Editor’s note: Sometimes things get confusing. The Right Scoop has a correction here. Apparently “gun-running” and “gun-walking” reference different programs. The video has been set to private.
At a March 24, 2009 press conference, posted over at The Right Scoop, Robert Gibbs introduced a program that he said was “very important to the President.” It was announced that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden would lay out the Obama Administration’s response to the situation along the border with Mexico, particularly the issue of the Mexican drug cartels smuggling guns onto American soil.
Deputy Attorney General David Ogden introduced the plan by saying, “the Department of Justice stands ready to take the fight to the Mexican drug cartels [...] the President has directed us to take action to fight these cartels, and Attorney General Holder and I are taking several new and aggressive steps as part of the administration’s comprehensive plan.”
Those steps included added 16 new DEA positions in southwest field border operations to complement the 11 offices in Mexico, the largest US drug enforcement presence in Mexico, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives would add 37 new employees in three new offices, using $10 million dollars of Recovery Act Funds. They would also redeploy 100 personnel to the Southwest border within 45 days. This was to “fortify Project Gunrunner, which is aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico.”
ATF would double their presence in Mexico, from five to nine personnel, to “facilitate gun tracing activity.”
Secretary Napolitano tried to alleviate concerns over guns potentially crossing the border into Mexico by explicating that they would increase southbound inspections, employ technology to help with the screening, and coordinating with Mexico to do southbound screening on their side. She also spoke about the value of DOJ increasing tracing to identify how the arms were getting to the traffickers from the United States. The increased presence of DOJ agents would result in more prosecution of arms dealers who were “putting guns into the hands of the smugglers.”
Again, speaking to the value of the DOJ in Operation Gunrunner, Secretary Napolitano said, “that is part of the reason why the Department of Justice is such an essential part of this initiative on Mexico.”
Emphasis mine. In short, with stimulus dollars, at the direction of the Obama Administration, with the Department of Justice’s cooperation, the American Department of Homeland Security was providing weapons in hopes of discovering how they were reaching Mexico, and who was trafficking them to Mexican drug cartels. The DOJ would prosecute the offenders.
Project Gunrunner was the precursor to Fast and Furious, sometimes dubbed “Project Gunwalker.” Project Gunwalker describes the mission where the monitored guns were allowed to fall into criminal hands on both sides of the border while under surveillance. Unfortunately, we know that along the way, those guns fell out of surveillance and resulted in the deaths of 200 Mexicans and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. If the Obama Administration and Attorney General Holder were so intimately involved in Project Gunrunner, it doesn’t pass the smell test that they were ignorant about Fast and Furious until after Brian Terry’s death. The Administration and Attorney General Holder need to come out from behind their cloak of Executive Privilege and start being forthright in their knowledge of operations subsequent to Operation Gunrunner.