Sheriff Paul Babeu: Fast and Furious scandal is far from over

No Fast and Furious fatigue for Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who has been on the front lines fighting to tell the truth about the Justice Department’s disastrous program from Day One. The longer the Justice Department stonewalls the congressional investigation into the gunrunning program, the more ardent becomes Babeu’s desire to hold the administration accountable.

“Many of us, including me, feel that whoever made these decisions should be held criminally accountable because people have been murdered,” Babeu told me today. “Our hero in the Border Patrol — Agent Brian Terry — was murdered in my state. Two of the guns that were used to kill him — on the scene — were from Fast and Furious. There’s no accountability; Eric Holder still hasn’t come clean to say who made these decisions and it’s been over a year.”

As tragic as Brian Terry’s death was, it is far from the only casualty associated with Fast and Furious: More than 200 people in Mexico have been killed by drug cartel members with Fast and Furious weapons — and the death count is likely to continue to rise, Babeu said.

“This is a larger scandal than anything like Watergate,” he explained. “Nobody died there. People lied and there was a cover-up. Here, there’s lies and cover-ups and we still don’t have the answers, but people have been killed. Fourteen hundred of these guns are still outstanding; other people will die from actions of Eric Holder and the Department of Justice.”

Those outstanding weapons are untraceable.

“There [are] no tracking devices,” he said. “wWe don’t know who has these weapons now. For years to come, this is going to trickle out; people are going to be killed, crimes are going to be committed. The only way we can confiscate these guns is we raid a drug house and, oh, there’s five guns here and, guess what, they’re connected to Fast and Furious.”

Babeu knows firsthand that Fast and Furious weapons are reappearing in the United States. Three months ago, his agency, along with 21 other law enforcement agencies, busted the Sinaloa drug cartel — the largest bust in Arizona history. In the midst of 76 arrests, the recovery of billions of dollars and the discovery of dozens of weapons, they found two Fast and Furious weapons.

Intentionally arming drug cartels — if that is, in fact, what the Justice Department was doing — does nothing to help U.S.-Mexico relations, Babeu warned.

“We have just armed paramilitary organizations — all these cartels — that are fighting that are at war with Mexico,” he said. “I’m a retired army officer and, in Mexico, for us to do that against a stated ally, that triggers in the Geneva Convention an act of war. This is outrageous. People need to be held accountable for this and we’re getting no answers.”

That the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has no way to trace the weapons lends credence to the theory that the ATF intentionally funneled the firearms to drug cartels as a cover for calls for increased gun control.

“This was one time dismissed as crazy or some wild-eyed right-wing conspiracy that this could be the case,” Babeu said. “There’s no other justification. I’m in the business of clues and evidence; their only defense that they have given is they were tracking these guns and they were going after these big fish. Well, guess what? They weren’t tracking anything. Even in a minor investigation in law enforcement, we’re tracking drugs, we never let it out of our line of sight. We track with surveillance; we have people trail them; we have CIs, criminal informants, that give us information, then we effect an arrest. These are guns. How could anybody in their wildest imagination ever believe that this would end well? It hasn’t — and the end isn’t even here.”

The end might not be here — but the beginning of something else could be. Babeu has cast his lot in the congressional race to represent Arizona’s newly-created fourth district, and he’s presently out-fundraising his competitors and polling well. If he is elected to Congress, he said, Fast and Furious won’t be his only target.

“I will be a part of a chorus of conservatives but one of the strongest voices, not only on these issues, but as a free market guy,” he said. “We’re very rapidly evolving into one of these failed European states. I shall not allow that to be the future of America.”