As was expected, yesterday's testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee provided drama, intrigue and some very angry comments after four hours of testimony made it patently obvious that the ATF had not only screwed up an investigation of firearms smuggling into Mexico, it had effectively supplied the guns to the criminals.
ATF Agents John Dodson and James Casa told the committee they had been ordered to do nothing while illegally-purchased firearms were allowed to cross the border into Mexico. As Dodson said "My supervisors directed me and my collegaues not to make any stop or arrest," Dodson testified, "but rather to keep the straw purchaser under surveillance while allowing the guns to walk." Casa added more strength to Dodson's assertion when he told the Committee "on several occasions I personally requested to interdict or seize firearms, but I was always ordered to stand down."
Whew. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa started the fire roaring with his detailed recounting of how the ATF and its parent, the Justice Department, had continued to delay his Senate investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
He summarized his position pretty simply: "accountability is needed. The only question is how high does it go."
The Committee's Draft Report, released Tuesday, set the stage for a potential showdown between the Justice Department and the Congress.
That report told of agents watching helplessly while straw purchasers bought "hundreds" of weapons and transferred them to unknown third parties or "stash houses" for later transport to Mexico. It also said agents had complained about the program, predicting that tragic results were a "near certainty" but were told by their leaders to "get with the program" because senior ATF officials had sanctioned the operation.
The report reached a simple conclusion: a reckless and irresponsible chain of command ignored repeated warnings from field agents that the plan was destined to fail-or worse.
"Or worse" happened with the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, and the whole operation was rolled-up by senior ATF officials. Their efforts to keep the entire matter quiet, however, failed just as spectacularly as Operation Fast and Furious.
Today, the calls are already being made for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to further investigate the operation, the ATF and Justice Department for their efforts to stop Congressional investigations.
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is calling for the immediate suspension, without pay, of all supervisors involved in a controversial gunrunning sting operation, including the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and his deputies, and the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and determine who initiated this project and who approved it.
"Today's hearing revealed one outrage after another," CCRKBA Chairman Alan M. Gottlieb said yesterday, "Everybody who was involved in this debacle must be held accountable. That can only happen if there is an independent prosecutor, someone who cannot be influenced by the Justice Department.
"It is clear that members of Congress have been stonewalled," he continued. "We share Congressman Darrell Issa's outrage at the conduct of the Justice Department, and particularly the ATF. They're supposed to be preventing criminals from getting firearms, not facilitating it.
"We think an independent prosecutor is important for another reason," Gottlieb added. "Attempts by some members of the House Oversight committee to politicize this investigation are disappointing. Finding the truth about how this operation went wrong is not a launch pad for some new gun control effort. Don't blame our gun laws and gun rights for the criminal acts of people who should have been arrested before anybody got killed.
Can't argue the logic. A renegade law-enforcement operation isn't law-enforcement; it's criminal activity.
Meanwhile, information collection regarding Operation Wide Receiver, the apparent predecessor of Fast and Furious continues. Since we first reported on the operation run out of the Tucson office, we have seen more information that confirms the fact that both ATF and Justice Department officials were not only aware of the operation five years ago, they have continued efforts to bring the investigation to some sort of closure.
We'll keep you posted, but it's safe to say the heat is on at this point.
In 2008 and 2009, we first reported on alleged sex trafficking of minors during fishing charters in Brazil. We first learned of the alleged incidents after the Dallas Safari Club took a hard stand against illegal activities by hunting and fishing outfitters and caused quite a stir in the outdoor travel industry.
That reporting earned us some strongly worded communications from high-powered Washington lawyers who were quite unhappy that we'd reported the story.
Today, they're probably going to be at a rolling boil again, because a formal complaint filed in Northern Georgia District of United States District Court yesterday asks for legal actions against the tour operator and tour company first accused of the illegal activity.
In the filing, four unnamed plaintiffs (A,B.C. and D) ask for action under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. They allege that they were forced to have relations with charter members after being brought aboard a charter vessel under false pretenses. They were all allegedly under the age of eighteen at the time.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act under which they seek action was created by Congress to protect against sex trafficking, punish traffickers and compensate victors.
The complaint seeks a jury trial and whatever damages and legal fees judged appropriate if they prevail in the case.
Again, we'll keep you posted.