Imagine you are an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent working on a clandestine operation designed to snag members of Mexico’s gun-smuggling drug cartels—especially Mr. A. The program involves tracking weapons that have been knowingly and illegally sold to persons associated with those cartels.
Now imagine you’ve caught Mr. A red-handed at an Arizona border town while he’s attempting to drive a BMW brimming with hidden ammunition into Mexico. What do you do? Here are your options:
A. Arrest Mr. A. and declare your operation a success.
B. Take Mr. A into custody and begin plea-bargain negotiations in hopes of securing more valuable information.
C. Talk with Mr. A about his connections, confiscate his ammo, give him your phone number jotted on a ten-dollar bill, then release the trafficker based on a promise of further cooperation.
If you answered C, you may have a future with ATF. That seems to be the route chosen by Hope MacAllister when, according to recently revealed documents, she interrogated a major gun-runner named Manuel Celis-Acosta on May 29, 2010.
Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, Acosta chose to continue his smuggling enterprise instead of keeping in touch with Special Agent MacAllister.
Perhaps Acosta mistakenly used MacAllister’s bill to buy some cigarettes and couldn’t remember the initials of the agency that stopped him on the border with an "AK type, high capacity drum magazine loaded with 74 rounds of 7.62 ammunition” hidden beneath his spare tire.
Or maybe Acosta just had a good laugh at the expense of government gringos who apparently released a prime target based on little more than hopes of landing bigger fish.
In the following months Acosta continued his gun-smuggling activities and ATF continued its gun-selling operation. The agency, however, lost track of about 1700 guns, many of which were discovered at crime scenes in Mexico and two of which were linked to the death of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry near Tucson in December of 2010.
It’s hardly a shock that ATF documents related to the botched release of Acosta weren’t provided by Attorney General Eric Holder to Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee—despite a subpoena covering documents related to this “Fast and Furious” operation.
Apparently what was touted as “the most transparent administration” in the nation’s history is only transparently interested in covering its tracks—as it was when it kept information about Solyndra’s moribund financial situation under wraps until after the 2010 elections.
Acosta was eventually captured in El Paso in February of 2011—but only after distributing hundreds of government-tagged guns to folks like the ones who murdered Agent Terry.