[Translations of three articles from La Jornada of Mexico City. See related article here.]
Barack Obama declares he never authorized arms trafficking to Mexico
[From La Jornada for March 24. See original here.]
Washington, March 23 – United States President Barack Obama said during an interview granted to the Spanish-language television network Univisión that there will be an investigation into the trafficking of weapons to Mexico, which had been authorized by a federal agency, an operation he declared he knew nothing about.
“In the first place, I did not authorize it. Nor did Eric Holder, the attorney general, approve that operation… So what he has done in this case was to assign an inspector general to investigate exactly what happened,” Obama declared in the first part of an interview broadcast by the news network last Tuesday night.
“Absolutely not,” the United States president added when asked whether he had been informed of the operation known as Fast and Furious, which provoked a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
“We have developed excellent cooperation (with the Mexican government) and perhaps a situation developed in which there was a serious error. If that is the case, we will find out and, of course, there will be consequences,” the president added…
Fast and Furious was authorized in Washington, former ATF head reveals
[From La Jornada for March 26. See original here.]
The United States network CBS has reported that the controversial Operation Fast and Furious was approved by high-level officials in the United States Justice Department, according to statements by agent Darren Gil, who headed the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) office in Mexico…
In an interview with CBS, Gil indicated that someone “at a very high level” in the Department of Justice (DOJ) knew about the monitored arms trafficking and that it was his own immediate supervisor in the ATF office in Washington who confirmed that the operation was approved by officials above Kenneth Melson, acting director general of ATF.
“Does the director (Melson) know about this?” Gil asked his supervisor. “Yes, he knows [about the deliberate passage of arms into Mexico]. Not only does the director know, the Department of Justice knows,” was the answer he received.
He added that another directive he received from Washington was not to inform Mexican authorities about the matter.
According to the CBS interview, in the midst of tension experienced in the ATF during the summer of 2010 because of the apprehensiveness of several agents who had gotten the order to allow weapons to cross into Mexico, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, along with other DOJ officials, visited Mexico to speak with ATF personnel in the country about “a large operation” against arms trafficking that was “getting good results.” Melson also made that trip.
During the visit Gil as well as his assistant subdirector and his analyst questioned Kenneth Melson on the sudden appearance of United States weapons in Mexico. According to Gil, the ATF director indicated that this, which he described as “a good case,” was still in progress, for which he offered to end it “as soon as we can,” CBS reported.
During the network interview, Gil said he had detected the first irregularities at the beginning of 2010, when the serial numbers of weapons used in crimes related to drug cartels were traced to Phoenix, Arizona, where Fast and Furious began.
But when one of Gil’s analysts tried to review ATF files on his computer to learn more about the case, he found it was blocked.
“Not only did he not have access, I, as assistant director and as the highest ranking official in Mexico for ATF operations, didn’t either,” Gil said.
As an ATF representative in Mexico, Gil indicated that it was his job to approve any agency operation involving Mexico, and he never approved putting Fast and Furious into effect.
On January 25, 2010, Gil sent an e-mail to all his personnel in which he stressed that no firearms would be allowed into Mexico without his approval.
In the e-mail he also indicated that if he should authorize such a move the weapons were to be confiscated on the Mexican side of the border as soon as they crossed.
At the time Gil was sending this e-mail, ATF agents in Phoenix were beginning to leak information to CBS about the order they had received to allow weapons to cross into Mexican territory and into the hands of the drug cartels. The idea was apparently that this was “a big deal.”
According to the United States network, Gil confronted his supervisor in Washington over Operation Fast and Furious.
He maintained that [the supervisor’s] direct order was “not to inform his fellow agents in Mexico about the operation.”
In December, 2010, Darren Gil retired from the ATF, in part because of his refusal to participate in Operation Fast and Furious, which for 15 months had allowed the entry of some 2,000 weapons into Mexico.
He stated that he had agreed with CBS to clarify that ATF personnel in Mexico never knew of the operation, but that it had been approved at the highest levels in Washington…
Head of ATF avoids testifying on Fast and Furious
[From La Jornada for March 29. See original here.]
Mexico City – The acting director of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, did not appear at the session of the United States Senate that was to look into the scandal known as Fast and Furious, CBS News reports.
Congress and the media have not so far had much luck obtaining answers from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on Operation Fast and Furious.
The Justice Department and the ATF have failed to appear at apppointments for supplying information and documents to Senator Charles Grassley, who is carrying out the investigation.
The ATF scheduled acting director Kenneth Melson to appear before the Senate on Thursday, when he would likely have been asked about the scandal. Nevertheless, CBS News has confirmed that Melson had been taken off the list of witnesses for the hearing.
We contacted the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ask why Melson alone was scheduled to appear. We were referred to the office of Senator Roberto Menéndez, who presides over the subcommitte carrying out the hearings.
A press spokeswoman in the Senate office said that it was Melson’t decision not to testify and that the subcommittee does not have jurisdiction over ATF.
Later, a spokesman notified us in an e-mail that “the subcommittee had invited, but had not confirmed, Mr. Melson as well as other ATF officials to testify at the heatring this week.
The investigation could also have derailed any chance for Andrew Traver, President Obama’s candidate to be permanent head of ATF, to have confirmation hearings soon.
Mr. Obama appointed Melson, formerly an attorney with the Justice Department, as acting director in April, 2009. Sources in the Senate Judiciary Committee believe that confirmation hearings for Traver were about to be scheduled before the scandal erupted. Now they believe confirmation hearings for Traver will not happen in the near future.