Friday, December 9, 2011

Quickie Borderline Psychosis Update- Arms Sold to Mexican Police & Military Arming Cartels; Holder Appears Before House; DEA Laundering Drug Money?

Convoy of Mexican Federal Judicial Police Outside of Juarez
A CBS report has indicated that American firearms sold to the Mexican military and law enforcement in transactions approved by both the US State Department and Mexico's Secretariat of National Defense are ending up in the hands of drug cartels.
The problem of weapons legally sold to Mexico - then diverted to violent cartels - is becoming more urgent. That's because the U.S. has quietly authorized a massive escalation in the number of guns sold to Mexico through "direct commercial sales." It's a way foreign countries can acquire firearms faster and with less disclosure than going through the Pentagon.

Here's how it works: A foreign government fills out an application to buy weapons from private gun manufacturers in the U.S. Then the State Department decides whether to approve.

And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn't give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.

One weapon - an AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle - tells the story. In 2006, this same kind of rifle - tracked by serial number - is legally sold by a U.S. manufacturer to the Mexican military.

Three years later - it's found in a criminal stash in a region wracked by Mexican drug cartel violence.

That prompted a "sensitive" cable, uncovered by WikiLeaks, dated June 4, 2009, in which the U.S. State Department asked Mexico "how the AR-15" - meant only for the military or police - was "diverted" into criminal hands.

And, more importantly, where the other rifles from the same shipment went: "Please account for the current location of the 1,030 AR-15 type rifles," reads the cable.

There's no response in the record.
The State Department's Direct Commercial Sales program would be completely separate from the ATF's Operation 'Fast & Furious', where field agents were ordered to allow weapons obtained in the USA by straw purchasers to cross the border into Mexico, where they would later turn up at crime scenes.

However, corruption and incompetence on the part of Mexican officials seems to have been pivotal in organized crime obtaining military and police-issue weapons.

Two years before I even started this blog, in response to gun control advocates using the increasing violence in Mexico as an excuse to further restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners in the USA, I stated that a significant number of arms from military and police armories in Mexico were likely among the missing and arming cartel enforcers as police armorers or military quartermasters looked the other way. Cartels like Los Zetas- consisting largely of deserters from Mexico's special forces units- have likely used their military backgrounds to cultivate connections with the international arms markets as well as the black market. The Zetas have demonstrated in recent years that they are able to clean out entire arms depots in Central America.

WASHINGTON D.C.- In a House Judiciary hearing this week, Attorney General Eric Holder admitted that weapons allowed to 'walk' into Mexico would likely be turning up at crime scenes on both sides of the border for years to come.
"Although the department has taken steps to ensure that such tactics are never used again, it is an unfortunate reality that we will continue to feel the effects of this flawed operation for years to come," he said. "Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border."

Holder faced the ire of skeptical lawmakers who are demanding accountability. Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner told Holder Thursday that he considers impeachment on the table if Holder doesn't figure out who's responsible.
A day before the House Judiciary Hearings, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had called for the resignation of resignation of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer after recently disclosed e-mails showed that he was giving contradictory testimony before a previous Congressional committee.

Holder, for his part, vows that he won't be stepping down in the wake of Fast & Furious. Democrats in the House and Senate have also given the appearance of circling the wagons around Holder, using the Fast & Furious debacle to reiterate their calls for additional gun control laws or lavish praise on the Attorney General Holder for halting the ill-conceived program.

In fact, e-mails from ATF officials obtained by CBS news indicate that they were looking to use the gunwalking from Fast & Furious to make the case for stricter gun control regulations- particularly in border states.

The e-mails from July 2010 between the ATF's Phoenix office and the agency's headquarters discuss using the statistics from border states like Arizona to justify a regulation called 'Demand Letter 3', which would require licenced FFL dealers in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas to report to the ATF any transaction in which more than one long gun bigger than .22 caliber was purchased.
On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF's Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:

"Bill - can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks."
The request for the demand letter came after the ATF encouraged liscenced dealers to go ahead with transactions to customers the dealer thought were suspect. The correspondence showed that the agency also sought to minimize or completely conceal their own role in facilitating straw purchasers obtaining the weapons.

DEA- A New York Times report last week alleges that the DEA is engaged in what some are saying is the money-laundering equivalent to Operation Fast & Furious.
Anonymous officials described an effort by U.S. agents to launder or smuggle "millions of dollars" in drug money in order to monitor the flow of cash to and from the cartels in Mexico. One official told the Times there was "close supervision." Another official said the Americans worked with Mexican agents on the investigation. Officials told the newspaper that the DEA tried to seize as much as they laundered, in part through arrests at pickup locations.

The article also described how officials had to obtain Justice Department clearance to launder more than $10 million at a time, something that was approved many times.

The DEA issued a statement Tuesday defending its operations.

"The DEA has well-established mechanisms for coordinating and approving activities associated with the fight against money laundering," the DEA said. "As a result of this cooperation, DEA has seized illicit transnational criminal organization money all around the world through our partnership with law enforcement."

The DEA said it had been working "collaboratively" with Mexico to fight money laundering "for years."

"As part of that collaboration, DEA works with Mexican authorities to gather and use information about these criminal organizations to counter the threats they pose to both of our countries," the DEA said, adding that the joint investigations "have led to important advances and detentions in each country. The cooperation between the United States and Mexico is based on principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect for the jurisdiction of each country."
According to the New York Times article that ran on December 3rd, the DEA has successfully used similar tactics in other countries such as Colombia, but has only started to expand its use in Mexico over the past few years.

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