We at the Blaze told you on Monday about reports that a joint ATF-ICE gunrunning program similar to "Operation Fast and Furious" existed in Tampa, Florida called "Operation Castaway." The methods were apparently the same- ATF agents allowed straw buyers to purchase weapons knowing that they would end up in the hands of criminals across international borders. Only in "Castaway," the weapons supposedly found their way to the notoriously violent MS-13 gang instead of Mexican cartels.
Now three Congressmen- led by Rep. Bilirakis of Tampa, Florida- have sent a letter to the John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), demanding answers on "Castaway." Here is the text of the letter:
July 12, 2011
The Honorable John Morton
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Department of Homeland Security
500 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20536
Dear Director Morton:
We are concerned about recent reports that suggest similarities between “Operation Castaway,” a firearms trafficking investigation led by the Tampa Field Offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and “Operation Fast and Furious,” an ATF program that provided firearms to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Specifically, reports indicate that firearms under “Operation Castaway” may have been provided to dangerous criminal gangs in Honduras, including MS-13.
If true, these reports raise serious questions about the leadership of the ICE and ATF Tampa Field Offices. We support ICE’s efforts to disrupt criminal syndicates that traffic in firearms, drugs, and other illicit substances. However, when those efforts serve to fuel the operations of criminal enterprises through the provision of firearms, they must be stopped and those responsible must be held accountable. In an effort to address this issue, we would appreciate your response to the following questions.1. What role did ICE agents and leadership play in “Operation Castaway?”
2. Can you confirm whether “Operation Castaway” included a gun walking scheme that allowed weapons to be trafficked to Honduras? If so, have any of these firearms ended up in the possession of the notorious MS-13 gang?
3. How many guns have been allowed to pass into Honduras and how many have since been accounted for?
4. Were these weapons subject to any special monitoring processes once they left the United States?
5. Is “Operation Castaway” still ongoing? If so, are you, in coordination with the ATF, planning to terminate the program?
We find it extremely troubling that the United States government would willfully allow weapons to be acquired by dangerous criminal and drug trafficking organizations, in direct contravention of our strategic and national interests. We look forward to receiving your responses to these questions in a timely manner.
Gus Bilirakis, U.S. Representative, Florida, 9th District
Michael McCaul, U.S. Representative, Texas, 10th District
Candice Miller, U.S. Representative, Michigan, 10th District
The Justice Department claims "Castaway" was an ATF-led operation that was highly successful and unrelated to "Operation Fast and Furious." But depending on the answers to the questions above, it looks like the Obama administration could be on the verge of handling an entirely new front in the growing international scandal of Project Gunrunner and its spin-offs.