Thursday, June 16, 2011

Operation Wide Receiver

In Wednesday's Outdoor Wire, Jim Shepherd reports on another botched ATF operation in southern Arizona. Called Operation Wide Receiver, it involved straw purchases, RFID chips and antennae, and aerial tracking. The operation was run out of the ATF field offices in Tucson approximately five years ago and like, Operation Fast and Furious, guns made it across the border into Mexico.
In Operation Wide Receiver, Tucson agents allowed the sales of more than 500 firearms to known straw purchasers. Like Gunrunner/Fast and Furious, the operation apparently backfired.

Some firearms in Wide Receive were equipped with RFID tracking devices. In Wide Receiver, it seems the illegal purchasers seemed more than slightly knowledgeable of the way the ATF and how to take their aerial and electronic tracking procedures down.

Knowing the time aloft numbers for virtually all planes used in government surveillance, the buyers had a simple method of getting their purchases across the border undetected. They simply drove four-hour loops around the area.

As surveillance planes were forced to return to base for re-fueling, the smugglers simply turned and sprinted their cargo across the border.

The RFID tags also turned out to be problematic.

Rather than making large enough holes for the tags to be laid out inside weapons, agents force-fit them into the rifles.

That cramming caused the antennae to be folded, reducing the effective range of the tags. And an already short battery life (36-48 hours maximum) meant that should purchasers allow the firearms to sit, the tracking devices eliminated themselves.

This sounds like something out of "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" but it's not.

To date, Wide Receiver hasn't really amounted to much in the way of interdiction, enforcement or prosecution, despite the huge amounts of surveillance video and audio evidence collected and the millions of dollars expended.

To date, sources tell us the only charges filed in the ongoing investigation are for falsifying Form 4473s. Not much of a return on an investigation that consumed millions of dollars in man-hours and money and placed the lives of law-abiding firearms dealers and their families in jeopardy.
From what Jim writes, this failed operation provided the operating blueprint for Operation Fast and Furious. Given how well Operation Wide Receiver turned out, you would have thought ATF would learned their lesson. I hope Jim will have more on this botched operation over the coming days and weeks.

UPDATE:  Jim Shepherd has more on Operation Wide Receiver in The Outdoor Wire for June 16th.
Meanwhile, information collection regarding Operation Wide Receiver, the apparent predecessor of Fast and Furious continues. Since we first reported on the operation run out of the Tucson office, we have seen more information that confirms the fact that both ATF and Justice Department officials were not only aware of the operation five years ago, they have continued efforts to bring the investigation to some sort of closure.
This tickled something in the back of my head about Bill Newell, former SAC of the Phoenix Field Division, and Tucson. Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars had something from CleanUpATF on some such operation that was posted back in February. On February 22-23, there were two postings by a couple of CUATF regulars named Jumper and 1desertrat discussing George Gillett who was being accused at the time of retaliation towards a protected whistle-blower and was Acting SAC of the Phoenix Field Division.

1desertrat said:
This really sickens me to see Gillett getting rewarded for a history of misconduct and incompetence. It also appears he has not taken any heat on approving the Tucson version of phoenix's "Gun Walker" in Tucson called linebacker or wide receiver (something like that)where he and Newell approved "walking" several hundred assault rifles to Mexico. Also, get this ......he approved the signing (and paying) of the FFL dealer as a CI, paid him as a CI and allowed him to profit from the illegal straw purchases ATF directed him to do.....what a deal! What do you think would be happening right now if one of those guns were linked to the Tucson shooting of Rep Gifford? How about it Senator Grassley.....are these ATF supervisors really the "untouchables"? Retaliation by ATF management is a way of life in ATF. Why......because all know management is corrupt and will pull out all stops to protect one another and NOTHING ever happens!
Jumper responded:
The best part of this post (if you enjoy hypocracy) is that The Retaliator (Gillett) actually tried to terminate two of the smartest and most productive agents in Phoenix for what he personally deemed to be mismanagement of government funds in the payment of an informant. The Retaliators ruling was overturned by higher ups based on their conclusions that Gillett didn't know what he was talking about but its still pretty funny. Wait till the press gets ahold of Gunrunner II, the Tucson Experiment. Can you imagine the pucker factor Newell and Gillett experience every time a shooting takes place involving a 7.62 round? Give them some coal and turn both of them into a diamond factory.
 Very interesting. I get the feeling that if Operation Wide Receiver is added to Operation Fast and Furious it will make those wildfires sweeping Arizona currently look small by comparison.

1 comment:

  1. FWIW, and unless I'm missing something, it seems there's a difference between tracking of guns in Wide Receiver failing for what are essentially technical reasons--even if the technical reasons include pis-poor planning--and Fast and Furious not even trying to actually track guns.