"Gun Walker" keeps growing
Now the former ATF attache to Mexico, in charge of agency operations there, is talking to CBS News. He was told that the operation had been approved by the acting ATF director and by higher officials at Justice Department, and that Assistant Attorney General and head of the Criminal Division Larry Breuer knew about it. And apparent it did result in a lot of traces that would illustrate how US guns were ending up in Mexico:
"Gil first found out something was amiss in early 2010 when serial numbers from a flood of guns used in cartel crimes were all tracing back to the same case in Phoenix: "Fast and Furious." But when Gil's analyst checked ATF's computer files to find out more, he hit a brick wall.
"Not only did he not have access, I as the attache, the head agent in Mexico for ATF operations, did not have access," says Gil. He was locked out.
That was a red flag because Gil says as the senior ATF official in Mexico, it was his job to approve any ATF operation involving Mexico; and he didn't approve this one."
UPDATE: in the comments, Dedicated_Dad hits it on the head:
(1) Have dealers - working as "confidential informants" - sell guns to straw buyers and report details to ATF.
(2) Allow guns to be smuggled into Mexico, without the knowledge of anyone IN Mexico - not the Mexi.gov, not US ATF agents or their boss the "attache", not ANYONE.
(4) Make some big case!
Please tell me what must -- or even theoretically COULD -- happen at step "3" for this to work!"
Exactly. How could anyone imagine (3). If the Mexican authorities don't know, they can't investigate (might not anyway, but if they don't know they surely cannot. ATF can hardly mount an on the ground investigation there, esp. without notifying local law enforcement. All that could ever be ascertained was that guns shipped to cartels wind up at crime scenes, and everyone already knew that. That'd get you nowhere toward making a big case.
Another thought: I'd initially figured knowledge of this operation wouldn't have gone to high levels. The managers who were running it probably would have figured that if they sent the info up the chain of command, somebody might stop it, or have lots of awkward questions, or delay until he got a lot of consensus (as in CYA -- spread the blame around if things go bad). But now it appears knowledge did go high. The guy who is telling the attache that it's gone to the agency head and higher is implicitly telling him: "if you keep arguing about this, you'll eventually have to explain to someone a LOT more powerful than you, and someone's gonna phrase it as "the operation you allowed -- there's some attache guy who thinks only a moron could have allowed it." And now it appears knowledge got as high as an Assistant Attorney General, an appointee. If it got that high, odds are good it would have gotten to the AG. And if it got to him, odds are decent that it got to the White House. I note the official denials are that anyone high up "approved" it. You can of course know of something, decide to let it run its course, and still deny having "approved" it. CYA and all that. "They told me about it, I just assumed they knew what they were doing."