7/16/11

Myths About Operation "Fast and Furious" and Project Gunnrunner

The NRA' s Logo against Eric Holder.

Because the NRA has launched a campaign demanding Eric Holder's resignation over the ATF's Operation Furious, I'd like to lay the facts straight about this tragedy. Some of what the NRA lists as reasons for Holder to resign are based on falsehoods. Other falsehoods are making it around on right leaning blogs and Fox News. Here are some of the most popular. To hear the whole story about the ATF operation, I suggest reading the actual report. Try not to believe what hear based on emotion or political standing.


Myth: Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious are the same thing.
Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious are NOT are the same thing
Project Gunrunner Is A National ATF Program Begun in 2005 To Reduce Gun Trafficking Along The U.S.-Mexico Border. From the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General's November 2010 review of ATF's Project Gunrunner:
To help combat firearms trafficking into Mexico, ATF began Project Gunrunner as a pilot project in Laredo, Texas, in 2005 and expanded it as a national initiative in 2006. Project Gunrunner is also part of the Department's broader Southwest Border Initiative, which seeks to reduce cross-border drug and firearms trafficking and the high level of violence associated with these activities on both sides of the border.
In June 2007, ATF published a strategy document, Southwest Border Initiative: Project Gunrunner (Gunrunner strategy), outlining four key components to Project Gunrunner: the expansion of gun tracing in Mexico, international coordination, domestic activities, and intelligence. In implementing Project Gunrunner, ATF has focused resources in its four Southwest border field divisions. In addition, ATF has made firearms trafficking to Mexico a top ATF priority nationwide. [DOJ IG report, Review of ATF's Project Gunrunner11/10]

Fast And Furious Was A Project Gunrunner Operation Undertaken In Arizona

GOP Report: Operation Fast And Furious Is A Project Gunrunner Operation Undertaken By Phoenix ATF Office, U.S. Attorney's Office In Arizona. From a June 14, 2011, "joint staff report" prepared for House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):
In the fall of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed a risky new strategy to combat gun trafficking along the Southwest Border. The new strategy directed federal law enforcement to shift its focus away from seizing firearms from criminals as soon as possible -- and to focus instead on identifying members of trafficking networks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) implemented that strategy using a reckless investigative technique that street agents call "gunwalking." ATF's Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns. The purpose was to wait and watch, in the hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.
This shift in strategy was known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department. Through both the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona and "Main Justice," headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Department closely monitored and supervised the activities of the ATF. The Phoenix Field Division established a Gun Trafficking group, called Group VII, to focus on firearms trafficking. Group VII initially began using the new gunwalking tactics in one of its investigations to further the Department's strategy. The case was soon renamed "Operation Fast and Furious," and expanded dramatically. 
[...]
ATF and DOJ leadership were interested in seeing where these guns would ultimately end up. They hoped to establish a connection between the local straw buyers in Arizona and the Mexico-based [drug-trafficking organizations]. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11, emphases added]
 Myth: 2009 Stimulus money went to Operation Fast and Furious.

Stimulus Funds Were Allocated To Project Gunrunner Offices Outside Of Arizona.... not Operation Fast and Furious.

 So getting them mixed up is either bad reporting or deliberate misinformation.
Recovery Act Included $10,000,000 For Project Gunrunner. From H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the "stimulus"):
For an additional amount for "State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance", $40,000,000, for competitive grants to provide assistance and equipment to local law enforcement along the Southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat criminal narcotics activity stemming from the Southern border, of which $10,000,000 shall be transferred to 'Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Salaries and Expenses' for the ATF Project Gunrunner. [H.R. 1, accessed7/8/11, via GPO.gov]
ATF Used Recovery Act Funds To Pay ATF Personnel Outside Of Arizona. From a September 2009 DOJ IG interim report:DOJ IG chart











In FY 2009 and FY 2010, ATF plans to create new Gunrunner teams in five offices along the Southwest border and place additional agents in U.S. consulates in Mexico. According to the Program Plan, a document ATF submitted to Congress summarizing its planned activities and categories of expenditures using Recovery Act funding, by September 30, 2010, ATF will establish new Gunrunner teams in (1) McAllen, Texas; (2) El Centro, California; and (3) Las Cruces, New Mexico, including a satellite office in Roswell, New Mexico. In addition, four ATF agents will be located in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico, to provide Gunrunner support to the government of Mexico.  ATF plans to staff these locations with a total of 37 employees by hiring new employees and relocating experienced personnel.  Table 1 shows the type of personnel planned for each team using the Recovery Act funding, and Appendix II provides a description of the general duties for each of these job categories. 
[DOJ IG report, Interim Review of ATF's Project GunrunnerSeptember 2009]

Myth: Holder knew about Fast And Furious in April 2009

Holder's speech in 2009 Referenced Only Project Gunrunner, And his speech was Months Before Fast And Furious

Holder Highlighted Additional Resources Devoted To Project Gunrunner. From Holder's April 2, 2009 speech in Cuernavaca, Mexico:
Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion. DHS is making similar commitments, as Secretary Napolitano will detail. [Holder speech, 4/2/2009, via Justice.gov]
Operation Fast And Furious Was Not Initiated Until Fall 2009 -- Months After Holder's speech. 
From the Issa-Grassley "joint staff report":
In the fall of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed a risky new strategy to combat gun trafficking along the Southwest Border. The new strategy directed federal law enforcement to shift its focus away from seizing firearms from criminals as soon as possible -- and to focus instead on identifying members of trafficking networks. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11,]

Myth: Purpose of the program was to let guns come in for political advantage.

Republican Issa's Report:"Purpose" Of Project Was To "Build A Large, Complex Conspiracy Case"

Issa Report: "The Purpose Was To Wait And Watch, In The Hope That Law Enforcement Could Identify Other Members Of A Trafficking Network And Build A Large, Complex Conspiracy Case."  A "joint staff report" prepared for House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) found that the ultimate purpose of Operation Fast and Furious was to "identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case." From the report:
In the fall of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed a risky new strategy to combat gun trafficking along the Southwest Border. The new strategy directed federal law enforcement to shift its focus away from seizing firearms from criminals as soon as possible -- and to focus instead on identifying members of trafficking networks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) implemented that strategy using a reckless investigative technique that street agents call "gunwalking." ATF's Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns. The purpose was to wait and watch, in the hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.
[...]
The operation's goal was to establish a nexus between straw purchasers of assault-style weapons in the United States and Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) operating on both sides of the United States-Mexico border. Straw purchasers are individuals who are legally entitled to purchase firearms for themselves, but who unlawfully purchase weapons with the intent to transfer them into the hands of DTOs or other criminals. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11]

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