Note: For those who haven't seen this yet: BHO's "under the
radar"? SOP for this agency: "It's like ATF created or added to the
problem so they could be the solution to it and pat themselves on the
back," says one law enforcement source familiar with the facts. "It's
a circular way of thinking."
December 7, 2011 1:44 PM
Documents: ATF used "Fast and Furious" to make the case for gun
By Sharyl Attkisson
Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Bureau of Alcohol
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discussed using their covert
operation "Fast and Furious" to argue for controversial new rules
about gun sales.
PICTURES: ATF "Gunwalking" scandal timeline
In Fast and Furious, ATF secretly encouraged gun dealers to sell to
suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels to go after the "big
fish." But ATF whistleblowers told CBS News and Congress it was a
dangerous practice called "gunwalking," and it put thousands of
weapons on the street. Many were used in violent crimes in Mexico.
Two were found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
ATF officials didn't intend to publicly disclose their own role in
letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they
discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to
justify a new gun regulation called "Demand Letter 3". That would
require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or
"long guns." Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the
third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.
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."
On Jan. 4, 2011, as ATF prepared a press conference to announce
arrests in Fast and Furious, Newell saw it as "(A)nother time to
address Multiple Sale on Long Guns issue." And a day after the press
conference, Chait emailed Newell: "Bill--well done yesterday... (I)n
light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong
supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long
guns occurred during the course of this case."
This revelation angers gun rights advocates. Larry Keane, a spokesman
for National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group,
calls the discussion of Fast and Furious to argue for Demand Letter 3
"disappointing and ironic." Keane says it's "deeply troubling" if
sales made by gun dealers "voluntarily cooperating with ATF's flawed
'Operation Fast & Furious' were going to be used by some individuals
within ATF to justify imposing a multiple sales reporting requirement
The Gun Dealers' Quandary
Several gun dealers who cooperated with ATF told CBS News and
Congressional investigators they only went through with suspicious
sales because ATF asked them to.
Sometimes it was against the gun dealer's own best judgment.
Read the email
In April, 2010 a licensed gun dealer cooperating with ATF was
increasingly concerned about selling so many guns. "We just want to
make sure we are cooperating with ATF and that we are not viewed as
selling to the bad guys," writes the gun dealer to ATF Phoenix
officials, "(W)e were hoping to put together something like a letter
of understanding to alleviate concerns of some type of recourse
against us down the road for selling these items."
Read the email
ATF's group supervisor on Fast and Furious David Voth assures the gun
dealer there's nothing to worry about. "We (ATF) are continually
monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques
which I cannot go into detail."
Two months later, the same gun dealer grew more agitated.
"I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per
our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever
end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys. I guess I
am looking for a bit of reassurance that the guns are not getting
south or in the wrong hands...I want to help ATF with its
investigation but not at the risk of agents (sic) safety because I
have some very close friends that are US Border Patrol agents in
southern AZ as well as my concern for all the agents (sic) safety
that protect our country."
"It's like ATF created or added to the problem so they could be the
solution to it and pat themselves on the back," says one law
enforcement source familiar with the facts. "It's a circular way of
The Justice Department and ATF declined to comment. ATF officials
mentioned in this report did not respond to requests from CBS News to
speak with them.
The "Demand Letter 3" Debate
The two sides in the gun debate have long clashed over whether gun
dealers should have to report multiple rifle sales. On one side, ATF
officials argue that a large number of semi-automatic, high-caliber
rifles from the U.S. are being used by violent cartels in Mexico.
They believe more reporting requirements would help ATF crack down.
On the other side, gun rights advocates say that's unconstitutional,
and would not make a difference in Mexican cartel crimes.
Two earlier Demand Letters were initiated in 2000 and affected a
relatively small number of gun shops. Demand Letter 3 was to be much
more sweeping, affecting 8,500 firearms dealers in four southwest
border states: Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. ATF chose
those states because they "have a significant number of crime guns
traced back to them from Mexico." The reporting requirements were to
apply if a gun dealer sells two or more long guns to a single person
within five business days, and only if the guns are semi-automatic,
greater than .22 caliber and can be fitted with a detachable magazine.
On April 25, 2011, ATF announced plans to implement Demand Letter 3.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is suing the ATF to stop the
new rules. It calls the regulation an illegal attempt to enforce a
law Congress never passed. ATF counters that it has reasonably
targeted guns used most often to "commit violent crimes in Mexico,
especially by drug gangs."
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is investigating Fast and Furious, as
well as the alleged use of the case to advance gun regulations.
"There's plenty of evidence showing that this administration planned
to use the tragedies of Fast and Furious as rationale to further
their goals of a long gun reporting requirement. But, we've learned
from our investigation that reporting multiple long gun sales would
do nothing to stop the flow of firearms to known straw purchasers
because many Federal Firearms Dealers are already voluntarily
reporting suspicious transactions. It's pretty clear that the problem
isn't lack of burdensome reporting requirements."
On July 12, 2011, Sen. Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.,
wrote Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department oversees
ATF. They asked Holder whether officials in his agency discussed how
"Fast and Furious could be used to justify additional regulatory
authorities." So far, they have not received a response. CBS News
asked the Justice Department for comment and context on ATF emails
about Fast and Furious and Demand Letter 3, but officials declined to
speak with us.
"In light of the evidence, the Justice Department's refusal to answer
questions about the role Operation Fast and Furious was supposed to
play in advancing new firearms regulations is simply unacceptable,"
Rep. Issa told CBS News.