Grassley blasts Department of Justice on coverup of guns used in Agent Terry’s murder

Senator Charles Grassley sent a pointed letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder on February 9th in which he challeges Department of Justice’s denial of claims that 2 guns found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder near Rio Rico had slipped through the cracks under the eyes of ATF’s Project Gunrunner.

Grassley said in his letter to Holder “During our meeting on January 31, I provided you with copies of my recent letters to Acting ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson.  I had received serious allegations from ATF whistleblowers.  ATF agents told my staff that the agency allowed the sale of assault rifles to known and suspected straw purchasers for an illegal trafficking ring near the southwest border. ”

Grassley went on “Authorities allegedly recovered two of those weapons at the scene of a firefight near the southwest border on December 14, 2010.  Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry lost his life in that firefight and may have been killed with one of those two rifles.  That is why I requested nearly two weeks ago that the ATF brief my staff as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the reaction to my request has, so far, been little more than delay and denial.  I finally received a letter at close of business on Friday, February 4, in response to my request.  It came not from the ATF, but from the Justice Department.  In that letter, the Department categorically denied that the ATF “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser….”  The Department said the ATF makes “every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation into Mexico.” However, as I explained in my initial letter to Acting Director Melson, the allegations I received are supported by documentation.  It is already public record that federal agents arrested Jaime Avila on December 15, 2010the very same day that CBPAgent Terry died.  The ATF had been tracking Avila’s firearms purchases because Avila was a suspected trafficker since at least November 2009.”

Grassley added  “According to the whistleblowers, at least one gun dealer wanted to stop participating in sales like those to Avila sometime around October 2009.  However, the ATF allegedly encouraged the dealer to continue selling to suspected traffickers and asked the dealer to forward information about the sales to the Bureau. ”

Grassley continued “The dealer who sold the weapons allegedly recovered at the scene of Agent Terry’s death met with both ATF representatives and Assistant U.S. Attorneys as early as December 17, 2009 to “discuss his role as [a Federal Firearms Licensee] FFL during this investigation. On January 9, 2010, Jaime Avila bought three more firearms at the same Glendale, Arizona gun dealer and his purchase was entered into an ATF database two days later.”

Grassley told Holder “By January 13, ATF added Avila to a suspect person database for the investigation. On January 14, ATF entered the firearms Avila purchased five days earlier into the National Tracing Center’s Suspect Gun Database.   On January 16, 2010, Avila bought three AK-47 variant, Romanian WASR-10assault rifles from the same dealer with the serial numbers 1983AH3977, 1979IS1530,and 1971CZ3775.  ATF entered these weapons into the National Tracing Center’s Suspect Gun Database three days later.”

Grassley then pointed out “Over the next several months, ATF continued to track Avila’s multiple firearms purchases in near real-time, including two purchases of .50 caliber rifles in June 2010.   After the shooting of CBP Agent Terry, law enforcement officials recovered from the scene two assault rifles. On December 16, 2010, ATF’s trace results confirmed that serial numbers 1983AH3977 and 1971CZ3755 match two of the three rifles purchased byAvila and tracked by the ATF nearly a year earlier.”

Grassley then said “In addition to these specific weapons, the indictment of Avila and others references approximately 769 firearms.  Of those, the indictment refers to the recovery of only about 103 weapons.  So, where are theother approximately 666 weapons referenced in the indictment?  Why did the ATF not seize them? The Justice Department’s reply asked that Committee staff stop speaking to law enforcement personnel about these matters.  However, if not for the bravery and patriotism of law enforcement personnel who were willing to put their careers on the line, this Committee would have been forced to rely on nothing more than rumors in the blogosphere and a Justice Department denial to resolve these allegations.  We need more than that.  To be an effective check on Executive Branch power, we need cold,  hard facts.We will seek them from whatever source is necessary. Unfortunately, the Justice Department’s letter suggested that my attempts to seek information about these matters might be politically motivated.  I understand the Department needs to “protect … law enforcement personnel … from inappropriate political influence.”

Senator Grassley added “However, there is a difference between inappropriate political influence and appropriately holding officials accountable to the American people.  I try to conduct non-partisan oversight of the Executive Branch.  Regardless of which party controls the White House or the Congress, I do my best to ask tough questions.  If you have any evidence that there is anything “inappropriate” about my motives in this matter, please let me know.  Otherwise, I respectfully request that the Department avoid such implications in the future.”

In a powerful statement to Holder, Grassley added ” Finally, I want to share with you a portion of an e-mail from Carolyn Terry, Agent Terry’s stepmother.  She wrote yesterday: ‘It’s hard to accept that our son was shot and murdered with a gun that wasbought in the U.S. We have not had any contact from the Border Patrol or any other agents since returning home on the 22nd of [January].  Our calls are not returned.  I truly feel that our son’s death is a cover-up and they hope that we will go away. That will not happen.  We want to know who allowed the sale of that gun that murdered our son.  Any help will [be]appreciated.  We are the victims of this case and we want some answers.’ “

Grassley made this point ” The Terry family deserves answers.  The whistleblowers have expressed a desire to honor Agent Terry’s memory by disclosing this information.  The Justice Department should work to do the same.  The best way to honor his memory is to come clean.”

Grassley then provided docuemntation about the guns and other matters.

See this at RosettaStone

COMMENT: The number of people who need to be fired from the federal government keeps increasing as it is becoming obvious and documented that ATF watched while weapons ended up in the bad guys’ hands…and we have a dead Border Patrol agent as a result…a fine young man who was serving his country….a new definition of  death by “friendly fire”. No wonder the feds are trying to cover this stinking mess up.

A core responsibility of any commander whether in the military or law enforcement is to make sure you’ve done everything possible when you send someone in harm’s way that they will be able to return home to their families. The people responsible for this mess and who are trying to cover it up are the worst kinds of commandaers and must be relieved of authority.

Note: Have been getting a lot of help and links to the original documents in this story from Sipsey Street Irregulars…stay current with what’s going by visiting their page.

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About Hugh Holub

Attorney and writer.
This entry was posted in atf, border issues, border patrol, border patrol tucson sector, border security, brian terry, project gunrunner and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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