Subpoena for AG Holder imminent in "Fast and Furious" guns-for-narcos investigation

(Eric Holder. Photo: REUTERS)

A congressional subpoena directed to Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to be issued soon, according to CBS News, and will order him to hand over documents to lawmakers showing when he became aware of "Fast and Furious," a "gunwalking" operation that supplied guns to Mexican drug cartels. Snip from CBS:

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports the the subpoena will come from the House Oversight Committee, led by Republican Darrell Issa. It will ask for communications among senior Justice Department officials related to Fast and Furious and "gunwalking." The subpoena will list those officials, says Attkisson - more than a dozen of them - by name.

In Fast and Furious, the ATF allegedly allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to see where the weapons ended up, and take down a cartel. But the guns have been found at many crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.

In related news, the very latest in a series of reports at the Los Angeles Times about "Fast and Furious" reveals that guns from that covert US operation were found literally inside the home of a narco boss in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico:

High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF's Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.

Photo, Los Angeles Times: The arsenal uncovered by police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which included weapons from the ATF's ill-fated "Fast and Furious" operation. Note the highly classy "Scarface"-dollar-bill poster above the bookshelf, a favorite motif among gangsters worldwide.


  1. Holder refused to indict any Bush neo-con war criminals, any wall street scam fraudsters, so now he is on the verge of indictment.   The best defense is a good offense. 

    Oh, but that would mean some justice for all.

    so 20th century.

    1.  Agree with that.  You can do the investigating, or you can be investigated.  Your choice, Mr. Holder.  Well, it was your choice.

    2. Obama is going to learn that social climbing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Dems let wiretaps, war crimes, torture, similar gun running (wide receiver) slide……don’t hate the players, hate the game……  GOP aren’t as WIMPY.

  2. Part of me would have a dark chuckle if he just pulled the same sort of shit the Bush Admin. did and outright refuse to respond, or give Issa some other response that basically boiled down to “go to hell.” 

  3. has been covering this in some depth, more than 2000 guns, ATF caused background checks to be passed that should have failed, told dealers who called to manually verify what they thought was a suspicious sale to make the sale. They followed the guns to the Mexican border (at best), and that was it. 
    Perhaps it was a way to route weapons to the drug gang we preferred?

    1. That’s one explanation: trying to prevent one cartel from taking over Mexico by supplying a different cartel. The other explanation is that it was to create an excuse for more gun control in the US: “Look at all these guns that got to Mexico!” That seems a bit too conspiratorial to me, given that the ATF’s fingerprints are all over the whole scheme.

      I would like to know what they were trying to do, though. None of the explanations I’ve seen seem to quite make sense.In any case it seems to have been a gigantic clusterf*ck that cost lots of money, many lives, and produced nothing of value… a rather extreme example of what can happen when the government tries to “solve” something.

      1. That’s assuming they even HAD a master plan. I’d say they were skipping a few steps and envisioning a huge bust with guns and drugs on the table. Or else they were so mixed up in it that their idea of “plotting” the cartels against each other turned into “aiding” them.

        The worse piece of outrage to the whole affair? Three supervisors involved in the whole thing got a nice big promotion.

        Only government hacks or CEOs can fail upwards in such spectacular fashion… 

  4. Before Fast and Furious hit the news, protestations were commonly being made that Mexican thugs got most or all their guns from the U.S.

    To people who know guns, that made no sense.  Why not go a bit further south?  There are plenty of places in Central and South America where AKs (real ones, not the semi-autos you can get from U.S. gun stores) are available for $35 apiece.  Also, lots of Mexican army deserters who left to work for the bad guys took their guns with them, too. 

    Sure, simply due to geographic nearness there was *some* motivation to move guns from the U.S. to Mexican criminals but not in any great numbers.  Yet, politicians were claiming that most of the guns used in the drug trade were coming from the U.S.  Their figures didn’t stand up to any serious scrutiny since Mexican officials weren’t requesting U.S. traces on all guns, just the ones that seem to have U.S. ties or were manufactured in the U.S.  Lots of statistical shenanigans were happening.

    Basically, there was a time when anti-gun U.S. politicians and activists were claiming that the Mexican violence problem was severely worsened by a huge flow of illegal guns moving south from the U.S. to Mexico.  At the same time, anyone with a brain could see that those claims didn’t come close to passing the smell test.

    Then, around that time, someone in the government started up a project specifically designed to cause firearms to flow from the U.S. to Mexico in greater numbers and without tracking.  WTF?

    Y’know, I’m no conspiracy nut but the timing on this thing is just too good to be true.  I can only think of two motivations to start up something like Fast and Furious:  either someone in the BATFE was trying to manufacture evidence to support a political agenda or someone in the BATFE was just too incompetent for words.

    Since it’s up to the A.G. to, among other things, know about and stop operations this jaw-droppingly stupid, I really would like to know what the A.G. knew and when he knew it.  I hope we get to find out.

      1. I’ve got one word for you: “Hamsterdam”.

        I had to look it up.  From the Wikipedia article on “Hamsterdam” –

        The term “Hamsterdam” … has since been used to characterize urban districts which are ignored by police.

        I don’t see how that fits.  The BATFE doesn’t let any dealer slide on procedure and loves to use any excuse to shut them down.  The procedural hurdles and enforcement hassles involved in holding a federal firearms license were ramped up to a ridiculous degree under Clinton.  He couldn’t get any gun control legislation passed but he could play to his base by so severely hassling those in the business that they abandoned their businesses.  Over the last 20 years, the number of FFL holders has dropped by, what, about 80%?

        No, the BATFE doesn’t pull a “Hamsterdam” on any segment under their responsibility, at least not as normal procedure.

        That’s why this Fast and Furious thing is so weird.  The BATFE actually pushed dealers to make illegal sales, lots and lots of illegal sales, mostly in the Mexican border states.  (And now, as another oddly-timed coincidence, there’s a push to force dealers in states on the Mexican border to report multiple sales of long guns, something previously not required.  I wonder what made that necessary?)  Then, the BATFE didn’t follow up on the sales, didn’t prosecute the straw buyers, didn’t do anything.  They just let the guns walk on into Mexico while the same straw buyers continued to make more illegal purchases and more illegal resales.

        That is so ridiculously out of character for that agency it beggars description.  They now have some incredibly (ridiculously, really) solid straw buyer cases against low-level resellers but that’s all they’ve got.  However, there is an interesting motivational theory about that.  I’ve read that some Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys were lax about prosecuting BATFE referrals on straw buyers.  As the story goes, the SAUSAs were pushing the BATFE to provide them with meatier cases, not just one-gun cases such as a girlfriend buying a gun for her new felon boyfriend.  Thus, frustrated BATFE Special Agents were motivated to let some straw buyers rack up more purchases.  I find that a tough idea to buy into, though.  BATFE SAs like to think of themselves as getting guns off the street.  There would have to be one long, huge brain fart among a number of cooperating segments of the agency if it turns out that  they temporarily abandoned that core principle just to build some better cases to hand over to the SAUSAs.

        However, if that’s what’s really behind all this, then it would explain the reticence of the A.G. to provide information so far.  If it turns out that his own people were pushing the BATFE to do their core job incompetently just so they could rack up some better-looking wins in court, then the A.G. will be in some serious hot water.

        I do not, however, see anything that leads me to believe that your one word for me – “Hamsterdam” – is in any way applicable to the whole Fast and Furious/Gunwalker situation.

  5. “Note the highly classy ‘Scarface’-dollar-bill poster above the bookshelf”. And the balcony-finale poster next to it.
    At least one of those is probably not officially licensed. Maybe we can bust them for copyright infringement since the guns thing didn’t go as planned?

  6. It’s bittersweet to see some acknowledgement on the site of all the crooked shenanigans that this administration is performing. 
    Dragging the Bush II idiots back in to frame for some blaming might be tempting, but ultimately pointless. Especially in light of the increased Cartel violence, this is just more doubling-down on pointless, drug war escalation by an administration that was supposed to be rethinking things. Instead we get a by-any-means-necessary insanity like this, increased persecution of drug dispensaries by the DEA and a tighter clamp down on freedoms and common civil rights. 

    Maybe its absolute power corrupting or maybe it’s just new boss becoming same as the old boss, but there are people bleeding and dying for these kinds of mistakes. 

  7. Yikes. 

    The octopus of corruption is one scary, ugly beast. 

    Incompetence is weakness in fighting this one, because otherwise some “cabrones muy listos” will eat you for lunch and spit you back out, piece by piece. 

    Be careful, y’all. 

  8. A remarkably undercovered and ignored story, till recently, and I’m glad to see something about it is now posted on BoingBoing. 

  9. Has it occurred to anyone that this was simply a poorly executed operation? During my many years as a state and federal employee, I have been unable to locate the conspirators everyone is always talking in boing boing comments.

    1. (There are only 15 comments, but I must say, it’s refreshing to see a thread about a political scandal that is informative and free of name-calling. Several good points made. Bravo to all.)

      David Tooley, it could always be some combination: a poorly-executed operation that some wished to use for political purposes. The big problem for your hypothesis, though: it seems that the ATF just waved bye-bye to the guns as they crossed the border. Something so stupid and pointless might have happened for a brief time if the Mexico side of the plan broke down or something, but if there were no plans to continually track the guns and do something with the information, then the other two explanations make more sense.

      1. Something so stupid and pointless might have happened for a brief time if the Mexico side of the plan broke down or something,…

        It appears you realize this, but I just want to make it clear to the people who hadn’t heard about this operation before now – the BATFE never told the Mexicans anything about the operation. There was no “Mexico side of the plan” at all.  And the Mexican authorities are plenty pissed about the whole situation.

        1. The Mexican authorities are right to be pissed.  It’s hard enough to keep any kind of law enforcement bolstered enough to stay on the job in the middle of this sh-tstorm, but here’s a cherry on top – your neighbor is GIVING the BAD GUYS their guns.  Team America doesn’t have to answer to anyone, right?  

          The people responsible for this action are war criminals, and should be placed on trial;  however, I won’t hold my breath for that to happen.

    2. If this is simply a poorly executed operation, should we not be concerned about how our tax dollars are being spent?  During your years as a state and federal employee, did this sort of bungling happen often?

      The War on Drugs is just a war, people.  The problem is, there’s no attainable goal, and everybody loses: our children are not safer or more educated than before, our jobs are not more secure, our economy does not improve.  The mindlessness behind this specific “operation” is indicative of the thinking behind the Reagan-era politics which spawned it. 

      Smoke and mirrors worked before, and they are working aga– Oh, look!  It’s so shiny! 

      1. We should. I would love to see the war on drugs disappear. I just think that some of the conspiracy theories that I see in this and other posts (see almost anyone responding to a political Mark Frauenfelder post) are over the top, and people need to realize that they are accusing regular people of pretty heinous things without much evidence. However, I think any law enforcement agency should be held accountable for their nefariousness or their incompetence or both. 

  10. Goddamnitsomuch.  They have this one aspect of their job, an aspect most gun owners would agree with, and they fuck it up. Not just fuck it up, but a willfully-push-grandma-over-a-cliff level of fucked up.

    1. It’s easier to kill police or rival cartel members if you can put a few 12.7x99mm rounds into their engine blocks so they can’t escape. Though if I remember correctly, they use armored vehicles now. Arms race, etc.

      Wow. We really, really need to stop the drug war.

  11. Normally, I pass off Congressional investigations as politics as usual, but for once, with the way the Obama administration incompetently handled this operation, and promoted the idiots who screwed this up, I’m elated that at least someone is putting their foot in the door to demand some answers that should’ve been forthcoming a long time ago.  This is simply inexcusable, and Obama needs to be held to account for the actions of his administration, even if he’s not directly responsible.  We would demand no less of his Republican counterpart.  

  12. holy shit, is that a 50cal machine gun? and an M107???

    war on drugs… is this what happens when the drugs declare war on you?

    1. holy shit, is that a 50cal machine gun? and an M107??

      I see two M107 Barrett rifles in the picture.  They are 50 caliber but they’re not machine guns.

      The thing mounted on the tripod, right in the center of the photo, is a Browning machine gun, all right, but it’s in 30 caliber, not 50.  They share very similar silhouettes but if it were a Ma Deuce it would be *much* larger.

    2. The Wikipedia page for the M82 has a photo of a (rather large) bunch of Mexican Special Forces guys standing in formation holding them.

  13. Clean Up The ATF, a website founded by ATF employees who want to make the agency better, has a forum on this, filled with good posts about what all is going on.  

    Looks like it was not just the Phoenix branch doing this, as some of the guns came from Dallas which is not in Phoneix’s area of operations, and something similar may have happened in Miami walking ( swimming?) guns into Honduras.  

    I haven’t kept up with the story lately (been on vacation and now that I’m back work is swamping me),  but there is also evidence that not just the ATF(e) was involved.  Looks like DEA had informants involved in the walking of guns, the FBI  paid an informant to walk some of the guns, and there appears to have been at least one ATF(E) employee who did straw buying himself and then gave the guns to someone else to be walked across the border!  Oh, and it looks like there may have been three of the walked guns found at the ambush that killed the border patrol officer, and the FBI made one disappear in order to protect their informant, since he’d bought the rifle and it would be traced back to him.  

    Lots of shenanigans all around! What were they thinking?  It really does look like a real-world underpants-gnome scheme!  

    Step 1) allow bad pe0ple to buy guns and walk them into Mexico
    Step 2) ???
    Step 3) profit!

    Gunwalker:  it’s like watergate + murders! 

  14. How would Hitler react?

    Is there any situation where this video can’t be suitably re-subtitled?  I’ve begun to think not.  :-)

  15. In retrospect it probably wasn’t a good idea to name the operation after a movie about a poorly planned law enforcement sting in which the main bad guy ends up getting away (in a fancy car paid for with taxpayer money, no less).

  16. I’m glad to see BoingBoing covering this story. To me it is bizarre in the extreme that most of the media is ignoring this story. This scandal is far worse than Watergate (no one died in Watergate), a scandal the press pursued with vigor. The fact that an agency of the United States government was apparently facilitating the sale of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, weapons that were used to murder hundreds of Mexicans (including soldiers and police officers), and at least one U.S. border control agent, is monstrous. Why is the press so indifferent to this? Are they all so enamored of Barack Obama that they don’t want to cover anything that would make his administration look bad?

Comments are closed.