Monday, March 7, 2011

“Fast and Furious” gun killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico?

You must have seen the CBS news item alleging that ATF purposely allowed weapons to be smuggled to Mexico.  An ATF agent in it says that its "Fast and Furious" program let guns "walk" into the hands of Mexican drug cartels with the aim of tracking and breaking a big case.

On Dec. 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down. Two assault rifles ATF had let go nearly a year before were found at Terry's murder, according to CBS.  

Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry may not be the only federal agent who became a victim of the walked guns.  Last week, FBI Dallas released a statement on the arrest of three Dallas-area men on federal firearms charges related to trafficking firearms to a Mexican drug cartel. Apparently ballistic tests trace one of the firearms used in the February 2011 shooting of ICE Agents in Mexico to one of the defendants.

March 1, 2011 | DALLAS—Three individuals have been arrested by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), assisted by other state and local law enforcement, on federal firearms charges outlined in two complaints.
Ranferi Osorio, 27, and his brother, Otilio Osorio, 22, were arrested yesterday at their home on East Colonial Drive in Lancaster, Texas. Each Osorio brother is charged with possessing firearms with an obliterated serial number. Separately, according to information contained in one complaint, Mexican officials recently seized three firearms that were used in the deadly shooting on Feb. 15, 2011, of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent. One of the firearms recovered was traced by ATF to Otilio Osorio.
According to the court documents, at the meeting, two men unloaded several large bags containing firearms into the CI’s vehicle, which was kept under surveillance until a traffic stop in Laredo. According to the court documents, the men’s vehicle was later stopped by local police and the men were identified as Ranferi and Otilio Osorio. Morrison was the third passenger in the vehicle. The vehicle stopped in Laredo was searched and 40 firearms, all with obliterated serial numbers, were seized. Trace results indicated that three of these firearms could be specifically traced to Morrison, who bought them from federal firearms licensees (FFL) in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Nov. 4, 2010. The investigation now has also revealed that on Aug. 7, 2010, a Romarm, model WASR, 7.62 caliber rifle was discovered by law enforcement officers in LaPryor, Texas, near the U.S./Mexico border. Trace results indicated that Morrison purchased this firearm on July 30, 2010, from a FFL. According to the affidavit, between July 10, 2010, and Nov. 4, 2010, Morrison purchased 24 firearms from FFLs.

In addition, according to one affidavit filed in the case, one of the three firearms used in the Feb. 15, 2011, deadly assault of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata that was seized by Mexican officials has been traced by ATF to Otilio Osorio. Otilio Osorio allegedly purchased that firearm on Oct. 10, 2010, in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, prior to law enforcement’s awareness of the purchase. Ballistic testing conducted by Mexican authorities on this firearm indicated it was one of the three firearms used during the deadly assault on Special Agent Zapata’s vehicle.

Read the whole thing here.

A much more detailed report from the Center for Public Integrity says that the ATF operation code named “Fast and Furious” permitted hundreds of guns to be purchased and retained by suspected straw buyers with the expectation that they might cross the border and even be used in crimes while the case was being built. It was based in Phoenix and reportedly done with the direct blessing of ATF headquarters in Washington and with the supervision by the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, a special ATF strike force known as Group VII.

Officials told the Center that ATF allowed about 1,765 firearms over the 15 months of the operation to pass from gun dealers to the suspected straw buyers that were the accomplices of the gun running ring. Another 233 weapons had been bought by the suspects prior to the ATF operation starting, bringing the total number of guns in the case to 1,998.

Of those, 797 of the guns were eventually recovered as a result of criminal activity on both sides of the border — including 195 from inside Mexico — after they were used in crimes, collected during arrests, or interdicted through other law enforcement operations, the officials told the Center.
According to ATF, a “straw purchase” occurs when the actual buyer of a firearm uses another person, “the straw purchaser,” to execute the paperwork necessary to purchase a firearm from a gun dealer. The actual buyer is often prohibited from purchasing the gun. The straw purchaser violates federal law by making a false statement with respect to the information required to be kept in the gun dealer’s records. According to ATF, straw purchasing is one of the most frequent methods used to illegally acquire guns.

The March 1 statement says that "Otilio Osorio allegedly purchased that firearm on Oct. 10, 2010, in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, prior to law enforcement’s awareness of the purchase."

So - basically, he bought the gun on XX at XX but ATF did not know about it, is that it? Sounds awkward and defensive to you?  Are we to understand that the gun used to kill the ICE agent in that Monterrey road was not/not one of the guns that the ATF allowed to "walk" across the border? reports that "Tom Crowley, spokesman for the ATF's Dallas division, insists that at no time did weapons involved in the Dallas division's Gunrunner operations ever make it across the border."

But the accused reportedly were
kept under surveillance
. So if the guns were not allowed to "walk" into Mexico but ended up there anyway, isn't that really poor surveillance work? 

The Chief of the ATF Public Affairs Division, by the way, has written a February 2011 internal memo to PIOs to "Please make every effort in the next two weeks to maximize coverage of ATF operations/enforcement actions/arrests at the local and regional level" in hopes it would drown out the "negative coverage by CBS News."  He also writes, "ATF needs to proactively push positive stories this week, in an effort to preempt some negative reporting, or at minimum, lessen the coverage of such stories in the news cycle by replacing them with good stories about ATF. The more time we spend highlighting the great work of the agents through press releases and various media outreaches in the coming days and weeks, the better off we will be."

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