July 30, 2011

Associated Press Covers Gunwalker, in Detail

And rather fairly at that, though I think they may be a bit too inclined to give the ATF the benefit of the doubt, instead of being more suspect of the motivations of the Obama Administration officials at the heart of the scandal and most of the bloggers and investigators that have propelled this story are.

The fact remains that the various DOJ, DHS, and Treasury agencies and operatives that have had a hand in this scandal are all very much in cover-up mode, hoping that they can survive the Congressional investigations and leaks to investigators that keep shifting the blame higher in the Obama Administration.

It may take multiple impeachments and criminal trials, but we'll get to the bottom of this.

MIKE ADDS: Many Americans don't know that the Associated Press, like Reuters, is a "wire service." The term comes from the old days when news was disseminated by dedicated land-lines, or wires. Now, of course, it's done via the Internet.

Even news outlets like the New York Times can no longer afford to maintain news bureaus around the globe, however, organizations like the AP can pay local writers and photographers associated with them to submit stories and photographs, which the AP markets via subscription to local, regional and even national news organizations. This allows your local newspaper to feature stories it could not otherwise obtain.

The problem with this system is that if the AP is biasedand it often isor if the AP gets it wrong, every subscriber around the world is biased or gets it wrong and everyone reading those stories is misinformed. Is the AP always biased? Of course not, but when it is, that bias is invariably toward the left, the progressive, socialist side of the political aisle.

As Bob has noted, Ms. Arrillaga's story is well done and quite informative, particularly for those who haven't been keeping up on Gunwalker unlike CY readers, but it suffers from several of the problems I've mentioned (after the break).

Ms. Arrillaga accurately recounts the genesis of the case and the disgust of honorable ATF agents like John Dobson who were ordered to allow criminals to buy thousands of guns and send them across the border with no way to track them or to determine who would receive them or how they would be used. She writes:

"It was supposed to be the big case the one that went beyond the buyers, the drug cartels' equivalent of pawns in a game of chess. Taking them out alone doesn't assure victory.

Fast and Furious had far loftier goals: To go after those directing gun buys on behalf of the cartels. Maybe bring down an entire trafficking cell. Or even cripple a cartel itself.

To try and capture a few kings.

A different kind of strategy was developed and put in motion. It went like this: Instead of working to interdict the many guns that were bought, ATF agents allowed weapons to move through the trafficking network in an attempt to identify additional conspirators and, ideally, build a bigger, stronger case."

Those with experience in law enforcement should already be seeing the inherent absurdity. She continues:

"It was a risky proposition for a typically risk-adverse agency, a strategy in which the consequences may not have been entirely thought through. But this puzzle had many more pieces that came together to complete the final picture: Gun laws that make curbing arms trafficking challenging. Several unsuccessful prosecutions. A government faced with a deadly, and growing, problem and the need for a solution, no matter the hurdles.

By the time Fast and Furious was launched in the fall of 2009, gun violence in Mexico was clearly out of control. Daily news reports described bloody shootouts as drug cartels battled for power, and worry had increased about cross-border violence in the many burgs straddling the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

Mexico looked to the United States to both blame and beg for help. Its own stiff gun laws had long driven criminals north of the border to expand their armories, but better efforts to trace crime guns recovered in Mexico underscored the enormity of the problem.

By 2009, the ATF was reporting that some 90 percent of the weapons Mexican authorities recovered and submitted for tracing originated in the United States, and pressure was increasing from Mexican officials for the United States to address the issue. Even before he was sworn in, Barack Obama vowed to Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the United States would step up efforts to stop the trafficking of weapons south.

The question was how to do it."

Ms. Arrillaga does lay out the potential motivations of higher-ups in the ATF and DOJ quite well. However, she not only misses the pointtheir real motivations--but stops far short of explaining why their ideas were, at their very foundation, idiotic. The only way to "capture a few kings" would be to follow illegally purchased gun from the point of their illegal purchase until they actually found their way into the hands of the heads of drug cartels in Mexico. Any rational ATF agent could have told those coming up with such a schemeif they actually thought it through to any degreethat it would not and could not work. In fact, rational agents tried to do just that.

The heads of cartels weren't sending people on shopping trips for personal weapons. No cartel head said "Jose, I would like a new Glock 17. Please send someone to Bob's Gun Emporium in Phoenix to pick one up for me." They would almost certainly never lay eyes on these weapons, which were for the use of their soldiers, people at the lowest levels of their criminal enterprises. At best, they would always be many levels removed from actual involvement. Prosecution would require the arrest of lower-ranking criminals within their organizations and "flipping" them, convincing them to testify against people higher up the chain who gave them orders to break the law. When we consider that these people would know that testifying against their bosses would lead not only to their deaths but the horrible deaths by rape and torture of all the members of their families, it's easy to understand the lunacy of this approach.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Mexican cartel bosses are wanted for far more serious crimes than illegally procuring guns in America: crimes such as extortion, kidnapping, bribery, uncountable numbers of drug crimes, conspiracies and murders too numerous to count. Mexican law enforcement--at every level--is compromised by criminals. Even if this was not so, Mexican cooperation with American law enforcement is unreliable at best and is often hostile. The Mexican government is not exactly consistently cooperative when it comes to extradition of criminal suspects, particularly those who have bought off much of the government.

Even so, all of this is not the biggest hurdle to success. ATF and DOJ leaders wouldn't even tell their own agents in Mexico about the case. If the ATF hid the detailseven the very existence--of the case from its own people, how could the ATF possibly work with Mexican authorities in all of the ways necessary to eventually build criminal cases against the heads of cartels?

The biggest problem, a problem that Ms. Arrillaga avoids, is that this was never a real law enforcement operation. Even if we discount the Obama Administration's terminal schizophrenia in trying to determine whether such things are threats to national security or common crimes which should be prosecuted in the criminal courts, any competent reporter should be able to smell the real motive behind Gunwalker. However, it would appear that Ms. Arrillaga is a standard AP/legacy media reporter.

By this I mean that such people do not sit down to meetings every morning and brainstorm ways to damage conservatives. Well, actually, some of them do, as we learned in the Journolist scandal, but for the most part this just doesn't happen. It's not necessary because in most news shops, there is not a single conservative or independent. Everyone shares the same assumptions, beliefs and motivations. Ms. Arrillaga, for example, uncritically repeats the Obama Administration's 90% lie. Her obviously anti-gun beliefs underlie her writing and undermine her ability to dig deeply enough to unearth the real genesis of Gunwalker. If you are predisposed to believe that gun ownership itself is a societal evil, you're particularly unlikely to question such lies.

The Obama Administration was not content to manipulate the already substantial carnage in Mexico and on our southern border to lobby for greater gun control, though they certainly tried. The lie that 90% of the guns seized in Mexico by Mexican law enforcement authorities were purchased in the US has always been a part of effort. Some have more recently revised the lie downward to 70%. There seems little doubt that the Administration was determined to force the violence and public outcry over it to escalate in ways that would predictably lead to the deaths of more Mexicans and Americans to build support for additional gun controls that could not be obtained through the legislative process due to an almost complete lack of public support. Such an irredeemably evil policy could only have been formulated at the highest levels of government. Ms. Arrillaga does not develop the well-known involvement of the FBI, Homeland Security, IRS and even the State Department in this debacle. She does not mention the testimony of ATF managers that has, only this week, placed direct knowledge of the case in the White House for the first time. We have long known about the direct involvement of Justice Department officials of the highest rank, but she does not develop this in any significant sense.

The media often professes great respect for the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, and is often outraged by alleged violations of the law by governmental officials (particularly when they are Republicans). Ms. Arrillaga provides a case in point:

" several cases had been tossed over lack of evidence. Most notable was one of the last big cases the Phoenix ATF investigated before Fast and Furious the widely publicized probe of gun shop owner George Iknadosian, who was accused of knowingly selling hundreds of guns to straw buyers.

In March 2009, a judge threw out the case against Iknadosian, noting that the weapons were purchased legally and there was no proof that they ultimately wound up in the hands of unlawful possessors. It was a hard pill to swallow, and the lead agent on that case, ATF special agent Hope MacAllister, would go on to become the lead case agent for Fast and Furious."

Examining Ms. Arrillaga's prose on its face, there is no "there" there. The federal law regarding straw purchases of firearms requires the government to prove the person purchasing a firearm was doing it with the knowledge that the gun was actually being purchased for someone who could not legally purchase the gun themselves. That is the crime, and it is the government's obligation to prove its elements. This is the nature of our criminal justice system: the presumption of innocence. If I legally buy a gun, and several months later, sell it to a friend, not knowing that he is not legally authorized to buy a gun himself, I have not violated the law. I have not made a straw purchase, and no rational federal prosecutor should try to bring a case against me. They can certainly prosecute my friend who knew that he was not allowed to own firearms, but I am blameless.

According to Ms. Arrillaga's story, the guns were legally purchased and there was no evidence that they were ever given to people who could not legally possess them. If this is the caseand Ms. Arrillaga represents that it iswhat could possibly have possessed any federal prosecutor to bring charges in the first place? There was no crime! Yet Ms. Arrillaga writes the story as though the Judge involved threw out a worthy case on a technicality, writing: "it was a bitter pill to swallow." Indeed it was, but the pill was bitter because, as Ms. Arrillaga represented it, the government had no case to begin with.

How could Ms. Arrillaga have missed this? Again, if you believe that the mere possession of firearms is inherently bad, that it marks those who possess them as stupid, unsophisticated, even inherently dangerous, and if you believe that government should restrict civilian ownership and use of firearms in any way possible, it becomes easy to ignore any elements of a story that get in the way of that narrative. Gun dealers sell guns. This is bad. The government charged a gun dealer with a crime involving guns, so he should have been convicted.

Ms. Arrillaga does well explain why ATF field agents found the plans of their superiors horrifying, yet suggests that many were excited to be involved in such a cutting edge, "creative" case. She does expose, step by step, how the agents became disenchanted and how, with the death of Border Patrol Officer Brian Terry, the whistleblowing began. Yet, she still can't figure out what is going on:

"That the goal was laudable, no one disputes. But in the aftermath of Fast and Furious, the ATF and Justice Department are rethinking old investigative techniques vs. new, whether the end justifies the means, and how to better weigh risks vs. benefits.

The Justice Department has since clarified its policy regarding gun investigations, prohibiting operations "which include guns crossing the border." The policy adds that if there is knowledge that guns are about to enter Mexico, "immediate action" should be taken to get the weapons even if it jeopardizes an investigation. Also, gun shops in Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona are now required to alert the ATF to purchases of two or more high-powered rifles in a five-day span to help agents spot suspicious buying patterns."

The goal was not laudable. It was farcical, impossible. No rational law enforcement agency could have possibly believed that it could have worked. The only possible explanationthat the Obama Administration manipulated and materially worsened the violence in Mexico and along the border at the entirely foreseeable escalated cost in lives in pursuit of gun control policiesentirely escapes Ms. Arrillaga who speaks instead of the clarification of DOJ policies, such as actually seizing guns about to illegally enter Mexico, policies which have theoretically always been in place and which are ATF SOP (standard operating procedure). She also uncritically parrots a new Obama mandate requiring FFL licensees in the border region to tell the ATF about the purchase of two or more rifles within five days.

Ms. Arrillaga ignores the brutal irony inherent in this. The ATF was aware of the illegal purchases of thousands of weapons, often hundreds in a single transaction. Agents not only watched such sales being made in person, they actually set up video feeds so ATF and DOJ bureaucrats in Washington could watch straw purchases being made in real time, vicariously living the excitement. Her anti-gun preconceptions prevent her from putting two and two together and asking the questions which logically result. She wrote that the ATF was aware of the illegal sale of thousands of guns, sales worried gun dealers reported to the ATF before and as they were happening. She wrote that the ATF, over and over again, told them to make those sales. She wrote that after the sales were made, ATF agents were ordered to simply let the guns walk. She wrote that hundreds, even thousands of these guns are still unaccounted for.

Why then wouldn't she wonder why a policy requiring gun dealers to do, on a much smaller scale what they have already been doing for years, not only makes no sense, but is obviously nothing more than part of a desperate attempt to obscure real incompetence and criminality on the part of the highest levels of the Obama Administration? Can't she at least see that such a policy is simply another meaningless gun control gesture that can have no effect on real criminals? Like most of her legacy media colleagues, her preconceptions prevent her from seeing the glaringly obvious reality apparent to those who understand that it is not inanimate objects that perpetrate evil, but people.

Ms. Arrillaga has indeed done a service of information, and her article is not blatantly anti-gun, yet the anti-gun, anti-freedom assumptions of too much of the legacy media are clearly present. Ms. Arrillaga has inadvertently informed the public of the fact that those assumptions prevent reporters from actually getting at the real story, substituting instead the predictable anti-gun narrative. I suspect that Ms. Arrillaga is an honest, hard working reporter who cannot imagine that she is biased, and who simply cannot see what she is missing. If you were surrounded by people who shared your assumptions, beliefs and political goals, you'd probably be in the same boat.

Ms. Arrillaga's article is ultimately a case of caveat emptorlet the buyer bewarein reading wire service journalism.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 30, 2011 03:20 PM