Now that one of the ongoing Russia-gate investigations has finally connected some actual Russians to the Russian government in an effort to swing the 2016 election to Trump, the most important thing is to ramp up the PR to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake. I’m referring to the announcement made last week that the prosecutorial team leading the attack against Butina, Torshin and the NRA has added yet another ‘expert’ to its ranks, in this case a prosecutor who has vast experience in gun trafficking and related affairs.
The expert in question, Will Mackie, evidently was involved in a gun-trafficking case brought against an Arizona arms dealer named Marc Turi, who may or may not have violated an arms embargo against shipping weapons to Libya during the heady days of the Quadaffi regime. Like all these weapons shipments that are going one place but end up somewhere else, the facts are never all that clear. The story invariably reads like the script of a le Carré novel turned into a movie (e.g., The Night Manager) and the characters involved are usually somewhere between extras from Central Casting to guys who hang around outside supermarkets hoping that some old lady needs help taking her groceries out to her car.
Here’s how exporting guns works. First, you apply to the ATF for a Federal Firearms License because otherwise you can’t keep any guns around that you are planning to ship either to another location within the United States or anywhere outside the USA. Then you apply to the State Department for an export license which lists the types of weapons being shipped, the country where the guns will end up, and the name of the individual or company who is receiving the goods. Some countries engage in licensing gun importers the way we do it here; other countries don’t. Allegedly the Office of Export Controls at State checks out the outfit who will receive the guns, as well as certifying that the country itself isn’t on a list of locations to whom we will not sell arms. The exact same procedure and the exact same forms are used whether you want to sell an AR-15 abroad or an F-15 jet. As far as the State Department is concerned, it’s the correctness of the paperwork that counts.
Why is the paperwork so important? Do you actually believe that when your container arrives at dockside in Bayonne or Baltimore on its way to some customer overseas, that the customs guys at the port are going to interrupt their lunch to open up your container and check to make sure that the guns you claim to be shipping to wherever are actually what’s inside the shipping cartons about to be loaded onto a ship? Give me a break.
So now we have yet another paperwork expert being added to the Butina/Torshin investigation because, after all, the gun trafficking efforts of our Russian spies are just as much a threat to national security as when Julius and Ethel allegedly shipped the Soviet Union an atom bomb.
Except there’s only one little problem. Maria Butina hasn’t been involved in any kind of gun trafficking at all, ditto the ‘oligarch’ Torshin. The latter happens to be the owner of the company that manufactures the original AK-47 in Russia, and to bring the gun into the United States market they have set up a factory in Florida, following all the import laws and rules as defined by the ATF. Now the problem is that Torshin’s Russian company has been hit by sanctions first imposed by the Obama regime fand recently again by Trump. But that issue has absolutely nothing to do with gun trafficking at all.
Whether it’s Ambler, le Carré, Daniel Silva or Alan Furst, give me a good spy novel and I’ll read it through without taking anything except a bathroom break. But I’m still waiting for the best spy novel yet to be published, which will be the final report of the Department of Justice’s investigation of Maria Butina and her gun-nut friends.