agency task forces" - Unlike HIDTA (DEA), JTTF (FBI), OCDETF (Multi Agency), etc., the Strike Forces are run by DOJ directly. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.) Funds and operations trickle through the various agencies but it is the only entity which has lawyers (not cops/agents) making day to day investigative decisions. (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

"High volume trafficking investigations in which over an extended period ATF cannot reasonably determine where or to whom such firearms are being trafficked" & "The controlled movement of firearms, ammunition, explosives, explosives devices, and/or components or non-functional 'props' of such items across the U.S.-Mexico border from the United States shall be coordinated with and approved in advance by Bureau headquarters" - How do we have a document which clearly defines and mandates a strategy that both ATF and DOJ have categorically denied was ever practiced? (Emphasis supplied, MBV.)

Furthermore, Holder just testified (under oath) to the Senate Judiciary committee that "we should never allow guns in an uncontrolled fashion to cross the border, or actually to leave any investigation in an uncontrolled way," and "Uncontrolled distribution of guns connected to any kind of investigation that we are doing is something that is not consistent with the policies that I (inaudible) followed in the Department of Justice."

So, according to the Attorney General himself, this new strategy is in direct violation of a long standing DOJ policy.

From a retired member of the intelligence community:

Your best yet. You have written about "Rosetta Stones" when documents surfaced in this scandal before but this really is the Holy Grail of Rosetta Stones. How stupid of the ATF to leak this document to Isikoff. . . Few PR challenges have to be answered by leaking policy documents. . . Chait (if that is who wrote it and/or leaked it) just shot his agency, the DOJ and the Obama administration in the head. The bullet just arrived several months late is all. That's no small trick, to get several targets with one shot.

From a current government employee:

There's no doubt this report can unravel Project Gunrunner/Gunwalker. Just get the Congress to demand some analyses using the performance measures that were required to be institutionalized. I don't see any way to credibly cover them up---i.e., "Are you telling me, Mr. Melson, that ATF has no records of the serial numbers and descriptions of the Project Gunrunner firearms that would enable any other law enforcement agency, domestic or foreign, to identify them in its own data bases as crime guns?" But getting the Congress to ask such questions in a forum in which perjury is an issue is a whole other jar of slippery electric eels.

And that is the billion dollar question, isn't it? Will the Congresscritters act on the damning information contained in this internal ATF report? Word is that Grassley, Issa and even Lamar Smith are serious about fighting this out to the bitter end to get to the truth. We shall see.


*LATER: I received a complaint from the fellow I characterize as "old spook" in the headline. This retired employee of the Christians In Action takes exception at the moniker "old spook" and wishes that I had rather referred to him as "an experienced gentleman adventurer of unconventional mien." As this will not fit in the space allotted for the title, this asterisk will have to do.


Anonymous said...

The drilling in the wall kept up but no one seemed to pay it any mind.--Bob Dylan, Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts

This may be the first siege in history where the sappers have broke through the wall in multiple locations but the watchmen only yawn, scratch themselves and go back to studying the contents of their ale cups.

The castle's lord has withdrawn himself to a lofty tower where he practices an inspirational address to his troops, tossing admiring glances to his reflection in
the mirror.

The prisoners in the dank dungeons far below exchange dark smiles, knowing they will soon change places with their tormentors.

Multiple kudos for your fine investigative work, Mike! They will be so surprised when they wake from their careless slumber and find themselves disgraced.


Anonymous said...

Malthus, right you are!

More from the lyrics:

The backstage manager was pacing all around by his chair. "there's something funny goin' on, I know, I can just feel it in the air"
He went to get the hangin' judge but the hangin' judge was drunk and the leading actor hurried by in the costume of a monk.
Deception. lies, justice not served, the wrong people suffer the consequences of an intricate scandal interlinked to greater crimes, no one cares's all here right in this story!

Sorry to all you folks who are not Dylan fans but if you do a Wikipedia search you can get caught up on the references.

Mike, your work has not gone completely unnoticed...but will it result in positive action and results that will benefit freedom? I agree, this is so big and so deep that t challenges the very legitimacy of our system of government.

The Republic is dead!