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Tag: project gun runner

Gun Dealer Was Concerned About ATF’s Gun-Walking Program


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A controversial ATF gun-walking program apparently concerned an Arizona gun dealer, who like many others, had been encouraged by ATF to keep selling weapons to straw purchasers, all with the hopes agents would trace them to the higher levels of the Mexican drug cartels.

Problem was some of those guns sold by gun dealers got into the hands of criminals and may have been used in the fatal shooting of at least one federal agent.

Sen. Charles Grassley, who has been on the war path, attacking ATF for its programs — Project Gunrunner and its offshoot Operation Fast and Furious — released emails on Thursday from a concerned Arizona gun dealer. The emails were forwarded along with a letter to Atty. Eric Holder Jr. in which Grassley pointedly complained that the Justice Department had not released to him documents on the programs.

In one email, Grassley notes that the gun dealer — whose name was blacked out — raised concerns to ATF supervisor David Voth:

“I shared my concerns with you guys that I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border and in the hands of the bad guys…I want to help ATF with its investigation, but not at the risk of agents’ safety because I have some very close friends that are U.S. border patrol agents in southern Arizona.”

Agent Voth replied on April 13, 2010:
“I understand that the frequency with which some individuals under investigation by our office have been purchasing firearms from your business has caused concerns for you. I totally understand and am not in a position to tell you how to run your business.

“However, if it helps put you at ease we (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into detail. … Just know that we cannot instruct you on how to run your business, but your continued cooperation with our office has greatly aided the investigation thus far.”

Grassley said the gun dealers were put in a bad spot.

“On the one hand, these gun dealers rely upon the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for their license to even be able to be in business,” he said in a statement.

“So, of course, these agents (Federal Firearms Licensees) want to cooperate with the government. When you have got this big club hanging over your head, will you be licensed or not licensed. On the other hand, the government asks these gun dealers to keep selling to the bad guys even after the dealers warned that it might end in tragedy.”

Grassley has indicated that some of the guns sold to straw purchases may have been used in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona last December. He is also trying to determine if any of the guns were used in the February fatal shooting in Mexico of ICE agent Jaime Zapata and the wounding of another agent.

Read Grassley letter and emails

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Rep. Issa Blasts ATF in Letter Over Gun Running Operations

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The controversy over  ATF programs designed to stop the flow of guns into Mexico isn’t going away. Some guns have been used in serious crimes.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has fired off a letter to Ken Melson, head of ATF, accusing the agency of failing to cooperate with a Congressional inquiry into the matter. Issa has directed ATF to provide documents and information to Congress by month’s end. The letter was posted on the CBS news website.

The letter referenced  two ATF operations — Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious — which allowed gun traffickers to buy guns and subsequently sell them, all with hopes of tracking them to the drug cartels in Mexico. But investigations have found the guns have been used in crimes including in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent  Brian Terry in Arizona in December and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico in February

“Recent media reports have raised grave questions about your department’s handling of operations involving gun trafficking in Mexico,” the March 16 letter says.

“In the aftermath of the tragic killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata, it is imperative that you act decisively to assuage the public’s deep suspicions that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a policy permitting – and even encouraging – the movement of guns into Mexico by straw purchasers.”

“It has been brought to my attention that you are not cooperating with the congressional inquiries into Project Gun Runner and Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa wrote.

The Mexican government is also investigated the matter.

ATF did not immediately respond for comment on Friday morning.

Read the letter

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH REP. ISSA

Sen. Grassley Accuses ATF of Being “Careless” in Gun Running Sting

Sen. Grassley/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) is voicing concern that guns purchased in an ATF sting in Arizona may have been used by bandits in a gunfight that resulted in the death in December of  border patrol agent Brian Terry near the border town of Nogales, the Arizona Republic reported.

Grassley fired off a letter to the head of ATF Kenneth Melson on Thursday suggesting ATF was being negligent by letting criminals circulate the weapons after they purchased them during a sting.

“There are serious concerns that the ATF may have become careless, if not negligent, in implementing the Gunrunner strategy,” he wrote, according to the Arizona Republic.

The paper reported that Grassley said he had information that the AK-47s recovered at the shooting scene of the agent were traced to Project Gunrunner, a much touted gun-program aimed at curbing the flow of weapons to Mexico.

“Members of the Judiciary Committee have received numerous allegations that the ATF sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw purchasers, who then allegedly transported these weapons throughout the southwestern border area and into Mexico,” the senator wrote in the  letter, according to the paper.

“According to the allegations, one of these individuals purchased three assault rifles with cash in Glendale, Arizona, on January 16, 2010. Two of the weapons were then allegedly used in a firefight on December 14, 2010, against Customs and Border Protection agents, killing CBP Agent Brian Terry,” he wrote.

Tom Mangan, an ATF spokesman in Phoenix, told he Arizona Republic that he was “unaware of any guns allowed to go south of the border,” either intentionally or inadvertently. “I am not aware of any internal investigation that’s going on regarding Project Gunrunner.”

Manuel Johnson, an FBI agent in Phoenix, declined to comment, as did the U.S. Border Patrol, the Republic reported.