Ostensibly the purpose of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious was to use the little fish (aka straw purchasers)as a means to reach the big fish of the Mexican drug cartels. After it came out last week that the ATF let Manuel Celis-Acosta, ringleader of the illegal gun buyers, off when they had him in custody at the US-Mexican border, we now learn that the so-called big fish were informants for the FBI.
According to DEA and Congressional reports, the two men were the primary cartel contacts used to finance the illegal gun trafficking ring. Jim Needles, the assistant Agent in Charge of the Phoenix ATF office estimated the brothers spent $250,000 on guns tracked by his agency while conducting Operation Fast and Furious. Needles called it “a disappointment” the FBI didn’t bother to tell his agency of the connection.
“You are getting at the very basis of this investigation,” Senator Charles Grassley said Friday.
“But I have to wait till we have all the information before we bring down the hammer.”
Grassley first revealed in September 2011 the FBI, knew, but failed to tell the ATF, it’s informants were part of the gun trafficking ring. Then in February, Grassley called them “the big fish” ATF had been looking for the entire time.
Both the FBI and DEA know the Miramontes brothers’ role and identity, but declined to tell the ATF during a “deconfliction” meeting Dec. 15, 2009. Nor did either agency speak up at any of the joint meetings all three agencies attended of the Southwest Border Initiative. The DEA and ATF’s Group 7 shared the same floor of the same building and the same ‘wire room’ to listen to wiretaps of suspects.
Eventually and under pressure, the FBI invited top ATF officials to a classified briefing in El Paso in the late summer of 2010 and described the Eduardo and Jesus Miramontes as “a national security assets”. The two men were “off limits, untouchable and indictable” said a source familiar with the briefing.
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Mike Vanderboegh offers this analysis of the news:
Is it becoming clearer? Black operations are compartmentalized. The only thing that is required is the ability to deflect interest from other agencies and supervisors within a given agency who might be meddlesome. “National security” goes a long way. What is also required are back-channel means of communication and control. Can you say from “old friends” like the State Department’s Kevin O’Reilly serving on the National Security Council and “Gunwalker Bill” Newell in Phoenix? I knew you could. And remember the one thing in Phoenix which would be required would be someone in control who could issue the proper orders and put them in a nice legal-looking frame — Janet Napolitano’s lickspittle, anti-gun zealot Dennis K. Burke. Personnel is policy.
Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich is leading a counter-attack by accusing Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and their investigators of “impeding the Department’s efforts to hold individuals accountable for their illegal acts.” Moreover, as David Codrea notes, Weich’s objections center around the fact that ATF knew Manuel Celis-Acosta was trafficking in firearms and still let him go despite that knowledge. His attempt at deflection on the leaks coming from the Department of Justice is a day late and a dollar short given what we now know.