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Project Gunrunner: Obama’s Stimulus-Funded Border Nightmare

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 30, 2011 11:16 AM


Graphic via CBS News

I’ve been tied up on other things, but have been following the Project Gunrunner scandal closely — and delve into the basics in my syndicated column today. To its credit, CBS News gave this deadly Obama culture of corruption nightmare mainstream coverage last month. But it’s been brewing on the blogs of gun rights advocates David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh and the website CleanUpATF.org, where the story originated, for months prior. Codrea’s journalists’ guide to Project Gunrunner here. Here’s Vanderboegh’s blog with massive Gunrunner links and background document caches, including this one of all official correspondence on the Gunrunner scandal between GOP watchdogs Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa and the House GOP Judiciary Committee and various Obama officials and agencies.

Previous IG reports on Gunrunner’s shortcomings are here and here (pdf).

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa’s letter yesterday to Hillary Clinton on her State Department’s refusal to turn over related Gunrunner documents is here.

My warnings about the Merida Initiative, which provided essential funding for Project Gunrunner under the Bush administration, are here.

Codrea’s intro to the story:

The following is a summary and time line of articles appearing on the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog and Gun Rights Examiner, reflecting original reporting on the developing “Project Gunwalker” story by Mike Vanderboegh and myself. That’s the purposely ironic name I assigned it, a parody of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s “Project Gunrunner,” and it refers to allegations by whistleblowing ATF insiders that:

* ATF management was allowing potentially hundreds of semiautomatic firearms to be walked across the Mexican border in order to pad statistics used to further budget and power objectives.
* Mexican authorities were kept in the dark, and protests that they should be informed were overridden, first by the Phoenix ATF office, and ultimately by higher-ups in Washington, DC.
* A gun used in this operation was involved in a December 2010 incident in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.

The original allegations were posted on CleanUpATF.org. Vanderboegh and I, who have a history going back years of documenting allegations posted there, and pressing for congressional hearings to investigate the claims, were both contacted independently by various ATF insiders claiming to have corroborating information and documentation. Mike vetted his sources and I used my contacts to help validate that my informant was who he represented himself to be. Mike and I did what we could throughout our separate and coordinated investigations to test and corroborate what was being told. We also had a small circle of behind-the-scenes consultants, including firearms designer Len Savage, and a few other knowledgeable advisors, all with contacts and informed insights of their own, and all of whom have earned our trust over the years.

Our primary goal was to help arrange for protection for our sources, and quickly, as retaliation was feared. Because the allegations involved higher ups within the Justice Department, the added protection afforded by separation of powers was sought. Through various contacts and machinations that are documented in the following timeline, the whistleblowers came under the protective umbrella of Sen. Charles Grassley, a senior member of the Committee of the Judiciary.

Our secondary goal was to push this story outside our limited spheres of influence and into the “mainstream press,” so that it would be problematic to ignore or bury things. Again, making this happen has been an ongoing struggle, but we’ve seen the first cracks in the dam. The following time line will bring journalists just getting involved with this story up to speed by walking them though it, from its genesis to where we are today as major media outlets finally begin to take notice and get involved.

There will be two stories, of course, as I’ve chronicled from Day One of this administration: the scandal and the attempted cover-up.

Obama told Univision that he knows nothin’, as usual:

Transcript:

JR: THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT COMPLAINS THAT THEY WERE NOT INFORMED ABOUT THE “FAST AND FURIOUS” OPERATION. DID YOU AUTHORIZE THIS OPERATION AND WAS PRESIDENT CALDERON PROPERLY INFORMED ABOUT IT?

PBO: Well, first of all I did not authorize it. Eric Holder, the Attorney General, did not authorize it. He’s been very clear that our policy is to catch gun runners and put them into jail. So what he’s done is he’s assigned an I.G., an inspector general, to investigate what exactly happened…

JR: SO WHO AUTHORIZED IT?

PBO: Well, we don’t have all the facts. That’s why the I.G. is in business. To collect the facts.

JR: AND YOU WERE NOT EVEN INFORMED ABOUT IT?

PBO: Absolutely not, this is a pretty big government, the United States government. I got a lot of moving parts. But I want to be very clear, I spoke to President Calderon when he came to visit just a few weeks ago, our policy is to ramp up the interdiction of guns flowing south because that’s contributing to some of the security problems that are taking place in Mexico and what we are doing is trying to build the kind of cooperation between Mexico and the United States that we haven’t seen before. That ensures that we have a comprehensive approach. I’ve said to President Calderon and I’ve said it publicly, we’ve got obligations. It’s not just Mexico’s problem, it’s also our problem. We got to reduce demand for drugs, which is why even though we got obviously significant deficits; we are allocating 10 billion dollars in our budget to try to reduce demand through prevention programs and education programs. We have to make sure that we are enforcing the kinds of measures that will stop the flow of guns and cash down south that is helping to fuel these transnational drug cartels. So we’ve initiated excellent cooperation, there may be a situation here in which a serious mistake was made, if that’s the case then we’ll find out and will hold somebody accountable.

JR: MEXICO WAS NOT INFORMED THEN?

PBO: Well, if I wasn’t informed I assure you that Mexico wasn’t either.
Today is a deadline day for DOJ to respond to GOP watchdog inquiries for information. Via FOX News:

Congress and the Department of Justice appear to be headed for a showdown this week over documents detailing Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gunrunning sting set up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that funneled more than 1,700 smuggled weapons from Arizona to Mexico.

The Justice Department has until Wednesday to deliver to congressional investigators a stack of records and emails naming the individuals responsible for the gun trafficking operation that may have killed dozens, if not hundreds of Mexicans, and is becoming a growing embarrassment for the Obama administration.

Watch AG Eric Holder do what’s he done his entire career: Stonewall, deny, forget, cover up, give passes, and get passes.

More on Gunrunner and ties to the ICE agent Jaime Zapata’s murder at Patterico’s.

The Truth about Guns’ coverage of the scandal is here. Andrea Shea King’s Gunrunner archive and radio interview with Gunrunner insiders is here. Laura Ingraham’s coverage of the scandal and interview with Sen. Grassley is here. Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards ask tough questions at NRO. Townhall’s Katie Pavlich has been tracking the story.

This disaster has only just begun.

***

Project Gunrunner: Obama’s Stimulus-Funded Border Nightmare
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

Buried in Barack Obama’s failed trillion-dollar stimulus program was a $10 million bloody border racket that has now cost American lives. This goes far beyond the usual waste, fraud and abuse underwritten by progressive profligacy. It’s bloodstained government malfeasance overseen by anti-gun ideologues — and now anti-gun ideologue Attorney General Eric Holder will “investigate.”

Welcome to Project Gunrunner. Prepare for another Justice Department whitewash.

First, some background. Like so many border programs run amok, Project Gunrunner was the spawn of Beltway bipartisanship. It was established in 2005 as a pilot project under the Bush administration and run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The intended goal of the program’s sting operations: stop illicit firearms trafficking along the Southwest border through close surveillance of undercover gun purchases and coordinated intervention with Mexico. The deadly result: federally sanctioned gunwalking of high-powered weapons from U.S. officials right into the hands of drug cartel killers.

By 2008, Project Gunrunner’s bureaucratic fiefdom had expanded rapidly along the U.S.-Mexico border and into the nine U.S. consulates in Mexico. The office raked in $2 million more through the little-scrutinized Merida Initiative, which Hispanic vote-pandering Republicans rammed through in a war supplemental bill. Despite warnings from the DOJ inspector general that tracking and assessment measures needed improvement, the payroll exploded from a few dozen to more than 200 by 2009. Under the Obama administration, ATF reaped another $21.9 million to expand Project Gunrunner (nearly half from the stimulus boondoggle), and the White House has requested almost $12 million more in fiscal year 2011 appropriations for the program.

Project Gunrunner’s reach and authority continues to grow despite dire, prolonged warnings from insiders and whistleblowers that countless monitored guns have been passed on to violent criminals without being intercepted as planned. Following up on leads first published at www.cleanupatf.org and the blogs of gun rights advocates David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh, CBS News reported last month that Project Gunrunner “allegedly facilitated the delivery of thousands of guns into criminal hands.”

One of those guns was used by Mexican gang thugs who murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December. At least six veteran ATF agents and executives stepped forward to expose how ATF presided over the purchase of hundreds of high-powered rifles and pistols — over the objection of the very private gun shops that the Obama administration’s anti-gun zealots have vilified.

One whistleblower familiar with Project Gunrunner’s Phoenix offshoot, dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” told CBS News: “The numbers are over 2,500 on that case by the way. That’s how many guns were sold — including some 50-calibers they let walk.” The weapon used in the Mexico slaying of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata has also been linked to Project Gunrunner surveillance operation subjects.

As investigative watchdog Republicans Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa step up pressure on the administration to come clean this week about who knew what and when, Obama denied any knowledge of Project Gunrunner on Spanish-language Univision TV. He blithely allowed that “there may be a situation here in which a serious mistake was made. If that’s the case, then we’ll find out and we’ll hold someone accountable.”

Coming from a man who appointed crime-coddling, accountability-evading, open-borders corruptocrat Eric Holder to uphold the law, that is a bloody, cruel joke.

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