After weeks of stonewalling by the Department of Justice, a clearer picture of what its top officials knew about BATFE’s Operation Fast and Furious, and when they knew it, is slowly beginning to emerge.
On Tuesday, Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism about his knowledge of BATFE’s gunwalking operations, and his support for gun control.
In April 2010, Breuer says, he knew that BATFE agents had allowed hundreds of guns to be illegally purchased and smuggled to Mexican drug cartels in 2006 and 2007 as part of Wide Receiver, a Tucson-based operation similar to Fast and Furious, which was hatched out of Phoenix. Nevertheless, nearly a year later, when BATFE was accused of allowing guns to walk in Fast and Furious, Breuer suggested that he was convinced to not consider the allegations seriously. “I recall that both the leadership of ATF and the leadership of the United States Attorney's Offices in Arizona . . . were adamant about the fact that [gunwalking] was not, in fact, a condoned practice,” Breuer said. And as noted last week by the New York Times, last February the Justice Department sent a letter to Congress stating “A.T.F. makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transport into Mexico.”
Seeming to corroborate the 2007 date Breuer mentioned, the Associated Press reported today that a briefing paper prepared in 2007 for then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey “outlined failed attempts by federal agents to track illicitly purchased guns across the border into Mexico.” But why Breuer did not give more attention to the gunwalking claims made against Fast and Furious is as unclear to him as to the rest of the country. “I regret that in April of 2010 that I did not draw the connection between Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious,” Breuer said. “Moreover, I regret that even earlier this year, I didn't draw that connection.”
When it became Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s turn to question Breuer, the zealous anti-gun crusader from California tried to shift the focus of the hearings from battling international crime to battling those of us who support the Second Amendment.
The exchange between the two gun control supporters speaks for itself.
Feinstein: Mr. Breuer, in June of this year, I received a letter from the ATF. . . stating that 29,284 firearms [were] recovered in Mexico in '09 and 2010, and submitted to the ATF Tracing Center. With those weapons, 20,504, or 70 percent, were United States sourced. . . . Is it fair to say that 70 percent of the firearms showing up in Mexico are from the United States?
Breuer: Thank you, Senator, for the question, and for your leadership on this issue. . . . Of the 94,000 weapons that have been recovered in Mexico, 64,000 of those are traced to the United States. We have to do something to prevent criminals from getting those guns, Senator. . . .
Feinstein: . . . .“[W]e have very lax laws when it comes to guns. . . . And so the question comes, do you believe that if there were some form of registration when you purchase these firearms that that would make a difference?
Breuer: I do, Senator. . . . Today, Senator, we are not even permitted to have ATF receive reports about multiple sales of long guns, of any kind of semiautomatic weapon or the like. . . . Very few hunters in the United States or sports people and law-abiding people really need to have semiautomatic weapons or long guns. . . .”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been co-leading Congress’ investigation of Fast and Furious with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), disagreed with Feinstein’s and Breuer’s claim that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico come from the United States. “I released a report that I would like to ask be made a part of the record,” Senator Grassley said. “It refutes the numbers referenced early that 70 percent of the guns in Mexico came from the U.S. The answer isn't to clamp down on law abiding citizens or gun dealers.”
While Mr. Breuer’s testimony shined a glimmer of light on who knew what and when they knew it, about the BATFE’s most disastrous operation since the 1993 Waco raid, it obviously did not, nor was it intended to, lead Congress or the American people to a proper understanding of how many firearms have been smuggled to Mexico without BATFE’s help, since the Mexican drug cartels began waging war on their country. As has already been reported, many of the “guns traced to the U.S.” from Mexico were seized in that country many years ago, but have been only recently submitted for tracing at the urging of the BATFE. And to complicate things further, Mexican officials have acquiesced to BATFE’s urgings by submitting multiple trace requests on single guns.