Executive Branch - POLITICS
Former DEA chief says 3 other federal agencies knew about Operation
Fast and Furious
By William La Jeunesse
Published February 10, 2012
While criticism surrounding Operation Fast and Furious has so far
focused on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, three other
federal agencies knew about the operation and some of their agents
tried to stop it, according to the former chief of the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration in Tucson.
Tony Coulson, the DEA's agent in charge of Southern Arizona during
Fast and Furious, says many federal field agents knew the ATF was
walking guns to Mexico, but supervisors told them to back off when
"Clearly, we went too far," Coulson said. "The question we had among
rank and file law enforcement was, 'When is someone going to call ATF
on this, when is someone going to tell them to stop?'"
Coulson's remarks jibe with what is already known about the
operation. The DEA, the FBI and ICE, also known as Immigration
Customs and Enforcement, all played roles in the investigation.
Coulson said those agencies share the blame since top officials knew,
but did little to stop, the gunrunning effort. Coulson is among the
first senior public officials, current or former, who admit knowing
about the botched operation.
Coulson claims he raised objections to then-DEA chief Elizabeth
Kempshall, but was told it was taken care of. After attending a
meeting with ATF agent in charge Bill Newell, Coulson said that's
when he and other agents "knew (Fast and Furious) was not some sort
of benign, pie-in-the-sky publicity stunt. Guns were actually getting
in the hands of criminals."
According to Congressional testimony and documents obtained by Fox
News, the other agencies involved include:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement assigned agent Layne France to
work alongside ATF in the operation. Sources say France replaced ICE
senior agent Ed Hamel, who objected to the ATF 'gunwalking' strategy.
As a member of the Fast and Furious task force, France received
copies of all ATF investigative reports, and sources say France knew
the operation in detail. Congressional investigators want to know who
at ICE and the Department of Homeland Security saw France's reports,
and how much he reported up the chain of command about the operation.
"I don't think ICE can get away from the fact they were there side by
side with ATF. They were not willing participants. This was something
they were told to do, but they were still there," Coulson said.
Sources say ICE agents who interdicted and seized weapons on the
Mexican border got in a battle with ATF over tactics. Coulson says
ICE agents stationed at Arizona ports of entry were told by
supervisors to let the issue go, because 'people above their pay
grade' had already signed off on the operation.
That version of events is supported by a document obtained Thursday
by Fox News. Twice in 2009, ICE was forced to halt gun investigations
because their inquiries conflicted with Operation Fast and Furious.
ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office told ICE "not to
interfere" because Fast and Furious took priority.
Sources say ICE Director John Morton ordered an internal review of
ICE involvement in Fast and Furious after the death of Border Patrol
Agent Brian Terry.
An ICE official said the agency could not comment on the latest
claims due to an ongoing investigation. ICE officials admit they knew
about Fast and Furious, but claim the agency did not know about the
controversial "tactics" involved until they were reported in the media.
The Drug Enforcement Administration actually helped initiate Fast and
Furious when one of its own targets, suspected drug dealer Manuel
Celis Acosta, began to acquire guns for the Sinaloa Cartel. The DEA
invited ATF to take over the weapons phase of that investigation.
The two agencies shared the same floor and same 'wire room' in
Phoenix, where agents listened to suspects' conversations on court-
approved wiretaps. The DEA also had initiated an investigation into
the "money men" behind Fast and Furious – two cartel associates in
the El Paso-Juarez area -- but deliberately did not tell the ATF.
However the names of the two high-level cartel contacts were written
"frequently" on call logs inside the wire room, according to a
congressional memo, but ATF agents failed to notice. This information
was available in January 2010, one year before Fast and Furious was
finally taken down.
The FBI had also opened an investigation of the two high-level cartel
associates targeted by the ATF. The FBI designated both men national
security assets but didn't alert the ATF. In exchange for one
individual's guilty plea to a minor count of "Alien in Possession of
a Firearm" both men became FBI informants and are now considered 'un-
indictable,' according to a congressional review of the situation.
When the ATF learned the FBI knew, but shielded their informants,
Agent Jim Needles called it "frustrating." Attorney General Eric
Holder said he would "look into" the lack of information sharing.
However, sources who have attended classified briefings say the two
are both are still inside the cartel and their identities cannot be
compromised, suggesting the FBI will likely escape congressional
scrutiny, despite their awareness of the tactics used in Fast and
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02/10/former-dea-