Gunrunner vs Fast & Furious: An overview to separate fact from fiction

UPDATE: Video added.

There has been what could best be described as a fog bank obscuring the truth on these two different operations. When we first started following the twists and turns of Operation Fast & Furious there was a great deal of confusion about this operation and what is known as Project Gunrunner. This confusion ultimately got a lot of help from trolls spreading false information to try to merge the two ops into one, the endgame being to link the debacle of Fast & Furious to the Bush administration under whom Gunrunner began, and provide cover for the Holder DOJ and ultimately the Obama administration.

We start with Project Gunrunner.

It began life as a Pilot Program out of the Laredo, TX office in 2005 and then expanded nationwide in 2006. Officially, its primary purpose was to assist the Mexican Government in the implementation of the agency’s E-Trace system. E-Trace is a web-based program that allows various Law Enforcement Agencies (foreign and domestic) to access BATFE’s firearm serial number database for the purpose of tracing firearms recovered at crime scenes or seized in raids. It falls under the auspices of the Southwest Border Initiative. It is outlined in an agency paper found here. A similar fact sheet was released in 2010 on the E-Trace program which is available here.

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General released a damning report (the working draft was completed in Sept. 2010 and sent to DOJ for input) from the conclusions drawn by the OIG (link: OIG REPORT PDF):

In addition, ATF needs to improve its sharing of firearms-trafficking
related information and techniques within its intelligence structure. ATF
Southwest border intelligence personnel need to more routinely exchange
information, analytical techniques, and best practices within and across
field divisions.

ATF also needs to revisit its implementation of a key component of
Project Gunrunner – the Border Liaison Program. We found that the
liaisons need to coordinate their cross-border activities between their own
field divisions and ATF’s Mexico Country Office and need their roles more
clearly defined.

Project Gunrunner’s investigative focus has largely remained on gun
dealer inspections and straw purchaser investigations, rather than targeting higher-level traffickers and smugglers. As a result, ATF has not made full use of the intelligence, technological, and prosecutorial resources that can
help ATF’s investigations reach into the higher levels of trafficking rings.
ATF also needs to make better use of the OCDETF Program, to extend its
investigative reach into higher levels of firearms trafficking rings.

The next paragraph is particularly ominous considering the events of less than three months later of December 14, 2010, the tragic death of USBP Agent Brian Terry.

ATF did not effectively implement Project Gunrunner as a multiagency
program. Despite the existence of an MOU between ATF and ICE,
collaboration between the agencies, which share jurisdiction over firearms
trafficking, must be improved. ATF needs to provide supplemental guidance
to field supervisors on the coordination of pertinent and necessary
information in areas of concurrent jurisdiction between ATF and ICE.

What this means is that Agent Terry and his fellow agents never had any idea of what they ultimately ran into that fateful December day in 2010. You can read the OIG’s report, the working draft, as I or apparently anyone else cannot track down a copy of the finished report. However, the draft is pretty damning all on its own.

As to Operation Fast & Furious, it began in 2009, ostensibly as a sting operation. It should have been simple enough: attract straw-purchasers intent on running firearms south, track them to the US/Mexico border arrest them and seize the firearms. However as we now know one or more persons at the agency apparently figured if they tracked them to the end buyer and caught them it might be just the ticket up the ladder. It might have continued under the “radar” had it not been for four agents who came forward upon learning that the weapon that killed USBP Agent Terry was a “walked” weapon, one of these was Agent Vince Cefalu who was subsequently terminated by the BATFE in 2011, after he came forward about the operation.
As we are all aware this operation has come under a Joint Congressional investigation led by Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Charles Grassley. So far what the investigation has turned up that:

BATFE knowingly allowed as many as 2,500 firearms to be sold illegally to known or suspected straw purchasers. One of those purchasers accounted for over 700 illegal guns.

BATFE ordered its agents working the program not to arrest illegal gun buyers or to interdict thousands of guns that were allowed to “walk” into criminal hands.

Senior BATFE officials in Washington were regularly briefed on the operation and approved of the tactics employed.

BATFE agents who opposed the operation and who raised objections were told to “get with the program” and threatened with job retaliation if they continued their opposition.

In closing, I am providing some links to pertinent information for your inspection, too large to include in this post. They are as follows:

Sen.Grassley’s testimony.

The accompanying slide show – PDF.

The Initial Findings from the House Oversight investigation – PDF.

UPDATE: A BIG tip of the chapeau to TheRightScoop for finding this.

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