What do you think of ATF: Mexican cartels paid to inform for FBI, DEA?
WASHINGTON The embattled head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has told congressional investigators that some Mexican drug cartel figures targeted by his agency in a gun-trafficking investigation were paid informants for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Kenneth Melson, the ATF's acting director, has been under pressure to resign after the agency allowed guns to be purchased in the U.S. in hopes they would be traced to cartel leaders.
Under the gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of the guns. Many were found at crime scenes in Mexico. Two guns also were recovered near Nogales, Ariz., where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.
In two days of meetings with congressional investigators over the weekend, Melson said the FBI and DEA kept the ATF "in the dark" about their relationships with the cartel informants. If ATF agents had known of the relationships, the agency might have ended the investigation earlier, he said.
As a result of Melson's statements, "our investigation has clearly expanded," a source close to the congressional investigation said this week, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. "We know now it was not something limited to just a small group of ATF agents in Arizona."
"This whole misguided operation might have been cut short if not for catastrophic failures to share key information," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter this week.
Ronald Welch, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, responded that the Justice Department was still discussing how to provide any "sensitive law enforcement information" regarding the FBI and DEA to congressional investigators.
Without acknowledging that cartel leaders were paid informants, he said their main focus is "how best to protect ongoing investigations."
"Like you," he told Issa and Grassley on Wednesday, "the department is deeply interested in understanding the facts surrounding Operation Fast and Furious."
Mexican authorities have long complained that most of the guns that fuel its drug wars are purchased in the U.S.
On Wednesday, Mexican federal police released a videotaped interrogation with recently captured Jesus Rejon Aguilar, an alleged founder of the Zetas gang who is wanted in the slaying of a U.S. immigration agent in Mexico. He told them that "all the weapons are bought in the United States" and that "even the American government itself was selling the weapons."
Melson: ATF made mistakes
Issa and Grassley said Melson "was candid in admitting mistakes that his agency made."
They said he told them he reviewed documents about Fast and Furious, and was "sick to his stomach when he obtained those documents and learned the full story."
Melson said ATF agents had witnessed the transfer of weapons from straw purchasers to others "without following the guns any further," contradicting statements by the Justice Department.
Sources both on Capitol Hill and at the ATF said Melson did not volunteer the information about the FBI and DEA informants. Rather, they said, he "corroborated" it when congressional investigators told him other sources said the FBI and DEA had a role in Fast and Furious lasting for months.
"The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities," Issa and Grassley said in their letter to Holder.
They said Melson apparently only became aware of this after indictments of the straw gun purchasers were handed down after the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, killed in a gun battle in December along a smuggling route in Arizona.
- Matt HLv 68 years agoBest Answer
America makes money by selling guns to these drug cartels. Then when their drugs are shipped to America, we imprison the drug users and use the prison inmates as extremely cheap labor to compete with factories in China and other third world nations.
They have been doing this for decades. The War on Drugs is not only making corrupt government officials filthy rich, it is making drug cartels filthy rich. Frankly, I dont know which is the larger crook.
I dont do drugs and I never have. But there is absolutely no logical reason to not decriminalize drugs and regulate them. This is the same thing that happened during the Prohibition Era. Despite study after study proving lower crime and drug-use rates, the government refuses to face the facts. Instead the US imprisons more of its people than any other nation on earth.