Saturday, July 9, 2011

Secret FBI weapon-smuggling cover-up deepens probe, helps innocent targets

Deborah Dupre

In an investigation revealing one of the most damning United States human rights violations in history, one ameliorating Targeted Individuals more daily, a high-level whistleblower's testimony has prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to deepen its probe into the FBI and other Justice Department agencies allegedly allowing thousands of U.S. weapons to cross the Mexican border into hands of dangerous members of cartels including Zetas, all part of the U.S. drug- and gun-smuggling operation costing over 35,000 lives.

Targeted Individuals with no criminal background have consistently reported to the Examiner that the Justice Department stands down when targets present evidence of weapon attacks, repeatedly attempts to silence complainers of those assaults, and repeatedly fails to investigate evidence of targets' injuries or suspected perpetrators.

Just as hundreds of Targeted Individuals in the United States, with no criminal backgrounds, report they have complained to the Justice Department about systematic violence fueled by military grade weapon attacks used with impunity, Mexican government officials have complained that drug violence south of the border is fueled by the steady supply of firearms from the United States. In both cases, it appears that agents have been ordered to look the other way.

Under the gun-trafficking operation Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of guns and some Mexican drug cartel figures targeted by the ATF in the gun-trafficking investigation were paid informants for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration according to the Charlotte Observer on Saturday.

In two days of meetings with congressional investigators, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) acting director Kenneth E. Melson said that the FBI and DEA kept the ATF "in the dark" about their relationships with cartel informants.

High-level silencing of whistleblower attempts

Under pressure to resign after it was revealed that the agency allowed guns to be purchased in the U.S. in hopes they would be traced to cartel leaders, rather than submitting to being the Justice Department's fall guy for this most recently revealed U.S. agency gun-smuggling operation, Melson sensationally turned whistleblower, He testified that the Justice Department was obstructing a congressional investigation, prompting the Senate Committee's commitment to dig deeper. Melson’s agency was in charge of a border security operation code-named “Fast and Furious” weapons-smuggling operation.

A letter sent to Department of Justice head Eric Holder by lead congressional investigators Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles Grassely House (R-IA) noted that Melman’s hearing had ”originally been scheduled through the Justice Department to occur on July 13” but Melson appeared earlier “because Justice Department officials sought to limit and control his communications with Congress.”

Issa and Grassly said that Melson told them he reviewed hundreds of documents about Fast and Furious, and became "sick to his stomach when he obtained those documents and learned the full story" according to LA Times.

“We’ll go wherever the investigation takes us,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a key inquisitor in probing the operation, during which guns, including AK-47 assault rifles, were “walked” into Mexico.

He said the weekend testimony of Kenneth E. Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, had corroborated information that “more agencies within the Justice Department may have been involved in allowing guns to fall into the hands of known straw purchasers.”

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday that the Melson testimony “raises new questions” about the scope of the program and certainly “justifies an expansion of the investigation.”

“After talking with the acting ATF director, I think we have a greater insight into what happened and what questions need to be asked to lead to some final answers as to who authorized this program and why,” said spokesman Frederick Hill, whose boss also has been a key player in the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile Thursday, Mexican police released a videotaped interview ofJesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, in which the recently captured No. 3 leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel said “all the weapons” the Zetas use were “bought in the United States” and that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons.”

Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa have been investigating accusations that Operation Fast and Furious, part of an anti-gun initiative known as “Project Gunrunner,” allowed thousands of weapons to be purchased by “straw buyers” in Arizona and Texas that later were “walked” unchecked to drug smugglers in Mexico.

At least three of those weapons, including two AK-47 assault rifles, later were found at the site of separate shootings that claimed the lives of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, who was killed by Rejon Aguilar’s Zetas, and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry.

The lawmakers also want to know what role other federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), played in the operation.

Last weekend, according to numerous sources, Mr. Melson said during two closed-door interviews that the senior leadership at the agency wanted to cooperate in the congressional probe but were stopped by Justice Department officials who took control of all briefing and document requests. Mr. Grassleyand Mr. Issa, in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., accused Justice of “muzzling” the director.

Mr. Melson confirmed information the committee has been investigating that some of the suspected gun traffickers targeted by ATF in the Fast and Furious probe may have been working with the FBI and DEA without ATF’s knowledge.

He also confirmed concerns expressed by several ATF agents during their recent testimony beforeMr. Issa’s committee that while they witnessed the transfer of weapons from the straw buyers to others, they were not allowed to follow the guns further as they made their way to Mexico. He told the investigators he became aware of “this startling possibility” only after the killing of Mr. Terry and the indictments of the straw purchasers.

“We have very real indications from several sources that some of the gun-trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants,” Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa wrote in the letter to Mr. Holder. “The acting director said ATF was kept in the dark about certain activities of other agencies, including DEA and FBI.”

In the videotape, Rejon Aguilar told Mexican police that his gang - considered that country’s most violent - had armed itself with weapons “bought in the United States.”

Mexican law enforcement authorities have long accused the U.S. of failing to control the flow of weapons into that country - many used in a brutal turf war over the control of drug smuggling routes into the United States that so far has cost more than 35,000 lives according to BBC.

On October of 2010, the Examiner reported in the article,  "US military trained Mex drug cartel ops," that founders of the most powerful criminal gang in America and the world, Los Zetas Mexico-based cartel, were trained with US funds for "special forces" at Fort Bennings and Fort Bragg.  Zetas members include School of the Americas (WHINSEC) trained ex-Army Special Forces responsible for the astounding rise in brutal killings south of the U.S. border, including many Juarez women. The Zetas, now transnational, now expand throughout most of Mexico and much of the U.S., with Russian and Columbian influence and treaties, influencing and training other gangs and their members, and recruiting. (ABC News, April 23, 2008)

In 2010, FOI documents revealed that the number of innocent Targeted Individuals, Americans covertly targeted in a sophisticated manner by cartels or "cells" with Department of Justice impunity, "could exceed 350,000."

In the letter that Issa and Grassley sent to Eric Holder, they wrote, "The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities." 

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