Border safety issues crop up again as Issa’s probe into ATF’s Project Gunrunner lingers

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says the U.S.-Mexico border is safe and border cities have some of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Former El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) director Phil Jordan told The Daily Caller that Napolitano is right when it comes to low crime rates in border cities, but that’s only part of the story.

Jordan said drug cartel members, like organized criminals, know where they can break the law and get away with it, and where they can’t. Jordan, who led the inter-agency anti-drug cartel task force EPIC and ran the Dallas Drug Enforcement Agency office during his 30-year law enforcement career, said they’ll commit most of their crimes, including murders, on the Mexican side of the border, so nobody will ever know what happened.

“She’s right in one sense that the border cities, like El Paso, have a very low murder rate and crime rate,” Jordan said in a phone interview. “What she does not say is that the cartels, organized criminals, would be crazy to commit a murder in a border city when, in essence, they can kidnap the person, take them to Mexico, and commit the murder on the other side. Nobody will ever know and nobody will ever solve the case.”

Jordan said, in his experience, to avoid getting caught, drug cartel members “would take the victim across and not have to deal with the American authorities.” He also said the El Paso-Juarez corridor, between the Texas border city and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, has the highest traffic of drug smuggling anywhere in the U.S.

Some argue that many of the guns and other weapons the drug cartels now have in their possession were ones President Barack Obama’s administration allowed into the country through Project Gunrunner. In Project Gunrunner, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowed legally sold U.S. guns to be smuggled into Mexico in efforts to track who was getting them and where they were going. The tracking efforts were supposedly using ballistics information and serial numbers from guns when criminals abandoned them at crime scenes after using them.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a subpoena to ATF last week compelling them to provide any and all documents and communications about Project Gunrunner and a specific subset of it, Operation Fast and Furious. Issa is also looking for information about the weapons that killed Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on Dec. 14, to see if it was one of the weapons ATF allowed to make it into drug cartel possession.

Issa issued the subpoena after ATF failed to meet his deadline for a document request. ATF’s deadline is 5 p.m. next Thursday. He also has requested documents from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to find out the level of involvement the State Department had in these decisions as well. Clinton has until 5 p.m. next Tuesday to produce the documents.

It remains unclear who in the Obama administration approved Project Gunrunner. But, Issa has hinted that he’s suspicious it may be Attorney General Eric Holder, even though Obama has said neither he nor Holder knew about the program.

“It will be up to the Attorney General to say whether he knew or not,” Issa said. “Right now, the president’s word about what somebody else knew would not be acceptable. As much as we love the president, we can accept him at his word – he didn’t know. The Attorney General is going to have to say what he knew and when he knew it – and, if he didn’t know, who in his hierarchy did know and when did they know it?”

Jordan, however, is almost certain Holder knew about it, even if he wasn’t the one who approved it. “The Attorney General would have to be briefed, if not a daily basis, on a weekly basis,” Jordan said, because the program is of a controversial nature. “This program has been going on for some time.”

Jordan said he has no qualms labeling drug cartels as organizations that help terrorists, as Rep. Mike McCaul, Texas Republican, is proposing to do. By labeling the cartels as terrorist groups, U.S. law enforcement agencies would have much more autonomy when it comes to chasing them down and capturing their leaders.

“One of the best funding mechanisms that exists for the terrorists is money that is derived from the sale of narcotics,” Jordan said. “So, any time that you send a ton of drugs into this country, or send a couple hundred pounds of heroin, which is one of the worst drugs, you are dealing with a special security threat and a terrorist threat.”