Congressional team still in doubt about death of border agent
FBI chief denies cover-up in Terry slaying
Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star |
Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011 12:01 am
Dogged by continuing questions, the director of the FBI denied last
week that the bureau has covered anything up regarding the murder of
U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
"To the contrary, every available necessary resource has been put on
that and similar investigations where we lose one of our own," Robert
Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It was the latest denial by Mueller or other Justice Department
officials, but it probably won't be the last as the FBI faces
continuing questions from congressional investigators. Also
perpetuating the sense of mystery about the case is that a judge has
sealed the criminal case against Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, the only
man known to have been charged with Terry's murder on Dec. 14, 2010,
near Rio Rico.
The curiosity of congressional investigators and other critics
remains unquenched over two main issues:
• How many guns have been recovered or were used in relation to
• Was an FBI informant connected, perhaps by providing arms, to the
bandits who ended up killing Terry?
On Wednesday, Mueller denied the idea, raised by U.S. Rep. Darrell
Issa and others, that more than one weapon was recovered. "There was
no third weapon found at the scene," he said. "Why there were
suggestions as to a third, I'm still not certain."
One of the reasons people such as Issa, a leader of the investigation
of Fast and Furious, continue to press the issue of weapons is that
it's still unclear what weapon was used to kill Terry. The FBI tested
the two Romanian-made assault rifles recovered at the scene and could
not confirm or exclude the possibility that either was the murder
They were, however, weapons bought in the Phoenix area by accused
"straw buyers" who were unwittingly part of the ATF investigation.
Also, defendant Osorio-Arellanes told investigators there were five
members of the group, and all were armed, said an FBI affidavit filed
in pursuit of a search warrant last year.
The question of informants is perhaps equally persistent and even
more intriguing. While the suggestion may sound cloak-and-dagger, in
July Issa and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley raised the question in a
letter to Mueller:
"In recent weeks, we have learned of the possible involvement of paid
FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious," they wrote.
"Specifically, at least one individual who is allegedly an FBI
informant might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even
conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring."
For critics of the ATF, such as agent Vince Cefalu, a dissident ATF
agent who helped uncover Fast and Furious, it's a given that an FBI
informant was somehow connected to the Terry killing. Cefalu, whom
the agency is trying to fire, bases his conclusion in part on Web-
based news stories quoting anonymous sources. He believes an FBI
informant was one of the purchasers of guns sold as part of Operation
Fast and Furious.
The crossing of paths between different agencies' investigations and
informants isn't as far-fetched as it may sound. Such criss-crossing
happens frequently on the border, where numerous agencies work a
variety of investigations and don't necessarily keep each other up to
date on the details of their cases unless necessary.
"We see that happening, where one informant will give us information,
and we'll find out from somebody else, that person is their
informant," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.
Tony Coulson, who ran the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tucson
office until retiring in 2010, said agencies try to avoid conflicts
but often have to wait to disentangle themselves until after their
investigations or informants have crossed paths.
Terry's family is satisfied with the FBI's performance and that of
the federal prosecutors in San Diego who have taken over the case,
said attorney Patrick McGroder, who represents Terry's parents.
"The family simply wants to make clear they want full justice for
Brian's death," McGroder said. "Wherever that investigation leads,
the family will support that."
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/fbi-chief-denies-