Last week, a scary new report came out from the Associated Press on the drug cartels presence in the continental United States:
Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States — an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world’s most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits.
If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels’ move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.
Cartel activity in the U.S. is certainly not new. Starting in the 1990s, the ruthless syndicates became the nation’s No. 1 supplier of illegal drugs, using unaffiliated middlemen to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and heroin beyond the border or even to grow pot here.
But a wide-ranging Associated Press review of federal court cases and government drug-enforcement data, plus interviews with many top law enforcement officials, indicate the groups have begun deploying agents from their inner circles to the U.S. Cartel operatives are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast.
“It’s probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime,” said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago office.
Since the Mexican government initiated a military offensive against its country’s powerful drug cartels in December 2006, some 50,000 people have perished and the drugs continue to flow. The growing violence has created concerns that Mexico could become a failed state, and U.S. political leaders also worry that the corruption and violence is seeping across the border into the United States.
In his compelling new book, Ted Galen Carpenter details the growing horror overtaking Mexico and explains how the current U.S.-backed strategies for trying to stem Mexico’s drug violence have been a disaster. Boldly conveyed in The Fire Next Door, the only effective strategy is to defund the Mexican drug cartels by abandoning the failed drug prohibition policy, thereby eliminating the lucrative black-market premium and greatly reducing the financial resources of the drug cartels.
Last month, Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report that acknowledged the short-comings of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Operation Fast and Furious, assigning responsibility to more than a dozen officials. The report, however, left many questions unanswered — including, as Jim Geraghty explained, how Attorney General Eric Holder was seemingly unaware of an operation in which ATF agents knowingly allowed thousands of weapons cross the border and wind up in the hands of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels.
With Holder uncooperative during congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious — and later shielded by President Obama — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, let it be known at the time that the report was not a definitive account of the scandal, vowing to continue digging.
Issa has followed through on that promise. According to a new report, issued jointly with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Issa slammed the management at the DOJ for not shutting down Operation Fast and Furious as it grew increasingly out of control, costing the lives of innocent people:
House Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), have tried to dig deep into the sordid mess of Operation Fast and Furious, only to be meet with hostility from Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department.
The scheme led by the ATF, in which agents knowingly allowed some 2,000 guns to cross the border and into the hands of some of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels, resulted in the deaths of more than 200 innocent people, including Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. When Issa and other tried to get answers, they were stonewalled and lied to by Holder. President Barack Obama invoked “executive privilege” to keep documents related to the scandal out of the hands of investigators, despite Americans’ desire for transparency.
But a new report released yesterday sheds at least some light on the scandal and those who will ultimately bear responsibility for it:
The Justice Department’s inspector general recommended on Wednesday that 14 current federal officials face disciplinary reviews over the botched gun-trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious.
Last month, the House of Representatives took the extraordinary step of voting to find Attorney General Eric Holder in both criminal and civil contempt of Congress over his failing to comply with requests for documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal. Even though the Justice Department, which Holder oversees, will not pursue the criminal charges, House Republicans have indicated that they will follow through with the civil charge.
Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has invoked “executive privilege” in order to conceal documents related to the ATF operation gone awry. Early polls indicated that Americans opposed use of “executive privilege,” but the Obama Administration has not back down from its stance.
According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning, 53% of people questioned say they approve of the House vote a week and a half ago to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to a controversial program called Operation Fast and Furious, with one in three saying they disapprove of the move and 13% unsure.
Nearly three-quarters of Republicans approve of the move, as do a majority of independent voters, while a plurality of Democrats oppose the vote.
The storm may have gotten a little quiet since the House of Representatives voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, but it may be getting loud again soon thanks to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Hill reports that Sen. Grassley has sent a request to the Justice Department demanding more information on Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF gunwalking scheme that allowed firearms and munitions to cross the border with Mexico and into the hands of violent drug cartels:
On Tuesday, Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Holder questioning who within the Justice Department knew of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum reportedly circulated one day prior to the DOJ denying allegations of sanctioned “gunwalking” to lawmakers.
“I believe the Department should have been abundantly aware of allegations of gunwalking as there was more than one ATF agent providing information to Department components before the February 4, 2011, letter was sent to Congress,” he wrote.
Grassley alleges that his investigators contacted an ATF special agent on Feb. 2, 2011, who confirmed information provided by other ATF whistleblowers. The next day, that agent produced a memo documenting this discussion, which reportedly traveled through ATF’s chain of command.
It looked as though Attorney General Eric Holder was going to be able to avoid a looming contempt vote in the House provided he cooperated with the inquiry into the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. However, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said yesterday that he plans to move forward with the vote, as early as today, in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
A House committee is poised to vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over more Justice Department documents on a flawed gun-smuggling probe that resulted in hundreds of guns illicitly purchased in Arizona gunshops winding up in Mexico.
The likelihood of a contempt vote rose after Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., failed to reach agreement Tuesday in a 20-minute meeting at the Capitol.
Issa wanted the documents immediately. Holder told reporters he would not turn over documents on the gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious unless Issa agreed to another meeting congressional briefing on the Justice Department material. Holder wants an assurance from Issa that the transfer of the records would satisfy a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs.
“If we receive no documents, we’ll go forward” with a contempt vote, Issa told reporters.
“We have offered to make materials available … to brief on those documents, to answer any questions that might come up with regard to the documents that we produced,” the attorney general said.
The American Future Fund, a prominent GOP-leaning PAC that has committed millions for ads in the current election cycle, is looking to capitalize on the recent headache for Attorney General Eric Holder, who is facing a pending contempt vote in the House.
Now infamous, Operation Fast and Furious allowed ATF agents to knowingly allow straw purchasers to walk guns across the Mexico border in the midst of a violent war between drug cartels. Sadly, some of the weapons were used in the murders of dozens of innocent people. Since coming to light, the Obama Administration has been less than cooperative in providing information about the operation to Congress.
The new ad starts off with the mention of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in January 2010. AFF notes that weapons linked to the operation were linked at the scene of his murder. The ad points out that President Obama has denied knowledge of the operation and inconsistancies in Holder’s own testimony on the operation.
While many would rather avoid discussing Operation Fast and Furious, Ted Cruz, a conservative candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, has put out a very good web ad on the issue and the failures of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to properly investigate the matter: