The Corner

‘Uncontrolled Delivery’

That’s the title of a post by blogger Morgen Richmond, in which Richmond goes through some government documents pertaining to federal anti-gun-trafficking efforts.

Richmond unearthed two quotes that are particularly interesting. The first is from an ATF document that has also been flagged by Sen. Chuck Grassley:

Enforcement strategies (and other guidance) that address firearms trafficking to Mexican cartels have been developed and released by the White House and the Department of Justice. It is essential that ATF efforts support strategies promoted by the White House and Department of Justice. . . . A significant component of the DOJ strategy pertains to attacking the southbound flow of firearms. The strategy states that “given the national scope of this issue, merely seizing firearms through interdiction will not stop firearms trafficking to Mexico. We must identify, investigate, and eliminate the sources of illegally trafficked firearms and the networks that transport them.”

Also telling is a comment by White House “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske:

We have to collect, analyze, and disseminate vast quantities of information, invest the time in complex investigations, use all of the legal investigatory tools available to us, and conduct operations such as controlled deliveries of drugs, money, and weapons which enable us to see deeply into drug trafficking organizations.

A “controlled delivery” is basically a sting operation — where law enforcement allows an illegal substance to change hands without making arrests, watches to see where the item goes, and finally busts everyone involved.

Now, neither of these is a smoking gun. The U.S. does, in fact, have a gun-smuggling problem, and it’s a perfectly legitimate law-enforcement tactic to avoid tipping off small-fry criminals while they lead you to more important figures. And a “controlled delivery” is not at all the same thing as “gunwalking,” or what Richmond calls an “uncontrolled delivery.” In Fast and Furious, agents simply let the guns go without surveillance, never to be heard from again until they turned up at crime scenes. It’s awfully hard to arrest the middlemen in a gun-trafficking gang if you’re not watching to see who the middlemen are.

These quotes do show, however, that the higher-ups at Justice had a detailed plan for combating drug trafficking, that ATF put effort into making sure that plan was followed, and that the plan emphasized sting-operation tactics beyond simple interdiction. It would be at least odd for an ATF branch to let thousands of guns go, contrary to this plan, without getting clearance from a Justice higher-up.