Univision’s bombshell–Fast and Furious not just in Arizona, or Mexico

Univision’s bombshell: Fast & Furious not just in Arizona, or Mexico

by Ed Morrissey

The other shoe dropped on the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious last night, and it should sting — if enough people pay attention to it. Univision reported that the effort wasn’t just limited to one ATF office in Arizona — it had other operations in Florida and Texas as well. The ATF and Department of Justice lost more weapons than they have so far acknowledged, and those weapons have been tied to even more murders than previously thought — including a massacre of teens and young adults. This report literally showed blood flowing in the streets as a result of Fast and Furious, as ABC News reports:

On January 30, 2010, a commando of at least 20 hit men parked themselves outside a birthday party of high school and college students in Villas de Salvarcar, Ciudad Juarez. Near midnight, the assassins, later identified as hired guns for the Mexican cartel La Linea, broke into a one-story house and opened fire on a gathering of nearly 60 teenagers. Outside, lookouts gunned down a screaming neighbor and several students who had managed to escape. Fourteen young men and women were killed, and 12 more were wounded before the hit men finally fled.

Indirectly, the United States government played a role in the massacre by supplying some of the firearms used by the cartel murderers. Three of the high caliber weapons fired that night in Villas de Salvarcar were linked to a gun tracing operation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), according to a Mexican army document obtained exclusively by Univision News.

Univision News identified a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation Fast and Furious, and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings, and at least one other massacre.

Even more troubling was the expanding scope of Fast and Furious, which wasn’t limited to Arizona — nor to Mexico, for that matter:

The Univision News investigation also found ATF offices from states besides Arizona pursued similar misguided strategies. In Florida, the weapons from Operation Castaway ended up in the hands of criminals in Colombia, Honduras and Venezuela[,] the lead informant in the case told Univision News in a prison interview. …

Other firearms under ATF surveillance were permitted to leave the country from Texas, according to court documents and the exclusive testimony of Magdalena Avila Villalobos, the sister of an ICE agent who survived a confrontation with cartel hit men on a rural highway in Mexico on February 15, 2011. His fellow agent, Jaime Zapata, was killed during the attacks.

“It’s not from Arizona and Fast and Furious,” Avila Villalobos told Univision News, speaking in her brother’s stead for the first time, “but it’s a very similar operation…” She later added, “Those weapons that have been recovered, it’s been confirmed that they were weapons used in the shootout that killed Jaime Zapata and wounded Victor Avila.”

Give ABC News credit for partnering with Univision on this report.  The American media has mostly been uninterested in this story, with the notable exceptions of Sharyl Attkisson at CBS and the LA Times.  This new report shows that Operation Fast and Furious was a larger program than the Obama administration has admitted, with several offices coordinating on those efforts, with a much wider scope for gun distribution than anyone let on.

Just FYI — the Obama White House is still insisting that executive privilege applies on Fast and Furious communications.  I’d guess that has something to do with the information broadcast by Univision last night.  That’s just one reason Paul Ryan has now joined the call for Eric Holder’s resignation:

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan agrees with presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s call for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign, or for President Barack Obama to fire him, over Operation Fast and Furious, a Ryan spokesman told The Daily Caller.

“The congressman agrees with the governor,” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck told TheDC on Sunday, referring to Mitt Romney’s call for Holder’s resignation or termination over the gunwalking scandal last December.

“Either Mr. Holder himself should resign, or the president should ask for his resignation or remove him,” Romney said in December 2011. “It’s unacceptable for him to continue in that position now given the fact that he has misled Congress and entirely botched the investigation of the Fast and Furious program.”

We need a resignation — followed by a real investigation.

Terrified Witnesses In Pakistani Blasphemy Trial Recant Their Testimony

[It is pretty obvious that the good fundamentalists of Pakistan have convinced the hostile witnesses that they are a greater threat than the police or ISI.  No religion is safe in Pakistan from the fanatics, not even Islam.  (SEE: Anti-Hindu attack prompts blasphemy case in Pak). ]

Witnesses in Pakistan blasphemy case turn hostile 

Islamabad: The three men who had accused a cleric of tampering evidence to implicate young Christian girl Rimsha Masih in a blasphemy case on Monday withdrew their statement, claiming they were tortured by police to testify against the imam. The three witnesses, who had earlier recorded statements against cleric Khalid Chishti, submitted a fresh statement in the court of a district and sessions judge in Islamabad that said police had forced them to blame Chishti for the incident.

The witnesses claimed police had tortured them and made them give statements against Chishti. One of the witnesses is Hafiz Mohammad Zubair, who works as the muezzin in the mosque where Chishti is the cleric. Despite their dramatic turnaround, the three witnesses had earlier spoken to several TV news channels and accused Chishti of tamepering evidence to implicate Rimsha in a blasphemy case.

They said Chishti had added burnt pages of a religious text to a shopping bag that was in Rimsha’s possession. The district and sessions judge put off the hearing of a bail application filed by Chishti till October 3. Police had earlier submitted an interim challan or charge-sheet that said Chishti had tampered with evidence. Chishti was earlier remanded to judicial custody.

In a separate development, the Islamabad High Court on Monday extended the stay on the trial of Rimsha on blasphemy charges till October 17. A single-judge bench of the High Court issued the extension while hearing a petition filed by Rimsha’s lawyer for quashing the FIR against her.

During the hearing, a representative for the prosecution told the court that the lawyer was not in Islamabad. He requested the bench to give the lawyer more time to appear in court. The judge granted the prosecution’s request and extended the stay on the trial.

Chief Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman of the Islamabad High Court had stayed the trial of the minor Christian girl on September 28 so that her petition for quashing the FIR against her could be taken up. Rimsha was arrested from a low-income neighbourhood on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 16 after her neighbour Malik Ammad accused her of burning pages from a religious text.

She was detained for three weeks in the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where top terrorists are also being held. Police had also said in the interim charge-sheet that they had not found any evidence to support allegations that Rimsha had committed blasphemy. An official medical board that examined Rimsha said her mental development did not correspond with her age. Authorities moved Rimsha and her family to an undisclosed location after she was freed on bail on September 8.

Turkey’s Pseudo-Democracy

Turkey’s Treacherous Show Trials

by Jeffrey Wade Gibbs

As well-funded public relations work and a healthy economy have helped steer attention away from the ruling party’s increasingly autocratic policies, the AKP continues to choke all critical voices in the press and elsewhere with trials, threats and intimidation.

As Turkey writes its new constitution, a trial will resume on October 1 at Silivri L Type Prison, just outside Istanbul, that could well determine whether Turkey’s future will be determined by the rule of law under an impartial judicial system, or whether the courts, under autocratic rule, be used as tools to crush opposition.

In the trial, which has been dubbed “The KCK case,” 193 men and women are being judged on charges of “membership in an illegal organization,” legalese for “terrorism.” The defendants were arrested for either teaching or taking classes at academies set up by the BDP, the Peace and Democracy Party, a liberal coalition political party dominated by the Kurdish minority and dedicated to establishing equality for all of Turkey’s minorities. According to the ruling AK Party under Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan, participation in any form at these academies — even the tea servers were arrested — meant membership in the KCK, the urban branch of the Kurdish guerrilla movement.

Among these supposed trainers of Kurdish terrorists in the mountains are also non-Kurds, such as Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Busra Ersanli, a professor of political science. Authorities have charged the aged and infirm as well, including Zekiye Ayik, an elderly woman who never learned to read or write, and Muhsin Yenisöz, a man who has to be frequently hospitalized for heart disease. These four, due to significant outside pressure, were released on bond at the end of the first phase of the trial in July, but are still being tried. Most of the defendants remain in prison, including my 60 year old father-in-law, Kemal Seven, a former elementary school teacher and instructor at the academies.

Every day of the trial this July bore witness to violation after violation of international standards of a fair trial. Never mind that 193 people are being tried at once. Using highly charged language presuming guilt, the court routinely violates the universally recognized right to an impartial judge. Defendants, according to the official indictment, “attempt to hide their true ugly face behind a camouflage of political activity.” Moreover, many arrests were made on the uneducated guesses of police informants later proven wrong. “I saw a picture on his wall I think was a terrorist,” stated one unidentified man. Even though the picture later turned out to be that of a journalist murdered by a government assassin and not a terrorist at all, the accusation led to many arrests. Nevertheless, over vehement protests, the court admitted the statement as evidence. Furthermore, defendants are forbidden to defend themselves in Kurdish, despite the fact that some of them have only a rudimentary grasp of the Turkish language. Segments of anonymous testimony by blue collar witnesses are suspiciously written in the bureaucratic legalese of the public prosecutor. Hearsay, anonymous witnesses and circumstantial evidence are routinely admitted.

When defense lawyers objected to these violations, the court answered by calling in heavily armed riot police, truncheons drawn and ready, to form a cordon around them.

As the next phase of the trial approaches, 10 of the 99 defendants in the men’s section of Silivri Prison have begun a hunger strike to protest the trial. On September 25th, they submitted to the prison authorities a written declaration of their intentions so that the government could not claim ignorance should anything happen to them later on. Shortly after beginning the strike, according to prisoners, police in full riot gear, as well as about 40 to 50 guards, among whom were the vice warden and the captain of the guards, assembled outside the ward. With the presumed intention of removing the hunger strikers to isolated cells, they entered the wards. The other prisoners, apparently fearing that there would be no one to properly take care of the strikers should they be isolated, attempted to stop them. Police and guards responded with violence. According to witnesses, everyone was beaten. The 10 hunger strikers and two other prisoners were whisked away and have not been seen again. The other prisoners are concerned that they are not being properly cared for: none of the hunger strikers’ belongings has been removed from their old cells.

As the hunger strike continues in Silivri, more and more people are arrested every week: journalists, anthropologists, writers, academics and elected officials of the BDP. The US State Department, in a report last year, placed the number of people imprisoned in the KCK case at 3,895. Since then, however, hundreds more have been taken in police round-ups around the country.

The KCK case is merely one in a series of show trials against all sources of opposition to the government. Many military officers, ideologically opposed to the ruling party’s radically Islamic tendencies, were convicted this September in the “Balyoz” case, despite the fact that American, German and Turkish forensic scientists declared the main evidence used in the trial fraudulent. The Kemalists, heirs to the secularist and nationalist policies of the Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, are being tried in the “Ergenekon” case, with similar accusations of falsified evidence and coerced witnesses.

This is the atmosphere in which a new constitution is being forged, one which will guide the country far into the foreseeable future. Is this witch-trial mentality what will be enshrined in the country’s highest law?

Turkey is ostensibly not a third-world dictatorship, but a NATO ally whose actions reflect on other members such as the United States. As well-funded public relations work and a healthy economy have helped steer attention away from the ruling party’s increasingly autocratic policies, the AKP continues to choke all critical voices in the press and elsewhere with sham trials, threats, and intimidation. From Baghdad to Cairo to Beirut, Turkey is a country the entire Middle East, and even the current US administration, apparently look up to as an example. Travelers in the region report widespread admiration for Erdogan and Turkish democracy.

Is this really the model we want the region to follow?

Jeffrey Wade Gibbs is an American writer and teacher who has been living in Istanbul for five years.

Car-Bomb Targets Syrian Security At Kurdish Junction of Turkey, Syria and Iraq

Syria suicide attack strikes remote Kurdish town, kills at least 4 at security compound

(SANA/ Associated Press ) – In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian men inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Qamishli, 497 miles (800 Kilometers) northeast Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. A suicide attacker detonates a car bomb at a Syrian security compound in a remote, predominantly Kurdish area, killing at least four people in the latest sign that Syria’s largest ethnic minority is increasingly being drawn into a widening civil war.

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, September 30, 2:24 PM

BEIRUT — A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a Syrian security compound in a remote, predominantly Kurdish town Sunday, killing at least four people, state media said, in a new sign that the country’s largest ethnic minority might be drawn into a widening civil war.

Opposition activists said at least eight Syrian intelligence agents were killed and several dozen people wounded in the attack in the northeastern town of Qamishli, more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) from the capital Damascus.