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This is the second of a two-part series of articles arguing that the Department of Justice corruption and illegality at the heart of Fast and Furious trace back to Eric Holder’s office and the Arizona branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice gun-tracing operation known as “Fast and Furious” originated in the first year of the Obama administration, when Mexico began complaining that its drug war was the responsibility of the United States.
Mexico calculated the U.S. could be blamed for the drug war because U.S. citizens create a market for the drug cartels by consuming drugs.
But even more ingeniously, Mexico began asserting that U.S. citizens were supplying the gun cartels with the weapons needed to fight the Mexican government in the drug war.
The gun-running, the Obama administration quickly realized, would be an excellent pretense under which to push for serious Second Amendment restrictions.
The only problem was there was no proof Mexico was right. How could the Department of Justice under the political direction of Attorney General Eric Holder prove that the guns the Mexican cartels used to kill thousands of Mexicans in the drug war were sold to the Mexican cartels by American gun dealers?
Under Fast and Furious, the Obama administration allowed weapons to be sold to suspected Mexican drug operatives so they could be traced to the higher echelons of the cartels. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the operation, lost track of hundreds of weapons and many have been linked to crimes, including the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Mexico blames the U.S.
On March 25, 2009, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa gave an interview to Fox News in which she repeated Mexico’s claim:”It is a fact that 90 percent of the arms seized in Mexico come from the United States.”
She further specified that the only way Mexico could control its drug war was if the U.S. limited gun exports to Mexico.
She continued, saying: “So, for that reason, we see this as an effort to help strengthen the application of the U.S. legislation that provides for the prohibitions of arms exports to a country in which those arms are prohibited.”
February 2009 appears to be the month in which the Obama administration decided Holder should be the point man championing Mexico’s argument.
On Feb. 26, 2006, Brent Lang writing in the “Political Hot Sheet blog on CBSNews.com reported that Holder in announcing the capture of more than 50 alleged members of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel told reporters he was in favor of reinstituting the ban on the sale of assault weapons to help Mexico fight its drug war.
Responding to a reporter’s question on gun regulations, Holder said, “Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related charges that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons. I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.”
Holder had frequently called for restoring the Clinton administration-era ban on semi-automatic weapons.
According to Stephen Halbrook, a Ph.D. and a lawyer at the Independent Institute, Holder joined a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, arguing that the Second Amendment does not guarantee individual rights to bear arms.
In that 2008 case, the Supreme Court disagreed, deciding to overturn the District of Columbia handgun ban on Second Amendment grounds that reaffirmed an individual’s right to possess firearms for private use not related to a state militia.
Holder gets the ball rolling
Other administration officials and prominent Democrats in Congress immediately picked up Holder’s assertion about U.S. guns being used in the Mexico gun war.
On her first trip to Mexico as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton told reporters accompanying her that the U.S. has “co-responsibility” for fueling an alarming spike in violence along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” Clinton said. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.”
The assertion was repeated by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs.
“The drugs are coming north, and we’re sending money and guns south,” Durbin said. “As a result, these cartels have gained extraordinary power.”
Durbin claimed statistics from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives proved 90 percent of guns seized in Mexican raids could be traced back to the United States.
Durbin further claimed Brookings Institute statistics demonstrated about 2,000 firearms cross the U.S. border into Mexico every day, as reported by CNN.
In his one-on-one interview with President Obama, broadcast on the CBS television “Meet the Press” show on March 29, 2009, correspondent Bob Schieffer repeated the claim, asking the president: “It’s my understanding that 90 percent of the guns that they’re getting down in Mexico are coming from the United States. We don’t seem to be doing a very good job of cutting off the gun flow. Do you need any kind of legislative help on that front? Have you, for example, thought about asking Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons?”
President Obama said the main thing needed was better law enforcement, backing away from the opportunity to ask for new federal legislation to limit the Second Amendment.
Where’s the proof?
Holder’s claim evidently was based on testimony given by William Hoover, an ATF assistant director for field operations.
Yet, a close examination of Hoover’s written statement to Congress shows that he argued “there is more than enough evidence to indicate that over 90 percent of the firearms that have either been recovered in, or interdicted in transport to Mexico, originated from various sources within the United States.”
That is very different from claiming that 90 percent of all the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the U.S.
Fox News pointed out that a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing because it is obvious from their markings that they did not come from the U.S.
“Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market,” Matt Allen, a special agent of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, told Fox News.
The claim that 90 percent of all the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the U.S. is now largely discredited. It’s even disavowed by the Obama administration, especially after William Newell, the head of the ATF bureau in Phoenix during Operation Fast and Furious, admitted making mistakes in investigations and giving testimony to Congress that “lacked clarity.”
Why bother with U.S. guns?
Mexican drug cartels have billions of dollars each year to buy weapons, including fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers. Fox News pointed out that Interpol documents Russian Mafia groups are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.
Moreover, more than 150,000 soldiers have deserted the Mexican army in the last six years to join the drug cartels, with many taking their weapons with them. They include the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium. The Mexican government has seized 2,239 grenades in the last two years that are unavailable in U.S. gun stores.
“So why would the Mexican drug cartels, which last year grossed between $17 billion and $38 billion, bother buying single-shot rifles, and force thousands of unknown ‘straw’ buyers in the U.S. through a government background check, when they can buy boatloads of fully automatic M-16s and assault rifles from China, Israel or South Africa?” reporters William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott of Fox News asked in an article published on FoxNews.com April 2, 2009.