Links

Columnists



Site Search


Entire (RSS)
Comments (RSS)

Archive Calendar

September 2021
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Guides

How to Become a Bounty Hunter



Tag: ATF

LA Times Editorial: Obama Admin. Takes Concrete Step Toward Curbing Gun Flow to Mexico

atf file photo

By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page

The Obama administration took a concrete step toward curbing the flow of semiautomatic weapons to Mexico last week when it adopted a new regulation mandating the reporting of multiple sales of long guns to federal authorities. Under the regulation, some 8,500 licensed gun shops in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas will be required to inform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a customer buys more than one semiautomatic that is .22 caliber or greater within a five-day period. The regulation is a small but significant tool that could help federal authorities keep weapons sold in the United States out of the hands of Mexican gangs and drug cartels. Rather than tracing an AK-47 after it has been recovered from a crime scene, ATF agents may be able to intervene before the weapon is smuggled across the border. The National Rifle Assn. is, not surprisingly, denouncing the modest rule as encroaching on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights; in fact, it is already threatening to sue the federal government, contending that only Congress can impose such rules. To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Pols Accuse Justice Dept. of Trying to Alter Witness Testimony in Fast and Furious Probe

Rep. Issa/gov photo

Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two outspoken  politicians are accusing the Justice Department of giving potential witnesses in a Congressional investigation into a controversial ATF program access to information to tailor their responses “to what they think the Committees already know.”

The Justice Department on Tuesday afternoon said there was an explanation for what happened.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) fired off a letter dated July 11 to Attorney Gen. Eric Holder. The two politicians are conducting Congressional investigations into the controversial ATF program “Operation Fast and Furious” that encouraged gun dealers to sell to middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

“We have recently learned that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has afforded potential witness for the Committees’ investigation into Operation Fast and Furious access to a shared drive on its computer system replete with pertinent investigative documents, including official ATF emails,” the two Congressional members wrote.

“Although, our staff has been advised the Department has since terminated access to this document cache, we write to seek additional information regarding this egregious decision. We also ask that you promptly self-report this mater to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).”

Sen. Grassley/official photo

“Allowing witnesses access to such documents could taint their testimony by allowing them to tailor their responses to what they think the Committees already know. Additionally, witnesses who gain access to documents they have not previously seen could alter their recollection of events.”

The letter was just the latest in a series of critical attacks by Grassley and Issa on ATF and the Justice Department as they move forward with their investigations into Fast and Furious.

Tracy Schmaler, a  Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement:

“The share drive was created by ATF as a repository to store documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. There was no attempt to disseminate these documents internally at ATF or elsewhere.

“Only ATF senior leadership and employees conducting the document review had access to the documents in the share drive, and once the Department was made aware that access to this drive included those senior ATF officials who had also been identified as witnesses in the committee’s investigation, their access to documents in that drive was removed.”

Could Latest Scandal Kill ATF?

By Josh Gerstein
Politico

WASHINGTON — The unfolding scandal over a gunrunning investigation allegedly botched by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could do what years of criticism of the long-beleaguered agency never quite accomplished — result in its demise.

That, at least, is the view of some former ATF employees and advocates on both sides of the gun control debate who have watched the agency struggle to contain the damage from an operation intended to trace the traffic of illegal guns to Mexico that has reignited the harsh criticism often directed at the ATF in the past.

The agency, which moved from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department in 2003, has been without a permanent director for nearly five years. Nominees offered by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have languished without approval from the Senate after drawing strong opposition from the National Rifle Association, which for years has been the agency’s loudest critic.

Now, with ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson hobbled by the scandal over Operation Fast and Furious and by indications he’s at odds with senior Justice Department officials, many are saying a breakup of the storied agency could just be a matter of time.

“I think something like that is likely to happen,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Unless they take some action to give it a director, it’s inevitable it’s going to have to get to that stage. It cannot continue the way it’s going now. … Right now, ATF is so weak it’s amazing.”

To read full story click here.

Justice Dept. Barks Back: Accuses Rep. Issa of Ginning Up Controversy in Fast and Furious Probe

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The war of words is heating up between the Justice Department and key Republican Congressional members over the controversial ATF program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) this week renewed accusations that the Justice Department is stonewalling a Congressional inquiry into the controversial gun program Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen or straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

Issa sent a July 5 letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. renewing those accusations after acting ATF director Ken Melson talked to Congressional investigators over the July 4 weekend. Melson allegedly claimed the Justice Dept. was obstructing the Congressional inquiry.

But the Daily Caller reported that Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich responded in a July 6 letter accusing Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) of ginning up controversy. He also denied their allegations that the Justice Department hasn’t been transparant.

“We are puzzled by your criticism of the Department for its efforts to facilitate the Committee’s access to documents and witnesses,” Weich wrote, according to the Daily Caller. “Indeed, those concerns seem flatly inconsistent with statements that Chairman Issa has made on this subject in the recent past.”

Weich also noted that Issa said at a June 15 hearing that the Justice Department had made a breakthrough by producing documents and other information, according to the Daily Caller.

“Yet, just a few weeks later and notwithstanding the Department’s continuing production of documents, that ‘breakthrough’ has been re-characterized as an effort to prevent the Committee from receiving the information it requested,” Weich wrote.

ATF Ken Melson Sings to Congressional Investigators Over the 4th — Accuses Justice Dept. of Interfering With Congressional Probe

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
tickletheiwre.com

Ken Melson, acting head of ATF, apparently was singing to Congressional investigators over the 4th of July weekend — and apparently not the Star Spangled Banner.

Fox News reported that Melson told Congressional investigators  that the Justice Department was interfering with the Congressional probe into the controversial program Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers to sell to middlemen or “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican Cartels.

Fox News reported that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), who has doggedly been investigating the operation, said in a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr: “If his account is accurate, then ATF leadership appears to have been effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand. That approach distorted the truth and obstructed our investigation.”

John Solomon of The Daily Beast reported that Melson  gave a deposition and  talked about the potential lapses in the program that encouraged gun dealers to sell weapons to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.

The Daily Beast repored:

“During hours of questioning, Melson told investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he has recently learned that other federal agencies may have withheld crucial information about possible drug cartel connections to the gun trafficking ring that his agency had tried to crack during a 15-month operation that used controversial tactics, the sources said.”

Is ATF Concerned About Sending “Fast and Furious” Official to Mexico as Attache?

William Newell

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Last October in Orlando, at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the heads of the ATF field offices gathered for a SAC meeting. It was there where it was announced that  William Newell, head of the Phoenix office, would become the ATF’s attache to Mexico.

Newell, an up and comer in the agency, seemed like a good choice. He was fluent in Spanish or as one person said “he spoke Spanish like professor.” And he had experience  dealing with the Mexican cartels.

In fact, he was helping head up a little known program at the time called “Operation Fast and Furious”, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to “straw purchasers” — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartel.

It was a bold program and a highly ambitious one.

But months later, it became a very controversial one after  word got out that some weapons were showing up at crime scenes, including in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.

Congressional inquiries started. An Inspector General probe was launched.  A media frenzy ensued.

Now, eight months after the announcement in Orlando, Newell has been holed up in Washington instead of Mexico supposedly to help the Congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious. His post in Phoenix has already been filled and his assignment as ATF’s Mexican attache has been put on hold.

Word inside ATF, according to one knowledgeable person, is that some in the agency have voiced concerns about sending Newell to Mexico as an attache because the Mexican government, which is fuming over Fast and Furious, might pursue criminal charges and arrest Newell.

Fox News reported Tuesday that  the Mexican government is furious about Fast and Furious and wants to extradite American officials for prosecution.   Sending Newell might make that all too easy for the Mexicans.

Whether Mexico goes that far is unclear.

Nonetheless, sending Newell isn’t likely to sit well in Mexico.

But an ATF official on Friday tried to dispel any notion that Newell won’t be headed south of the border.

“As far as his assignment to Mexico City, it’s still in place but it’s been temporarily postponed so that he can assist with the Congressional inquiries and the OIG (Office of Inspector General) review,” the official told ticklethewire.com.

Newell did not respond to an email asking for comment.

When asked for comment more than a week ago, the Mexican embassy in Washington asked that ticklethewire.com submit questions in writing. There was no response.

On Friday, a spokesman did call back and left a voicemail. But the spokesman could not be reached after that.

The embassy spokesman did not immediately return the call on Tuesday for comment.

ATF’s Director Ken Melson Agrees to Talk to Senate Investigators About Fast and Furious

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The plot thickens.

Acting ATF Director Ken Melson has agreed to talk to Senate investigators about Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF program that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers so federal agents could trace them to the Mexican cartels , according to The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

The website reported that the development was a “potentially important breakthrough” for Congress, which has been trying to figure out who in the Obama administration gave the okay for the disastrous program. He is expected to provide testimony next months.

Newsweek and the The Daily Beast testimony reported that the deal to get Melson to testify was part of a deal brokered  between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley.

The website reported that the deal involved giving fellow Republicans full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses. In return,  Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees — Jim Cole for deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco for assistant attorney general for national security and Virginia Seitz as head of legal counsel, Newsweek and The Daily Beast reported.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Column: ATF Agent Says Agency Can Get an Agent Confirmed as Director if They’re Top Notch

Vincent Cefalu is a special agent with ATF. His column is in response to a column authored by ex-ATF official James Cavanaugh, who said appointing an ATF director by presidential appointment isn’t working. Cavanaugh said the appointment should be made by the umbrella agency — the Justice Department.

Vincent Cefalu

By Vincent A. Cefalu
For ticklethewire.com

I too I have worked for many Directors for 25 years and am STILL on the job. Therefore I would like to respond to the ATF unofficial mouth piece, Jim Cavanaugh.

First of all please stop speaking for ATF management, they are big boys. They have chosen to speak through DOJ attorney’s instead and that is quite troubling.

Your comments early in this debacle suggested you were trying to mitigate and minimize HQs accountability for being so out of control. You were making excuses for how hard catching gunrunners is. Let me break it down for you; you develop evidence and probable cause you seize their guns and arrest them or not. No Guns hit the street.

They LET 2000 guns go to criminals because no one in the loop had the courage or integrity to stop it. Sound familiar Jim? You are obviously doing a Great bit of promoting. And I am intimately aware of the gunshots you heard in anger, and the circumstances of why you heard those shots. That’s not a GOOD thing Jim. Why exactly did you hear gunshots at all?

Have you lost your mind? Keep the appointment in Justice? Yeah that’s who I want overseeing and making sure ATF is accountable.

We have the opportunity to stand with the big boys and because of a totally ineffective and abusive Executive staff, you assert that we can’t get a Director confirmed.

Enter Clarance Thomas, he got confirmed, enter an EXTRA 2 years for the Honorable Mr. Mueller. Stop telling the American people St. John cant get confirmed. How would you know that. All three of our last attempts failed. Stop selecting poor candidates and we will have a Director. Just because he has an ATF badge, doesn’t make him competent

I think what you fail to acknowledge is that Mr. Magaw saved and rebuilt this agency, love him or hate him. He definitely would have been confirmed. Then Mr. Truscott began the process of bosses being bigger than the mission.

Then Mr. Sullivan, who paid about as much attention to our agency as you do to facts. Half United States Attorney and half ATF Director. I think I may have figured out why we have lost our explosives jurisdiction for all practical purposes.

Our ESF 13 function was openly criticized by the GAO. Our NRT program is in the tank and we have more employee disputes than either the FBI or DEA. The industry that we have all worked so hard to become partners with over the last 30 years hate us and don’t trust us.

A Director from inside would be preferred by ALL. The notion the NRA will tank anybody for no reason is insane.

The abuses brought down on the industry by bad policies, the legislating from inside a Bureau has to stop. The total adversarial demeanor has to change, between the field and HQ. Most have lost faith.

That’s not going to happen, dipping a little deeper into the same poison well. They are all either promoted by or have promoted each other.

We need clean crisp leadership to groom a future Agent as our Director. A General Stanley McChrystal of sorts, that realizes HQ is here to support the field, not the other way around. Put a strong “A” political Cop Boss in their and he will get confirmed as a Director.

The exact reason the current and your generation of bosses got away with so much is because the layers of accountability were so thick, and there was no transparency.

No one much had accountability that he/she couldn’t hand off to somebody else. Lets be accountable. We are ATF. We don’t redact 95% of a document to a Congressional Chairman. We hand all of our stuff over. We are ATF and we have nothing to hide.

So Jim, if we let the Justice Department pick our Director, is it your assertion that they would hold likes of Mclemore, Crenshaw, Ford, Hoover at bay?

Um, do you watch the news? The agency lacks character and accountability at the highest levels. An outsider has to clean house, and then provide a short list of qualified managers for consideration as our Director. And no Jim, that is not going to be you. If it makes you feel better, I don’t want the job either.