Phoenix ATF Special Agent Olindo James Casa’s Congressional Testimony on Operation Fast & Furious
ATF Special Agent Olindo James Casa testified at the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform on how Phoenix Group 7′s policy had allowed gun trafficking to thrive near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Mr. Cummings. Good morning honorable members of Congress. My name is Olindo James Casa, and I’m a senior special agent with the Bureau of ATF.
“I’ve been employed with ATF since March of 1993 as both an inspector and, later, as a special agent. I’m currently assigned to the Phoenix field division, Phoenix Group 7, and also of Strike Force Group. I’ve been assigned to that group since December 2009 to the present.
“As a special agent with the ATF, I’ve been a case agent, I’ve been a cold-case agent, and I’ve participated in many firearms trafficking investigations, both domestic and international in scope. Needless to say, I feel I have extensive experience in regards to firearms trafficking investigations. My work has resulted in the successful prosecution of many individuals who have violated the law.
“After reporting to Phoenix Group 7 office in December 2009, I was briefed by group members on the investigation “Fast and Furious.” Shortly after, I became aware of what I believed to be unusual and questionable investigative techniques. For instance, I became aware of certain straw purchasers were purchasing numerous firearms from firearm dealers. What I found concerning and alarming was – more times than not – no law enforcement activity was planned to stop these suspected straw purchasers from purchasing firearms. The only law enforcement activity that was occasionally taken was to conduct a surveillance of the transaction and then nothing more.
“As the investigation progressed over the next couple of months, additional suspected straw purchasers were identified – again with no obvious attempts to interdict the weapons or interview the suspects. Around the same time, Phoenix Group 7’s office was said to receive numerous firearm traces, detailing firearms recoveries in the country of Mexico. Many of those traces disclose aforementioned straw purchasers responsible for purchasing those recovered firearms.
“At this time, several special agents in the group, including myself, became increasingly concerned and alarmed at Case Agent Hope McAllister and Group Supervisor Dave Voth’s refusal to stop or address the suspected straw purchasers from purchasing additional firearms.
“Special Agent John Dodson and I continually raised our concerns directly with the case agent, Cold Case Agent Tonya English, and Group Supervisor Voth, to no avail.
“In response to our increasingly voiced concerns, the group supervisor issued the infamous “schism” email to the group. In essence, the email was a direct threat to the agents who were not in agreement on how Case Agent McAllister, Cold Case Agent English, or how Group Supervisor Voth managed the investigation. Based on my 18 years of experience with the ATF, I did not think the email was an empty threat. I took it very seriously.
“It’s been common practice for ATF supervisors to retaliate against employees who do not blindly tow the company line. Sometime in March 2010, at the direction of Group Supervisor Voth, the Case Agent McAllister, daily surveillance of straw purchasers started to be conducted by members of Group 7 as well as ATF special agents from other offices who were detailed to assist with the Operation Fast and Furious.
“ATF Field Agent Lawrence Alt reported to the Phoenix 7 group office around this period of time and, like Special Dodson and I, became alarmed of the direction of the investigation and spoke out against the practices that were being utilized.
“My role during these daily surveillances was that of shift supervisor. As a shift supervisor, my responsibility was to oversee field agents at the direction of Case Agent McAllister, Cold Case Agent English, and/or Group Supervisor Dave Voth.
“In general, my fears were realized while on these aforementioned surveillances. On numerous cases, the surveillance team followed straw purchasers to Phoenix area firearms dealers and would observe these straw purchasers buy and depart with numerous firearms in hand. Those firearms included but not limited to AK-47s variant rifles, .50 caliber rifles, 5.7 millimeter FM pistols – all of which are devastating weapons.
“On many of those occasions the surveillance team would follow the straw purchasers either to residences, a public location, or until the surveillance team was spotted by straw purchasers but the end result was always the same: the surveillance was terminated by the case agent, cold case agent, or supervisor without interdicting or seizing the firearms.
“On several occasions, I personally requested to interdict or seize the firearm in such a manner that would only further their investigation, but I was always told to stand down and not to seize the firearms. I made these requests over the air and have many law enforcement witnesses that can verify my assertions.
“Reflecting back to that period of time during the investigation, I thought the poor decisions made were due to incompetency or lack of experience, which would have make the situation better. Unfortunately, in light of recent documents released briefing paper dated January 8, 2010, it appears the investigation was conducted in a recklessly planned manner with a specific strategy in mind. Per the briefing paper, the strategy was to allow the transfer of firearms to take place in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators who would continue to operate in illegal traffic of firearms to Mexican trafficking organizations.
“Special Agent Dodson, Special Agent Alt, and I – at times on a daily basis – have warned the Case Agent, the Cold Case Agent, the Group Supervisor of the reckless course they were taking in regards to the investigation. We sternly warned them of the consequences of their actions but were repeatedly ignored. In fact, on at least a couple of occasions, I witnessed Special Agent Dodson asked as both Special Agent McAllister and Group Supervisor Voth if they were prepared to attend the funeral of a slain agent or officer after he or she was killed with one of those straw purchase firearms. Neither one answered or even seemed concerned by the question posed to them.
“To close, I’d like to extend my heartfelt condolences to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family. I’m truly sorry for your loss. I hope you find peace.”
- Committee on Government Oversight & Reform: Written testimony submitted by ATF Special Agent Olindo James Casa (PDF)
- Committee on Oversight & Government Reform: The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast & Furious: Accounts of ATF Agents joint staff report released June 14, 2011 (PDF)
- Customs & Border Patrol: In remembrance of Brian A. Terry, Border Patrol Agent
- WhatTheFolly.com: Congressional testimony of Robert Heyer on the ATF’s Operation Fast & Furious
- WhatTheFolly.com: Phoenix ATF Agent John Dodson’s Congressional Testimony on Operation Fast & Furious