by Bob Lesmeister
The only things we know for certain about ATF’s disastrous Fast and Furious operation so far are: thousands of firearms were secreted into Mexico by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) without the Mexican government’s knowledge; hundreds of Mexicans and one US Border Patrol agent were killed by these guns; Attorney General Eric Holder has lied before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about his involvement in the operation, and President Barack Obama has invoked Executive Privilege to keep Fast and Furious documents hidden. All of this under the most corrupt administration since Warren G. Harding.
What does it take to put together an operation such as Fast and Furious and who would necessarily have to be involved? A fully credentialed law enforcement officer and former undercover operative for ATF and US Customs, Mike Downie provides an insider’s view for TGM.
“Depending on which agency you’re working, for an operation such as Fast and Furious is either called a Class 1 or Group 1 undercover operation,” informs Downie. “Any time the number one comes into play there is a special committee that has to approve it before it can be worked. As soon as a Group 1 operation is approved, it is assigned an assistant US attorney (AUSA).” As for an operation such as Fast and Furious where laws were broken and regulations ignored, there are exceptions that allow for it.
“You can get permission to break the rules but each time it has to be approved,” explains Downie. “The AUSA takes it up to his boss for approval. As for Fast and Furious, I am positive at that level with those kinds of weapons request for permission had to go right up to the Attorney General. And anyone that’s ever worked a Group 1 op will tell you that it takes a lot of planning and paperwork.” First, you have to write an ops plan.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Downie was working an undercover operation known as Operation Leatherneck with US Customs Special Agent Frank Caliendo. This was basically a sting operation to catch several US citizens attempting to illegally bring into the US millions of dollar’s worth of firearms out of Vietnam. At the time, the US had no real trade agreements with Vietnam and the importation of firearms from that country would have violated the Trading with the Enemy Act.
“When we wrote the plan for Leatherneck we submitted it to our bosses in Cleveland, then it had to be kicked up to Chicago and then up to the undercover committee. Each agency has an undercover committee. Every one that I was ever exposed to had members of the undercover committee from other agencies so that everybody stayed on the same page. The amount of paperwork involved in a Group 1 operation is unbelievable.” As for Fast and Furious, Downie states, “There is no way a special agent in charge (SAC) in Phoenix or whoever they are blaming this week just said okay I’m going to do this undercover and I’m going to walk 2,000 guns over into Mexico.”
A major problem with Fast and Furious and what contrasts it from a similar operation known as Wide Receiver under the Bush administration is control. Innocent people died via Fast and Furious because ATF chose not to control the weapons it secreted across the border. Downie remembers, “The last terrorism case I did involved a deal where I was going to sell 100 AK rifles to a bad guy. The AKs were never going to leave our control. And we still had to have all kinds of extra paperwork and we had to make sure the AKs were not operable.” Concerning Fast and Furious, Downie observes, “As soon as it became obvious that there was going to be border involvement, they had to have notified Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). If you notice the television footage they run all of the time there’s a rifle laying on a table with a Customs blue table cloth cover. So, ICE had to be up to its neck in this thing. To me, it was Leatherneck all over again. I respect the ATF agent who blew the whistle on Fast and Furious and I’m sure his career is finished. And the bosses are doing the same thing they did with Frank and me saying that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s crazy.” ATF Special Agent John Dodson first blew the whistle on Fast and Furious in February 2011when he revealed ATF was running guns to Mexican cartels.
In May 2010, Dodson warned his supervisors that supplying Mexican drug dealers with firearms was going to get American law enforcement officers killed as well as any number of Mexicans. Dodson told Fox News, “So, they can’t claim that was an unforeseen consequence.” According to Dodson, his former chain of command filed a complaint against him for lying and he remains on leave, stuck in a professional limbo by the claims against him.
It is to the government’s advantage to retaliate against Dodson because it keeps the attention away from the individuals who actually kept Fast and Furious running even after the guns were known to have been used in multiple killings. Says Downie, “I’m sure that’s why they don’t want those papers to come out because somebody had to sign off on them. Then add to that no tracking in place. ATF didn’t notify Mexico that they were letting these guns into their country. When you orchestrate sneaking weapons into another country, that’s no less than act of war.” Group 1 operations are important enough to warrant constant monitoring and supervision. It is obvious now that ATF’s operation lacked both monitoring and supervision of any kind. “Once one of these operations is approved, you are monitored hourly as to what you’re doing,” explains Downie.
“Ultimately, the way they should have been monitoring Fast and Furious, the Assistant US Attorney in charge of the project would have been listening to and making transcripts of every tape on every contact made. That would include telephone and personal meetings and, whatever else has to be taped. Nowadays, that would also include copies of e-mails, Internet sites, tweets, etc. It’s this lack of tapes that doesn’t make sense. On Leatherneck, and we didn’t get as far as we should have, we made over 9,000 tapes. And again, we weren’t moving or monitoring thousands of guns. With Fast and Furious, there should be thousands of tapes, e-mails, tweets and website tracks.” It has been suggested by some in the responsible media and among law abiding gunowners that Fast and Furious was not about stopping illegal weapon trafficking or putting a stop to drug cartel violence, but that it was an effort to discredit the entire firearms industry and the public it serves. A high death toll as a result of ATF covertly supplied “illegal” weapons is a perfect public relations ploy to enact a slew of gun control measures on a duped public.
“The rules at all of the agencies have always been the same, never worry about money,” reveals Downie, “Let all the money in the world walk. Money doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a commodity. You don’t let drugs walk and you don’t let weapons walk. With the FBI, and to some degree Customs, if there ever was a threat of anyone getting hurt, you could literally get a whole operation shut down. You know ATF had to have heard of the hundreds of Hispanics being murdered. After two or three died as a result of Fast and Furious, they should have shut the operation down. But they let it run.
That’s why I have to believe, knowing what I know about the other side, they let it ride as an excuse to re-write the Gun Control Act of ’68.” Downie explains, “All of these Group 1 operations are run the same way and there had to be an undercover committee somewhere and sitting on that undercover committee would be somebody from the US State Department because they were crossing the US border. You would have had Department of Justice there, ICE, Homeland Security, and you would probably have had some FBI involvement.
The Arms Export Control Act is still in place. There should have been some military personnel sitting in on the undercover committee, too. They broke every rule that was written about special ops.” The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) of 1976 gives the President the authority to control the import and export of defense weapons. It requires governments that receive weapons from the US to use them for legitimate selfdefense.
The Act also places certain restrictions on American arms traders and manufacturers. When the President is aware of the possibility of violations of the AECA, the law requires a report to Congress on the potential violations. Obama not only ignored his responsibility to have a report sent to Congress, his invocation of Executive Privilege puts him in direct violation of the AECA.
There had to be reports, there had to be formation of an undercover committee to clear Operation Fast and Furious and somebody would have had to have written a very detailed ops plan to be submitted to the committee. Holder’s contention that he was not briefed on Fast and Furious and had no inkling of a Group 1 committee defies credibility.
It is quite conceivable that the final approval for Fast and Furious may have gone as high as the Oval Office.
“I’m surprised that the Border Patrol isn’t making more noise since it was one of their own that was killed,” says Downie. But then again, that’s what we’re all asking.