Has “Project Gunrunner” Become “Project Gunwalker”?
By David Codrea
From the June 2011 Issue of GUNS Magazine Rights Watch Column
Editor’s Note: Due to the timely nature of David Codrea’s “Rights Watch” column we have decided to begin running it here on the website first. The stories below will also run in the print edition of GUNS in June and July, respectively. Be sure to check back and read “Rights Watch” here first—while it’s hot. Check back here the 1st of every month for up-to-date articles about the Second Amendment.
“Federal law enforcement sources have confirmed that two guns, part of a series of purchases that were being monitored by authorities, were found at the scene of the firefight that killed a US Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona,” a story from The Los Angeles Times began.
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms—the agency tasked with keeping US guns from being smuggled to Mexico—has come under fire for allegedly allowing firearms to cross the border into Mexico,” echoed Fox News.
“ATF gunrunning probe strategy scrutinized after death of Border Patrol agent,” The Washington Post reported. Similar headlines were offered by the Associated Press and USA Today.
I’m pleased to report I had a hand in making this happen, along with Mike Vanderboegh at his Sipsey Street Irregulars blog.
We’d both been monitoring CleanUpATF.org for some time, a website run by “members of the ATF community to promote restoration of integrity, accountability and responsibility to ATF’s leadership, and regain the trust of the American taxpayer.” And we’d seen some pretty astounding charges there, including: ATF management allowed potentially hundreds of semiautomatic firearms to be “walked” across the Mexican border in order to pad statistics used to further budget and power objectives (I dubbed this “Project Gunwalker,” an ironic reference to ATF’s “Project Gunrunner” program designed to stop arms from going across the border); Mexican authorities were kept in the dark, and protests that they should be informed were overridden, ultimately by higher-ups in Washington, DC; Guns used in this operation were involved in a December 2010 incident in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.
Because of our public advocacy for oversight hearings into prior allegations, Vanderboegh and I were contacted by whistleblowing insiders wanting to attract Congressional and media attention but fearful of management reprisals. Thus began a labor of daily activity that included developing contacts, consulting with trusted advisors, communicating with our sources, trying to interest reporters, and no small amount of banging pots and pans on our websites to attract attention and pressure Senate staffers into arranging protection while they assessed the documentation our sources claimed would prove their allegations.
It paid off, resulting in a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to Kenneth Melson, Acting Director of ATF, expressing “serious concerns” about Project Gunrunner, and noting allegations about the slaying of the Border Patrol Agent “were accompanied by detailed documentation which appears to lend credibility to the claims…”
A follow-up letter copied Attorney General Eric Holder, and cautioned that ATF management must respect whistleblower protections, and that “obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime.”
That broke the dam. Suddenly reporters who were holding us at arm’s length were claiming the story as their own, which was needed to keep it from being buried and ignored.
Where things go from here will depend on what is learned under oath, and we’re pushing for that to happen. To quote Churchill, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Visit David’s blog: www.davidcodrea.com for more information on “Project Gunwalker.”—Editor