Paul: Hello, this is Paul Clinton with POLICE Magazine. This is the
monthly author's podcast with books by and for cops. We have a very
interesting book this month to discuss. It's called "Guns Across the
Border: How and Why the U.S. Government Smuggled Guns into Mexico: The
Inside Story". It was written by Mike Detty. In the book, Mike chronicles
his experience as a federally licensed firearms dealer in the Tucson area
and his role in these gun-walking sting operations and the flooding of guns
Mike has been a contributor to POLICE Magazine. He's written some
great firearm reviews over the years. His business is
essentially selling rifles and other guns at gun shows in
Arizona. Mike, we're really pleased to have you on, and thanks
for joining us to talk about the book.
Mike: Thanks, Paul. It's a pleasure to join you, and thank you for
having me on.
Paul: Talk about this book and how it came about. You found yourself
in the cross-hairs, so to speak, of a very ill-fated,
eventually, federal gun operation. Talk a little bit about how
you got involved in this from the beginning and how this got
Mike: Sure. Historically, it is significant in that Operation Wide
Receiver, which was the case that I brought ATF into in 2006,
eventually morphed into Operation Fast and Furious, about two
and a half years later. The way it started was, as you
mentioned, I did gun shows for a living. I am an FFL holder, a
Federal Firearms Licensee. I sell AR-15s at Arizona gun shows.
I was approached by an individual who wanted to buy six AR-15 Lowers
from me. The next day, he came back and he asked if I would have
more sometime later in the month. I told him I had another 20 on
order that I expected the next week. His answer to me was, "I'll
take them all."
The sheer number that he wanted, and the fact that he was paying
cash, and the fact that he was a young Hispanic kid, made me
suspicious right off the bat. That happened on a Sunday. Monday
morning, I contacted my local ATF contact. He had me fax in the
paperwork, and the he called me back later in the day and asked
me if I could come down the following day and spend some time
talking with him.
That was really how Operation Wide Receiver began. There was a group
of young men in the Phoenix area that was buying AR-15 Lowers.
They were sending them to somebody in San Diego who was
purchasing the top ends of the rifles, 10 inch, which of course,
anything under 16 inch barrel length is illegal, but it didn't
matter to them, because they were pretty mixed up in doing
illegal stuff anyway.
Anyhow, they would complete these firearms by pinning on a short top
end, and then taking them across the border into Tijuana for the
Felix Arellano Cartel. That was how Operation Wide Receiver
started. It kind of went through some twists and turns, but by
the time were finished a year and a half had gone by. I think
we'd sold weapons to five different cartels.
Paul: Before we get into the details of this, talk a little bit about
where federal law enforcement was coming from and their goals in
your mind, or what they said to you about these operations.
They've been termed "gun-walking operations" and I guess these
operations would fall under this Project Gunrunner. What was the
original goal of this operation, as far as you understood?
Mike: Project Gunrunner was a project to stem the flow of illegal
guns into Mexico. It involved saturating the border states with
more ATF agents and more funding to prevent that from happening.
Operation Wide Receiver, when I first got involved and they
first started looking at these characters I was selling to, and
by the way, after that initial purchase, I didn't sell anything
to these people without prior knowledge of ATF and without them
specifically asking them to do this at their behest, to further
the investigation. I just want to make that clear. It wasn't as
if I did something, and then, "Oh, I'd better let them know,"
just so I don't get in trouble.
Paul: I guess the idea is that, this has always been the case, that
the drugs come from Mexico and the guns and the ammunition go to
Mexico. So the ATF and the federal government was becoming more
and more concerned about guns that cartel operators were
purchasing here in the border states and taking to Mexico to use
in this violent cartel drug war, right?
Mike: That's correct. That was correct. The first meeting that I had
with these ATF people here in Tucson, I was told that I would
have a chance to help them take out a powerful drug cartel. I'm
smart enough to know the implications of that.
Paul: Yeah. That sounds good, actually. It sounds like a noble goal.
Mike: Being a patriot, I was eager to help them. It just didn't turn
out the way it was outlined to me. What happened to be the goal,
we never came close to achieving that goal. If you read the
book, I think there was something far more insidious going on
than trying to take out a drug cartel.
Paul: Part of, I think, at least what we've heard said publicly from
the ATF, and obviously this was a huge scandal that resulted in
congressional hearings, and of course the deaths of two federal
agents, speaking of course of border patrol agent Brian Terry,
and also ICE special agent Jamie Zapata. Guns that apparently
were sold through these sting operations were found at both of
those crime scenes.
Mike: All three of those guns were from Fast and Furious, although
there is nothing that would prove any of the guns from Wide
Receiver showing up at future crime scenes. We know that they've
shown up at crime scenes in Mexico. Fortunately, nothing has
been found here in the United States.
Paul: The critique of the ATF through all this has been, why didn't
you track the guns? Was there some goal early on to either
attach some type a micro-tracker or microchip to the gun? Was
there any effort early on by them to track these guns?
Mike: No. I do mention in the book, it's been reported in mainstream
press that under President Bush things were done more
responsibly. They tracked the guns they were working with
Mexican officials. That's hogwash. None of that's true. There
was one attempt to put a tracking device in a rifle during
operation receiver, and it failed miserably. It was never
fielded, it was never talked about again.
The other thing, what I was told from the start, was that there was
ongoing cooperation with the Mexican authorities and that if
they didn't interdict the guns that at some point in time, they
knew where the guns were at, they were going to round them all
up, or most of them. I mean, nothing is 100%.
It was conveyed to me that the operation I was working was
multinational, meaning that the Mexican authorities were on
board with it, and that this was how they were going to take out
this cartel. That just proved to never be true.
The Inspector General's report that was issued last fall, it cites I
think three different phone conversations during the three years
I was involved with Operation Wide Receiver where they had
contacted Mexican authorities, but there was never any ongoing
coordination. There was no commitment by Mexican authorities to
follow these guns anywhere into Mexico. In fact, none of them
were ever tracked.
Paul: Wow. You mentioned that there were a couple of very interesting
anecdotes in the book of failed attempts by these agents to
follow and/or arrest these straw purchases and the buyers who
came to you to purchase these guns.
Mike: Sure. In fact, there was one event, I believe it was 50 .38
Super Pistols that one of these guys bought one night. It was
ATF's intention to have an air surveillance to follow these guns
to the load house, sit on the load house until they were loaded
up in the load truck, and then follow them to Mexico so that
from the time those guns left my house, it really never left
their visual surveillance until they crossed the border. That
was very important to help them prove their case.
In the book, I relay how this turned into a three-day surveillance.
They sat outside a house for quite a while and were concerned
that they actually might have missed somebody going out the back
door with the guns, because the original intent was for those
guns to go very quickly, and it never happened. They did stay on
the house. Once they got into a car, they were able to follow
They went down close to the border, and then on the Indian
reservation, they drove in circles for three or four hours. When
I asked one of the agents why somebody would do that he said,
"These are experienced drug smugglers. They know what type of
aircraft we use for air surveillances." In their case, they were
fortunate. They had a helicopter to back up while the DTS plane
went and got refueled and then came back.
They were never able to do much with that information. They know the
guns crossed the border, but once they crossed the border, they
didn't have any idea what happened to them.
Paul: Wow. Let's talk about your role in this, because it really is
fascinating. Your book, I have to give you credit here, I mean,
you've really written a detailed book, and you've included a lot
of great details about how these went down. Talk a little bit
about how some of these transactions would work. You have a
business and you are able to sell firearms out of your home.
Talk a little bit about how this would work, how the cartel
members would purchase the guns. You would kind of set a little
showroom in your living room, right?
Mike: Right, yeah. Being a divorced guy, I had a living room that
didn't have a stick of furniture in it, so I used that space. I
had guns set up. AR-15s and semi-auto AK-47s and 30 types of
pistols, and I would set them up. I wanted these guys to
perceive that I had plenty of inventory, so I didn't just put
one out of each one. I would put stacks and stacks of guns, and
then I'd leave one out of the box for them to look at and figure
out what they wanted to buy.
They would usually come late at night. When they were going to do a
purchase, usually they would have a plastic grocery bag full of
cash. A lot of times, they didn't know how much money was in
that back, because somebody at the stash house would hand them a
bag and say, "Here, go buy as many guns as you can for this
money." A large portion of every evening was spent just counting
In fact, it was after one event where one of these people tried to
burn me for $5,000, I actually went out and bought a bank-
quality money-counter. The first thing we would do when they got
there was, we would count the money, and then they'd know how
much money they had.
Paul: I love that detail in the book. A lot of these guys would just
give you stacks of 5 and 10 dollar bills, and you would have to
spend 45 minutes to an hour counting small bills. Right?
Mike: Yeah. That was typical. There was one group out of Phoenix
whose ringleader was dyslexic, I think. He would always hand me
his money and have me count it. At first I thought it might be a
test to see if I was being honest with him, because once I got
to the certain dollar amount, I would hand him back the rest of
the money. It did in fact turn out to be, either he couldn't
count, or was just so severely dyslexic, he couldn't count the
Paul: Talk about some of the characters. One of them I think came in
wearing pink ostrich boots. Talk a little bit about who these
Mike: It was kind of a happenstance. In other words, we fell into a
hornet's nest while we were just looking for a honeybee. There
was one particular gentleman I was doing business with. He had a
cousin, a very distant cousin, in town. Her husband was in
federal penitentiary for dealing dope. She would host these
barbecues that she would invite other people in this trade to
these barbecues. It didn't matter what cartel or what familia
they were from. They were welcome guests there, but during the
course of the barbecue she would tell them, "Hey, if your guys
need guns, I've got a hookup for you. Here's the deal. You just
pay me a commission on every gun you buy, and that'll keep me
happy and I'll keep you hooked up with this guy with the guns."
These people from those barbecues would accompany the original buyer.
It just got crazy because there were so many people that wanted
to come and buy guns.
Paul: I'm sorry, so this is really your classic straw purchase,
Paul: So they would fill out the paperwork for people who would be
denied on a background check, right?
Mike: Right. These were all people that legally couldn't buy because
they weren't citizens. The one guy that could, he ended up doing
a lot of the paperwork himself. He was actually connected with a
cartel in Caborca that had been raised here in the United States
and was a US citizen. He was doing a lot of the purchasing. Some
of the other groups, they would bring people they knew that had
clean records that would do the purchasing for them.
That's where all the charges, unfortunately, I mean, it's a
relatively minor charge, for Operator Wide Receiver was for
straw purchasing. In other words, when they filled out the
background check, they checked the box saying, "This firearm is
for personal use. I'm buying this gun for myself." That turned
out not to be true, and we know that because they took them
across the border and sold them down there.
Paul: Yeah. What types of guns did they buy? We've heard that they
like these AK-47 or AK variants that had wire stocks. What kind
of stuff did they buy?
Mike: Those were probably the bulk of what they really wanted was the
cheaper AKs. At the time, I was buying the Romanian imports.
WASR was the model name. Some of them had underfolding stocks or
side folding stocks or fixed stocks. At the time I want to say,
I was selling them retail for under $400. That was the bulk of
what they bought.
Then there were some other groups that wanted to have AR-15s and they
wanted to have the good quality, the best quality I could find,
but that wasn't the bulk. The majority of the stuff was AK-47
rifles and pistols.
Paul: Those were available fairly cheap for them, right? Like you
said, you could get one for $400 or so?
Mike: I was retailing them for $400, which meant that I probably made
maybe $100 on that transaction.
Paul: Okay. And I guess they liked these Colt .38 Supers as well?
Mike: The Colt .38 Supers weren't gun for fighting. They were guns
that somebody would wear to kind of show almost their rank.
There was one guy that as buying these for a cartel in I think
it was Magdalena. The head guy would hand them out as
presentation pieces. In other words, you've done something
really valuable for me, or you've taken a great risk for me, and
I'm going to rewards you with this status symbol.
Mike: That's how those were used, but like I said, they bought those
in quantity with one guy buying 50 when he'd need from me.
Paul: Yeah. You worked, really, as you describe in the book, as an
undercover operative with the ATF, kind of almost dictating
every step of the way, right?
Mike: Yeah. Like I said before, there was nothing that I did on my
own. There were very few, rare instances where somebody called
me on the phone and I'd have to make a quick decision. Trying to
think of what ATF would want me to do. Usually I would beg off
and say, "Listen, I can't do this afternoon because I have a
doctor's appointment," or something else. Everything that I did
was under their direction.
Paul: You tell kind of a good little anecdote here. They had you
wearing a transmitter, and it sounded like the ATF Tucson office
only had one transmitter, and it was kind of cutting out at
Mike: Yeah. Its age was uncertain, its quality was not good, and it
appeared to be the only one they had, because in three years of
working with them, it was the same transmitter that I used night
Mike: There were instances, and some of your veteran cops and
shooters that are listening to this will understand. I'm in my
early 50s, right, and after a lifetime of shooting, I don't hear
so good. I'm one of those people that has the volume all the way
up on my cellphone so that I can hear conversations clearly.
Well, imagine yourself being in a room of cartel associates and
having an agent call and say, "Hey, Mike, your wire's down. Turn
it off and then back on again real quick." Then you look around
the room to see if any of these other people in the room have
heard what you just heard through your phone.
I was very fortunate in that regard. Stupid things like that, looking
back, were just crazy. The risk that I took and some of the
risks that I was exposed to through no fault of my own.
Paul: And I guess eventually they placed some cameras in your house,
and they put one in a clock radio, and I guess one in a Kleenex
Mike: Yeah. The clock radio is kind of a neat thing, because it would
not only record, but it would transpond, I don't know if that's
the right term. There was somebody sitting in a truck outside
that could see it real time, but that was just one instance, and
I guess that equipment was too expensive for each office to
have, especially the smaller Tucson office.
In other instances, they had what was called a "Hawk," which was a
video and audio recorder that they could hide in a box of
Kleenex. Usually, that would sit on my wet bar, where it could
watch the entire living room that I was using as showroom.
In addition to that, I would have a digital recorder in one of my
pockets. The reason they had me do that was because the quality
was so much better than what they could record with the
transmitter. It was just dual redundancy, so they'd have backup
Paul: Yeah. And I guess, as you mentioned, you were involved in this
for three years. It sounded like when it first started it was
initially only supposed to be a very short operation that you
were going to be involved with. Talk a little bit about the
length of time, I mean, did you become frustrated at times with
Mike: Not really. I mean, while it was going on, it seemed to keep me
really interested, and I seemed motivated my knowing that I may
be part of something historical. As it turns out, it ended up I
was part of something infamous rather than historical.
Paul: Good word for it, yeah.
Mike: I didn't have a crystal ball at that time, but I really did. I
was motivated by a patriotic sense of duty, and I really had
this feeling of fate and that God put me in this place in this
position right now to help. I wouldn't have felt right just
telling these guys I couldn't help them. Of course, from years
I've written for POLICE Magazine, I'm a pro-law enforcement guy,
and I never would suspect that these guys all seem like great
guys, and I didn't see ever having a problem for being on the
wrong end of their hire, which I eventually did end up.
Mike: It was an interesting three years, and like I said, I didn't
mind doing the work for them, and I didn't mind at the time
taking risk, because I thought that whatever was going to be
gained from this would be so valuable to the United States and
to the detriment of the various cartels that were pursuing.
Paul: We'll get into the end result of this in a minute, but one
thing I found very interesting was that you were very meticulous
through this investigation about the notes that you took and the
records, and you kept pretty good records about conversations
and things you were doing and saying.
Mike: Right. I kept my notes daily. I always tried to make time to
write down the events of the evening along with conversation as
quickly as possible after they happened, so that it would be
fresh in my mind. Originally, I started doing this for two
reasons. One, I always thought I might write a book, because it
was kind of an extraordinary circumstance that just an ordinary
guy like me got involved in.
The other reason was, we were doing so many of these buys that I was
afraid if I ever had to testify, I have to be certain if this
event happened on this night during this buy, and so forth, so I
could keep one buy separate from all the others that happened.
That was my intent originally.
Because I had gone and I bought my own digital recorder, every time a
burned a CD of an evening's buy with the bad guys, or several
phone conversations I had with the bad guys, to burn that to a
CD, I had to download it to the hard-drive on my computer. When
things started not looking right to me, I started recording
conversations with the special agents and phone calls with the
special agents. That was all on the hard-drive of my computer,
along with my notes.
Mike: At one point in time, when they brought in a special prosecutor
from Washington D.C. to prosecute Wide Receiver, she asked me if
I'd kept any notes or a journal or anything. I said, "Yeah, I
have a journal. I don't want to give it you, because there's a
lot personal information in there." It was an actual journal, it
wasn't just transcribes of bad guy buys.
She demanded it. It was the old thing, "You know, look, we can do it
the hard way or we can do it the easy way. I'll make life
miserable if I don't get it," so I did give it to her. She never
expected to see what was in there. It was either her or one of
the special agents in Tucson sent that up to Special Agent in
Charge, which was Bill Newell, in the Phoenix office. He or she
ordered immediately to ATF Office in Tucson, "Don't take anymore
cases from this guy. Don't talk to him, don't acknowledge him in
Basically, I was shut out. He knew long before me that my notes
contained information that eventually was going to be very
embarrassing to him. At one point in time, my computer was
hacked. All the audio files that there were nights and nights
and nights of purchases at my house, phone calls, and so forth,
those were all corrupted. I kept them all in one folder. Every
one of those files was bad.
Before I got too paranoid, I went and checked some of the shorter
phone conversations that I had with these bad guys. To the
special agent in charge of this case, I would attach it to his
Yahoo! account, because DOJ and ATF email accounts have filters
on them that limit the file size, so I would have to use his
personal Yahoo! account. I went back and said, maybe I can get
back some of these conversations by checking those emails.
Surprisingly enough, every email I had ever sent him, or every
email he'd ever sent me, had been wiped clean from my computer.
Mike: Now I'm in a position. I'd contacted somebody that's a very
good friend who's one of our most elite military intelligence
assets and told him what was going on and gave him information
about my computer and my wireless system and so forth. He called
me back a couple hours later and he said, "Look, Mike, you're
welcome to fly out here. My guys think if they look at your box,
they can figure out who got into it. But here's the rub. Let's
say we find out exactly who did this to you, who do we take that
to? Because I think you're going to take it to the same people
who did it to you."
Paul: Oh boy.
Mike: "What good's it going to do to you." The fortunate thing about
this, and the reason that I haven't been put in a very difficult
spot was because I have an external hard-drive as a professional
writer. Every few days I back up my computer. I was able to
restore all those files, but whoever got into my computer and
corrupted those files, they knew that this could put them in
very bad light.
Paul: Yeah. And during the story, you talk about, you would have
conversations with these cartel operators and you'd burn a CD
and just take it over and drop that over to the ATF office in
Paul: So you were sharing some of this material with them during the
course of this investigation as well, right?
Mike: That was the sole purpose of recording this stuff.
Mike: By happenstance, I mean, it just happened to all be on the hard-
drive on my computer.
Mike: I think that certainly kept me out of a very sticky spot with
our federal government.
Paul: Yeah. It's a very enlightening book. Talk a little bit about, I
guess you were audited at one point by the ATF, right?
Mike: Yeah. Surprisingly, not too long after the last case I brought
them had come to an end, I had two ATF investigators. They're
not actual agents, but they're more on the regulatory side of
the things. They showed up at my door one day and they said,
"We're here to conduct an audit." I knew what they were going to
find. In my books, for instance, if there's 75 AK-47s that are
logged out to one particular person, they're going to have some
questions, so I asked them, I said, "First of all, do you know
who I am and do you know what I've done for your office?"
Meaning the Tucson ATF office. The young lady replied, "Yes, we
do, and I want you to know that Bill Newell is the one that
ordered this audit."
Bill Newell was the special agent in charge of the Phoenix office.
Mike: So I didn't think too much about it.
Paul: Yeah. It came from the top.
Mike: It came from the top, and this was after they had already
gotten my notes, and apparently knew that every conversation I
had was on the hard-drive of my computer. Over the course of a
couple weeks, they came to me and they said, "You know, we have
80 serial numbers here we can't find." The guy said to me,
"You're not going to be able to keep your license. Most likely,
you're going to be criminally prosecuted. You can't lose 80
serial numbers, not these type of guns, Mr. Detty, and keep your
license and not get prosecuted." Oh my God!
Mike: I can't believe this.
Mike: What am I going to do? I'm just getting ready to go to the
hospital to have an ankle replaced, and I thought, well, I'd
better do whatever I can. So I did my own audit, and I actually
did a physical inventory of every gun that I had. The lower
receiver of an AR-15, because it has a serial number on it, they
call it a complete gun. I had boxes and boxes of just stripped
low receivers. In other words, they didn't have any triggers or
hammers or magazine releases installed, and just the bare basic
component, because some people like to buy them that way and
then build a gun from parts.
I had over 400 of these in boxes out in the garage. There were 24 to
a box. It was I think in July when these people conducted the
audit, so I went and sit in my living room in the air-
conditioning while I put these boxes on hand trucks and brought
them out of the garage and through the front door and put them
in front of them. Each box contained 24 each. All they had to do
was pull the receiver out of the box, count the serial number.
Somehow, during the course of three days of doing this, they lost 80
serial numbers. Every one of those missing serial numbers was
receivers that were in those boxes. My question is, how can
somebody who's been hired by the federal government get a box of
24 receivers placed in front of them, open the box, count 3,
close the box, open the next box, count 8 out of 24, close the
box. Every one of those 80 serial numbers were in those cases of
stripped lower receivers.
[call dropped off 32:44]
Paul: Just go ahead and pick up where you left off.
Mike: I'm not sure where we cut off, but getting back to these boxes
of stripped lower receivers, I had 24 in each box, and these
agents, or investigators, as they call them, I think, they were
counting them. There were some of the boxes of 24 each, they
opened and counted 3. There was another box of 24 they opened
and counted 8 of those. There's another box they opened and
counted 12 of the 24. At the same time, you're telling me that
there's a possibility that I'm going to lose my license and
maybe be charged criminally for losing these serial numbers.
Looking back, is it just that these people were so inept, that these
federal employees couldn't count? Are they that badly screwed
up? Or is it a case that somebody came out here and gave them
orders and specifically told them to lose some serial numbers so
that I could be discredited? So if something happened further
down the road, they'd say, "Look, this guy's records were so
screwed up, we had to take his license from him."
Paul: A reasonable person might come to that very same conclusion.
Mike: Yeah. If you read my book, and I'm sure you did, I tried to lay
it all out there, let the reader decide for himself. Is it
biased? Of course it's biased, because I wrote it. If one of
these ATF agents here in Tucson had written a book, it'd look
very different. But there's nothing in that book that's not the
truth. There's nothing in that book that I haven't already
documented. There's nothing in that book that's not a recording
of some type that I can't prove.
Mike: That's why ATF's been so quiet about this. What can they say?
They have no comeback. Even the Inspector General report that
came out last fall, there were periods of time directors for ATF
didn't cover. In the Inspector General's report it says, during
these missing periods, we've used a confidential informant's
personal journal to fill in those spots.
You have to look at it two different ways. Are these people so inept
that they weren't keeping their own sets of records, or is there
something more insidious going on, that they actually went back
and destroyed records? Either way, it doesn't look good for
them, but hey, here's my journal. Show me what you've got.
They're not willing to do that, because it's not going to come
out well for them.
Paul: Certainly, that was reflected in the response from Eric Holder
and others to these Congressional inquiries and to Rep Darrell
Issa and his continual requests for information. President Obama
invoked the Executive Privilege on this not to talk.
Paul: That speaks for itself, I think.
Mike: Just to be clear, these two different operations, Operation
Wide Receiver did occur under President Bush, and Fast and
Furious, of course, was under the Obama Administration.
Mike: However, and I point this out in my book, both those operations
shared the same Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office,
and people often ask me this, "Who do you think that approved
this gun-walking operation?" I tell them. I said, "Look. This
was initiated at the field level. Special Agent in Charge Bill
Newell, he didn't look up any further in his chain of command to
ask for approval. He wasn't going to supervisors saying, "Hey,
this is what I want to do. Can I do it?" No, he's saying, "This
is what I'm doing."
Even though there are e-mails back and forth between people in the
Department of Justice that are just aghast at the number of guns
that are crossing the border, now I'm speaking about Operation
Wide Receiver, nobody took the next step and admonished Bill
Newell. Nobody took the next step and said, "Are you an idiot?
You can't do this. Stop doing this." No, they, would sit and
wring their hands between themselves, but they didn't do a thing
Paul: Yeah. Ultimately, it cost the ATF. The head of the agency
resigned over this pretty much. Anyway, interestingly enough,
you have two folks listed on the back jacket of the book. One,
Sharyl Attkisson, who's a Washington D.C. investigative reporter
who was one of the people who broke this story, actually, and
you have David Codrea who's a gun writer and a speaker and a
pretty intelligent guy. Did you work with those folks with the
book? It seemed like you had some pretty good resources there,
at least, to tap into.
Mike: Two different things. David Codrea writes for Examiner.com,
which is people who are concerned about our right and seeing our
rights being diminished, and is very vocal about it. Sharyl
Attkisson with CBS News. Our introduction was via e-mail. She
had kind of been surfing CleanUpATF.org. Before we went on air,
we spoke briefly about Jay Dobyns and his book "No Angel." He
was an undercover ATF Tucson agent who was actually the first
federal agent to get patched in as a member of the Hell's Angels
Mike: Can you hold on? I'm sorry, Paul. Just one second.
Paul: Yeah, no problem.
Mike: Jay and some other agents, who had felt like they had not been
dealt fairly with by ATF and were sick of the management and
mismanagement at all levels of administration with ATF, have a
website called CleanUpATF.org. Sharyl had posted something on
one of their forums about, "Hey, if you know anything about Fast
and Furious, I'd appreciate your information." Actually had her
personal e-mail address. I sent her an e-mail. I said, "I don't
know anything about that specific case, but I'd be happy to talk
to you about Wide Receiver." This all happened probably
February, following the shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian
Paul: That's when this story really, really heated up.
Mike: Yeah. There wasn't a story until that happened. Nobody knew
Mike: I was still kind of sitting around, waiting to see if they were
ever going to do anything with Wide Receiver, because at that
point, that hadn't been prosecuted yet. When the highest
officials at DOJ and ATF came out and said, "Listen, we never
allowed guns to cross the border for part of any investigation.
Never happened, didn't happen, it's not going to happen. Forget
about it." I knew already there was a cover-up in progress,
because I'd been part of one that was allowing that to happen.
Mike: I wasn't sure who to go to. I wasn't sure who to talk to,
because my big fear was that somebody would come down on me for
obstructing justice or something. I was just really afraid to
talk. In the months to follow, I had sent Sharyl bits and pieces
of information, and finally, I think it was the following
September, I actually did an on-air interview with her. A very
skilled lady, very competent. Her integrity is without any
flexibility. I can't say enough nice things about her. She is
what all journalists should be.
She spent a great deal of time vetting me out and looking at the
information that I had before we even talked about doing an
interview, because the last thing she wanted to do was put
somebody on camera that's going to make her look bad somewhere
down the road.
Mike: David Codrea, very much the same thing. I started feeding him
bits of information. He did his own job of vetting me too, and
for quite a while named me as an unnamed source in his articles.
After he discovered, yeah, what this guy is saying is true, it
checks out with other people I know that have worked out of that
office, and so forth. Both of these people have known me for a
couple of years know. They've known me to be a person that's
told the truth from the very beginning to the very end.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been true for ATF and DOJ.
Paul: Let's get into that briefly. First of all, why do you think
they weren't able to really pursue more serious charges against
these purchasers considering all the detailed evidence that you
Mike: The first Assistant U.S. Attorney on my case, I met him
actually a couple of years after Operation Wide Receiver
concluded. Actually, him and his son bought a gun from me at a
gun show, and he was looking at my business card and he's like,
"Gosh, your name sounds familiar. Why do I know that name?" Of
course, I knew his name right away, because I'd seen it on
reports and so forth. I said, "You might know that from
Operation Wide Receiver." He's like, "Oh, geez, yeah! Yeah. All
the reports that I read, finally to meet you here in person and
put a face with that name."
We chatted for quite a while. I asked him, "Tell me why you never
prosecuted Wide Receiver? Because the ATF agents had told me
that he was in the process of promoting himself for U.S.
Magistrate, and that was the reason he'd never actually taken
this case to court." He said, "Well, it's nothing like that. I'm
not going to take a case to court where I have to lie. I'm not
going to have my professional credibility and integrity
questioned because the ATF screwed up so badly."
He went on to tell me, "When I got involved with this case, I was
lead to believe that there was ongoing cooperation with the
Mexican authorities. That's the only reason that I signed off to
allow these guns to continue to go across the border. Once I
found out that wasn't the case, I wasn't going to devote another
heartbeat to developing this case to take it to trial." He
declined prosecution on this case, even though he was involved
from the outset.
Paul: It was just going to fall apart on him.
Mike: Right. He eventually did get his U.S. Magistrate appointment.
The next young lady, Assistant U.S. Attorney, to look at the
case, she declined for the same reason. She's like, "Do you
realize what a black eye this is going to give us if we take
this to court and acknowledge how many guns we let go across the
border without there being Mexican involvement? Not to mention
the lying on the part of ATF." So she declined it.
Mike: A year and a half later, they send out a prosecutor named
[Lauren Wind] and she was with the Gang Task Force Unit in
Washington, D.C., specialized in doing MS13 cases. She decided
to take on this case. If you read the Inspector General's report
about Fast and Furious, probably the first 70 or so pages is
about Wide Receiver to kind of set up a history of what's going
on here and why that was important to subsequent Fast and
There's quite a bit of e-mail back and forth with her and people in
Washington about, there were significant numbers of guns let go,
there was no Mexican authority involvement. What are we going to
do? This was happening about that time everything with Brian
Terry's death was coming out in news, around March and April,
subsequent to his passing. They wanted to keep that whole topic
of gun-walking out of court. They didn't want to have another
The other thing was, they didn't want any of these cases to go to
trial. They said, "Look here's what we're going to do. We're
going to narrow the scope, and we're going to charge you with
lying on your background check, three years maximum." Nine out
of the ten players involved in Wide Receiver took that deal. The
one guy that pushed for his own trial had all charges dismissed,
I think at 10 a.m. when the trial was supposed to start at 11
Paul: We ran out of time with Mike, but we just want to thank him for
joining us, and we want to encourage our listeners to check out
his book, "Guns Across the Border." Thanks again for listening
to another episode of the POLICE Magazine author's podcast
featuring books by and for cops. We encourage you, again to e-
mail us with your feedback at [email protected]. Otherwise,
we'll see you next month for another edition of the POLICE