Free Markets, Free People

Scandals


Solyndra v 2.0 — It’s called SunPower

Another example of the poor job government does in picking winners and losers is emerging.   Solyndra, a solar panel company, was the first to go under, taking with it half a billion in taxpayer money.

Now we have the specter of another “green jobs company” that received guaranteed government loans doing the same.   But this one seems to have consumed over twice the amount of money that Solyndra did.

SunPower is its name and right now, bankruptcy seems to be its game.

How well did the government, via the Department of Energy, do this time?

The Energy Department says on its website that the $1.2 billion loan to help build the California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, a project that will help create 15 permanent jobs, which adds up to the equivalent of $80 million in taxpayer money for each job.

Brilliant.

The DoE also claims:

“This project underwent many months of rigorous technical, financial and legal due diligence by career employees in the DOE loan program,” Energy spokesman Damien LaVera said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “It was approved for one reason only: because it meets all the requirements of the program – helping America win the clean energy race and create entire new industries for American workers.”

Did it indeed undergo such “rigorous” analysis?  Well if so, then they should have known all about this:

But SunPower posted $150 million in losses during the first half of this year and its debt is nearly 80 percent higher than the market value of all its outstanding shares. The company is also facing class action lawsuits for misstating its earnings.

It truly makes you wonder how bad a company would have to be not to get a DoE loan (obviously it would have to be a “clean energy” company, because those are the “winners” this administration has chosen to fund).

Oh, and then there’s this:

The company is also politically connected. Rep. George Miller’s son is SunPower’s top lobbyist. The elder Miller, a powerful California Democrat, toured the plant last October with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and reportedly said, "We’ve worked hard to make renewable energy a priority because it represents America’s future economic growth. Today, businesses like SunPower are moving forward, hiring 200 people for good clean energy jobs in the Easy Bay."

It’s not clear what role, if any, either of them played in securing the loan. Miller’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

An Energy Department official denied crony capitalism was a factor in the loan guarantee.

“The notion that political connections played any role in this application is simply false,” the official said. “This application was approved based on the exhaustive due diligence of the career professionals in the loan program, and nothing else.”

Of course.  Because there was such a sound financial basis to approve such a loan, wasn’t there?

And politicians wonder why people are more and more cynical and less trusting of our government all the time?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Is the Obama about to throw Holder under the bus?

When have you heard something like this before?

President Obama says that he has “complete confidence” in Attorney General Eric Holder.

Yup, just before the coach in which the owner expresses “complete confidence” finds himself applying for unemployment.  Is Eric Holder about to be thrown under the bus?

Well you might conclude that when you read Mark Theissen’s article in the Washington Post in which he lays out how much of an “asset” Holder has been for the Obama administration.

There’s Guantanamo, Fast and Furious, his mishandling of the Christmas Bomber case, his attempt to get Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried in New York, his attempt to reduce the war against terrorists to “lawfare” and, of course, the decision not to prosecute the New Black Panthers for obvious (on video) voter intimidation among a myriad of other things.

Theissen points out that most of Holder’s problems, although certainly not all of them, stem from incompetence.  The lack of due diligence in a job that demands that as a prerequisite to serving:

Many of these debacles stem from Holder’s failure to do due diligence: He failed to consult the intelligence community before giving the Christmas bomber a Miranda warning; he failed to read the memos in which career prosecutors explained why CIA prosecutions were a legal dead end; he failed to consult New York officials about trying Mohammed in their city; he failed to conduct even a cursory review before pushing Obama to announce the closure of Guantanamo; he failed to read the Arizona immigration law before publicly opposing it. One such failure is a mistake; this many is a pattern of gross incompetence.

Couldn’t agree more.  And James Carville has already recommended chucking him as a way of Obama gaining some leadership cred (something he’s badly lacking).  With Darrel Issa on the Fast and Furious track, it may be time to unload this guy.

Is that the bus I hear warming up?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Fast and Furious scandal evokes yelling and screaming from DoJ and White House

The ATF operation, “Fast and Furious” is causing frayed nerves at both the DoJ and White House.

In a document dump last week, it became clear that the White House was aware of the operation at some level for quite some time.  Additionally, it appears that Eric Holder at DoJ was also very aware of the operation prior to his Congressional testimony where he testified he’d only recently found out about it.  The Hill:

Attorney General Eric Holder was issued multiple memos from senior Justice Department officials about a controversial gun-tracking operation months before he said he first became aware it, according to documents.

So either he doesn’t read his memos or he was just flat telling a fib when he told the Congressional committee that he wasn’t aware of the operation until recently.

Those revelations have caused the most transparent administration in history to begin yelling and screaming at reporters chasing the story.  CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson told the story on the Laura Ingraham show yesterday:

In between the yelling that I received from Justice Department yesterday, the spokeswoman–who would not put anything in writing, I was asking for her explanation so there would be clarity and no confusion later over what had been said, she wouldn’t put anything in writing–so we talked on the phone and she said things such as the question Holder answered was different than the one he asked. But he phrased it, he said very explicitly, ‘I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.’

That’s right folks, the defense coming out of DoJ is that Holder was answering a different question than the one asked?   Or, in simpler terms, he flat out lied.  Attkisson goes on:

Ingraham: So they were literally screaming at you?

Attkisson: Yes. Well the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me. [Laura: Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?] Eric Schultz. Oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler, she was yelling not screaming. And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House."

And Atkisson is lectured about what is “reasonable” concerning coverage of this scandal, and apparently she’s way over that arbitrary boundary:

[The White House and Justice Department] will tell you that I’m the only reporter–as they told me–that is not reasonable. They say the Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, the New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.

You can hear the entire interview at the link above, but this is one of those “where there’s smoke, there is fire” moments and given the reaction, Atkisson must know she’s on to something big.  The use of “unfair and biased” show they’re willing to use the big gun accusations that are supposed to shame Atkisson into dropping the story. 

But the tone tells you a lot.  They are running a bit scared on this one.  And if they can just shut down the major news outlets pursuing the story, they’re fine.  They obviously believe their faithful lapdogs – Washington Post, LA Times, and NY Times – are pretty much off the story or covering it in such a way that it doesn’t reflect poorly on the administration while CBS and Atkisson are pursuing it much too deeply for their comfort.  Thus the yelling, screaming and accusations.

This is a very serious scandal and the administration knows it.  Their fire brigades are out there trying their best to dampen the flames.  My guess is the head of CBS news will be getting some phone calls if he or she hasn’t already. 

This is how the team that was going to “change politics in Washington” play ball.

Seems like business as usual to me.  And you?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


New information reveals ATF sold guns directly to Mexican drug cartels

Information about Operation Fast and Furious – the US government run gun running operation that turned over thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels – is coming fast and furious now.  The newest revelation:

Not only did U.S. officials approve, allow and assist in the sale of more than 2,000 guns to the Sinaloa cartel — the federal government used taxpayer money to buy semi-automatic weapons, sold them to criminals and then watched as the guns disappeared.

This disclosure, revealed in documents obtained by Fox News, could undermine the Department of Justice’s previous defense that Operation Fast and Furious was a "botched" operation where agents simply "lost track" of weapons as they were transferred from one illegal buyer to another. Instead, it heightens the culpability of the federal government as Mexico, according to sources, has opened two criminal investigations into the operation that flooded their country with illegal weapons.

Yes, it’s not just about allowing drug cartel members to buy guns from US dealers and move them into Mexico, apparently the ATF also bought guns and resold them to the drug cartels with the same result.  Or said another way, they used your money to actively participate in this bone-headed plan and sure enough, got the expected results.  But then they lost track of the weapons – on purpose.

Apparently there was a little office politics involved in the stupidity:

In June 2010, however, the ATF dramatically upped the ante, making the U.S. government the actual "seller" of guns.

According to documents obtained by Fox News, Agent John Dodson was ordered to buy six semi-automatic Draco pistols — two of those were purchased at the Lone Wolf gun store in Peoria, Ariz. An unusual sale, Dodson was sent to the store with a letter of approval from David Voth, an ATF group supervisor.

Dodson then sold the weapons to known illegal buyers, while fellow agents watched from their cars nearby.

This was not a "buy-bust" or a sting operation, where police sell to a buyer and then arrest them immediately afterward. In this case, agents were "ordered" to let the sale go through and follow the weapons to a stash house.

According to sources directly involved in the case, Dodson felt strongly that the weapons should not be abandoned and the stash house should remain under 24-hour surveillance. However, Voth disagreed and ordered the surveillance team to return to the office. Dodson refused, and for six days in the desert heat kept the house under watch, defying direct orders from Voth.

A week later, a second vehicle showed up to transfer the weapons. Dodson called for an interdiction team to move in, make the arrest and seize the weapons. Voth refused and the guns disappeared with no surveillance.

According to a story posted Sunday on a website dedicated to covering Fast and Furious, Voth gave Dodson the assignment to "dirty him up," since Dodson had become the most vocal critic of the operation.

"I think Dodson demanded the letter from Voth to cover both himself and the FFL (Federal Firearm Licensee). He didn’t want to be hung out to dry by Voth," a source told the website "Sipsey Street Irregulars."

Your government at work, carefully looking out for your best interests.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Solyndra applied for a 2nd loan

The Daily Caller is reporting that Solyndra, famed for going belly up and putting the taxpayers on the hook for half a billion dollars, applied for an additional DOE loan for $469 million.

Failed solar panel maker Solyndra’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that seven months after the Obama administration’s Department of Energy approved a $535 million federal loan guarantee, Solyndra applied for a second one valued at $469 million.

“On September 11, 2009, we applied for a second loan guarantee from the DOE, in the amount of approximately $469 million, to partially fund Phase II,” Solyndra wrote in a report it filed with the SEC on December 18, 2009. “If we are unable to obtain the DOE guaranteed loan in whole or in part, we intend to fund any financing shortfall with some combination of the proceeds of this offering, cash flows from operations, debt financing and additional equity financing.”

This application went in right after it received the original $535 million from the DOE. So, the question is, what happened to that application? Well, so far, it seems that no one can say.

It’s unclear if the now-bankrupt and scandal-embroiled green energy company actually received a second loan. Department of Energy officials did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment, and the company’s SEC filing left the question open.

So, did Solyndra get that second loan or not? Are we on the hook for more than a billion dollars? It seems like if the answer was "no", the DOE or Obama Administration would be fairly keen on letting us know that.

I’m really curious about this now.

(H/T: Ace)

~
Dale Franks
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Solyndra – Administration warned it would fail in September, 2011. And, it did

In the old “what did they know and when did they know it” game concerning Solyndra, the failed solar company backed by half a billion dollars of federally guaranteed loans, it appears the administration was warned repeatedly that it would fail.

Even after Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, analysts in the Energy Department and in the Office of Management and Budget were repeatedly questioning the wisdom of the loan. In one exchange, an Energy official wrote of "a major outstanding issue" — namely, that Solyndra’s numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011.

There was also concern about the high-risk nature of the project. Internally, the Office of Management and Budget wrote that "the risk rating for the project sponsor [Solyndra] … seems high." Outside analysts had warned for months that the company might not be a sound investment.

And the reason?

Fairly simple, really:

"It’s very difficult to perceive a company with a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars," Lynch said. "Those numbers don’t generally work. You don’t want to lose three dollars for every unit you make."

But apparently not enough to warn off what was something that the administration badly wanted to back – “green” jobs.  The problem of course is they weren’t viable green jobs.   The company failed Econ 101 analysis, yet that didn’t stop our central planners from pushing ahead with the loan guarantees.

And all the info to determine this wasn’t a good risk was there:

In 2008, Solyndra, then just three years old, pushed ahead with its application for government backing to build a new plant to produce its unique solar panels. An outside rating agency, Fitch, gave Solyndra a B+ credit rating that August. Two months earlier, in June 2008, Dun & Bradstreet issued a credit appraisal of the company. Its assessment: "Fair."

Those are not top-of-the-line scores, Fitch Ratings spokeswoman Cindy Stoller told the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News, which has been investigating the deal in partnership with ABC News since March. She could not discuss the Solyndra review specifically, but said of a B+ rating: "It’s a non-investment grade rating." She provided a company ratings definition, showing that B+ falls between a "highly speculative" B and "speculative" BB.

Anyone with a 5th grade education would know enough to go “not where we should sink our money”.  But sink it they did.

What do we get back from the administration when questioned about all of this?

Asked about those ratings, and how significantly the department viewed the risk, Energy officials said Monday the department conducted "extensive due diligence" on the application, which included consideration of the Fitch rating.

"We believed the rating, which is used to inform our analysis of potential risks associated with the loan, was appropriate for the size, scale and innovative nature of the project and was consistent with the ratings of other innovative start-up companies," said Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman.

"The Department conducted exhaustive reviews of Solyndra’s technology and business model prior to approving their loan guarantee application," LaVera said. "Sophisticated, professional private investors, who put more than $1 billion of their own money behind Solyndra, came to the same conclusion as the Department: that Solyndra was an extremely promising company with innovative technology and a very good investment."

Well, if that’s the case, then the analysts at the DoE are utterly incompetent.  My guess is they came up with the analysis their bosses wanted, not that which actually told the truth about the situation.

Again, instead of letting the market do its job, the administration continued to ignore the warning signs and intrude, backing a company that was bound to fail and in the end, throwing a half billion taxpayer dollars down the drain.

And there’s this:

The White House has argued that any effort to finance start-up businesses in a relatively new field like solar energy is bound to include risky ventures that could fail. They reject the notion being pushed by Republicans that Solyndra was chosen for political reasons. One of the largest private investors in the deal, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, was also a prominent fundraiser for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

And, Solyndra’s CEO was a large contributor as well.

However, the big concern?

"This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.

"If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY," wrote Ronald A. Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in another email sent March 7, 2009. The "West Wing" is the portion of the White House complex that holds the offices of the president and his top staffers.

Yup, protect the White House.  And they didn’t even have the wits to back out when they could have, instead doubling down in the face of horrific numbers.  Sound familiar?

You’re in good hands, folks — can’t you just feel it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


More Fast and Furious revelations

Business Insider has the details.   As the probe widens, more and more of the botched and frankly stupid operation becomes known:

The WSJ reports today that federal authorities are now investigating why the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix — the same office that oversaw Fast and Furious — released Jean Baptiste Kingery after he confessed to providing military-style weapons to the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Kingery, who was arrested and released in June 2010, confessed to manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using grenade components from the U.S. He also admitted to helping the cartel convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.

Mexican criminal organizations are increasingly using these military-style weapons as the cartels’ escalate their wars against the government and one another.

Despite Kingery’s confession, and over loud protestations from the arresting ATF officers, the U.S. Attorney’s office let Kingery go within hours of his arrest.

This has led the Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office to attempt to push back:

The Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office denies that it declined to prosecute the case, saying that it wanted to continue surveillance. The office alternatively told investigators that ATF agents wanted to make Kingery an informant, but lost contact with him within weeks of his release.

Prosecutors involved in the case also accuse ATF agents of devising a failed sting that allowed Kingery to take hundreds of grenade parts across the border in the months about six months prior to his arrest.

Kingery had been hauled in by ATF agents and confronted with the evidence and the U.S. Attorney’s office thinks he’s going to go back to work and it’ll be business as usual?  Really?  I guess they figured out that wasn’t the case when they “lost contact with him within weeks of his release”.

Botched?  That’s being kind.  And notice too the attempt to distract by the U.S. Attorney with the “failed sting”.  It seems to me if that’s the case and six months later the agents had the goods on Kingery, it was probably a good arrest at that point.  But apparently the U.S. Attorney there knows better, huh?

This is Clown College stuff.  How badly can an organization screw up an operation that was absolutely stupid to begin with?   Obviously worse than we thought.  The level of stupidity, incompetence and outright dumb decisions wrapped up in this case are staggering.   It was a dumb idea to begin with and it was compounded with incompetence, poor execution and it inevitably ended up killing a US agent and untold Mexicans.

The question is, who at what level knew about this in the administration.  There are those who believe Eric Holder is certainly knew and there’s speculation that the man in the White House may have known and condoned the operation as well.

The Fast and the Furious case has escalated over the past weeks, with news that at least three White House national security officials knew about the gunrunning program.

Emails obtained by the Committee last week show contact between the head of the Phoenix ATF and Kevin O’Reilly, then-director of North American affairs, about the operation. The White House confirmed that O’Reilly briefed Dan Restrepo, senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Greg Gatjanis, director of counterterrorism and narcotics.

The emails, first reported by the LA Times, do not indicate that the White House aides knew about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns "walk." There is also no indication that the information went beyond those three officials.

Yeah, that sort of stuff never makes it into security briefings for the President, does it?

And you can already see the attempt to limit the damage if it is finally proven the President was aware of the operation (and tacitly approved it) with the line that says the White House security aides didn’t know “about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns “walk.””   That was sort of the whole point of the operation, wasn’t it?

Lots of interesting revelations yet to come methinks.  Whether or not the press will cover it in any depth remains to be seen, but in my estimation, this is a large enough scandal that at least Eric Holder’s job ought to be in jeopardy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Fast and Furious linked to 12 more violent crime scenes in Mexico

Smoke_and_Mirrors_windowSign_resized

This just gets deeper and wider:

Just hours after the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, federal officials tried to cover up evidence that the gun that killed Terry was one the government intentionally helped sell to the Mexican cartels in a weapons trafficking program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The revelation comes just days after a huge shake-up of government officials who oversaw the failed anti-gun trafficking program and Congress renewed its demand for more answers.

Also late Thursday, Sen. Charles Grassley’s office revealed that 31 more Fast and Furious guns have been found at 12 violent crime scenes in Mexico.

Additionally, as mentioned, evidence of a cover up has been found:

In an internal email the day after Terry’s murder, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emory Hurley and then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke decided not to disclose the connection, saying "this way we do not divulge our current case (Fast and Furious) or the Border Patrol shooting case."

Nice.  Wonderful.  Your “transparent” government at work.

And as the investigation continues, more and more evidence of both criminality (cover-up) and incompetence becomes apparent at echelons far above the agent level:

Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Thursday they are expanding their investigation into the scandal. In a strongly worded letter to Anne Scheel, the new U.S. attorney for Arizona, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested interviews, emails, memos and even hand-written notes from members of the U.S. attorney’s office that played key roles in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) program.

“The level of involvement of the United States Attorney’s Office … in the genesis and implementation of this case is striking,” wrote Issa and Grassley.

It is also trying to be denied by the DoJ which has been less than cooperative in the Congressional investigation into the operation:

“The Justice Department has been less than forthcoming since day one, so the revisions here are hardly surprising, and the numbers will likely rise until the more than 1,000 guns that were allowed to fall into the hands of bad guys are recovered — most likely years down the road," Grassley said in a statement released Thursday.

"What we’re still waiting for are the answers to the other questions the Attorney General failed to answer per our agreement. The cooperation of the Attorney General and his staff is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of this disastrous policy and help the ATF and the department move forward.”

And, my guess is, given who runs the DoJ (and who the head of that department works for) they’ll be waiting for some time.

I think it past time that the mantra of “hope and change” be given a reality check and renamed what it has become over the past 3 years  — “smoke and mirrors”.   The promise to change politics as we knew it, to provide transparency and to be a transformative administration have all failed to the point that whatever attempt was actually made to accomplish those campaign goals (if there ever were any) have utterly and completely failed to emerge, much less overwhelm the supposed bureaucratic ossification and politics of Washington.

This administration is simply another in a long line of administrations that has failed to live up to its hype and promises.  It is utterly and completely, even mundanely, just another old fashioned political promise machine which has no way to materialize what it has promised.

Smoke and mirrors, my friends, smoke and mirrors.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


“Fast and Furious” – “The perfect storm of idiocy”

The Washington Times, one of the few media outlets covering this story, tells us:

The Obama administration sought to intimidate witnesses into not testifying to Congress on Tuesday about whether ATF knowingly allowed weapons, including assault rifles, to be “walked” into Mexico, the chairman of a House committee investigating the program said in an interview Monday.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said at least two scheduled witnesses expected to be asked about a controversial weapons investigation known as “Fast and Furious”received warning letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit their testimony.

Good grief … I can only imagine the reaction of the NY Times and Washington Post if this had been a mere 4 years ago.  But I state the obvious.  Intimidating witnesses?  Is this the “hope and change” we were all promised? 

Revelations like that have caused this story to stink so badly, that even a reluctant media is finally beginning to turn their attention to the hearings.

Here’s CBS with a piece about the controversy and  what one of the scheduled witnesses today will be telling the committee:

In advance of a hearing later today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report containing new testimony and allegations in the ATF gunwalker case. According to the report, Carlos Canino, Acting ATF Attache in Mexico, calls the strategy his agency employed: "The perfect storm of idiocy."

"We armed the [Sinaloa] cartel," Canino told investigators. "It is disgusting." Canino will be a key witness at the hearing.

[Joint Committee report: Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence (pdf)]

But it’s not just the Sinaloa cartel. Documents obtained by Congressional investigators show weapons – sold under ATF’s watch in Operation Fast and Furious out of the Phoenix office – have been used by at least three Mexican drug cartels: Sinaloa, El Teo and La Familia.

In other words, Congressional investigators say the very agency charged with preventing weapons from falling into the hands of violent cartels south of the border … instead facilitated it.

Doh!  You can read the report at the link in the cite.  Issa also had some strong words for AG Eric Holder:

“How is it that the No. 2, 3, 4 at Justice all knew about this program, but the No. 1 didn’t?,” Mr. Issa said. “Is it because he said ‘don’t tell me’? Is it because they knew what they were doing is wrong, and they were protecting their boss? Or is it that Eric Holder is just so disconnected … ?

“Whichever it is — he knew and he’s lied to Congress, or he didn’t know, and he’s so detached that he wasn’t doing his job — that really probably is for the administration to make a decision on, sooner not later,” Mr. Issa said.

Just another case of how ill-served we are with this clown as our chief law enforcement officer.   He’s either a liar or clueless.  Great choices, no?  Hopefully this story will gain enough visibility that we’ll see Obama come out and tell the White House press corps that he has “full faith” in Eric and is “behind him 100%”.  That of course means that within a week or two Holder would announce he was resigning from the AG’s office to “spend more time with my family”.

Frankly, we’d be better off with the office vacant than with this bunch in there.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


What is the political bursting radius of “Operation Fast and Furious”?

Right now it seems that the Mexican/ATF gun running scheme has blown up in the face of the administration and, unless the media tries to ignore it, has the potential of being a very damaging scandal.  The NY Post gives a good summary:

The ATF’s acting director, Kenneth Melson, has been singing like a canary to congressional investigators as he pushes back against administration pressure for him to resign and take the fall for something that, at the very least, had to include the US Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and possibly the Homeland Security Department.

In a letter to Holder released yesterday, Rep. Daryl Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley accused the Justice Department of blocking their investigation into the burgeoning scandal (which has resulted in the deaths of at least two American agents and countless Mexican civilians), muzzling the ATF and involving other federal agencies, including the FBI and the DEA, in funding the crackpot scheme.

"The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities," they wrote.

"It is one thing to argue that the ends justify the means in an attempt to defend a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns. Yet it is a much more serious matter to conceal from Congress the possible involvement of other agencies in identifying and maybe even working with the same criminals that Operation Fast and Furious was trying to identify."

That’s the key to this mess — and the reason that Operation Fast and Furious might turn out to be the biggest Washington scandal since Iran-Contra.

If all of this is true, then yes, it should be.  Melson had been prohibited by AG Eric Holder from appearing before Congress in his official capacity.  But Holder can’t prohibit private citizen Melson from appearing and that’s how Melson is appearing.  He obviously knows a bad op when he sees one and is refusing to be the fall guy.

The ostensible purpose of “Fast and Furious” was to identify the “higher ups” in the Mexican gun trafficking circles.  But here’s the problem:

As Issa and Grassley note in their letter, had the other agencies shared information — theoretically the goal of the post-9/11 revamp of the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies — "then ATF might have known that gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ had already been identified."

In fact, inter-agency coordination – something the 9/11 reorganization was supposed to fix – should have revealed those names the ATF sought.  So if that isn’t really the reason for the operation, what is?

Well that’s where the speculation occurs, and the administration doesn’t help itself by stonewalling Congress. 

Melson testified behind closed doors on July 4, but the country needs to hear him speak — loudly and publicly. "Let me be clear," Issa wrote to Melson in April, "we are not conducting a concurrent investigation with the Department of Justice, but rather an independent investigation of the Department of Justice."

So what’s the purpose of the operation then?  If the higher-ups were already known, what is the possible reason for doing this?  Then NY Post throws out a possibility:

Law-abiding gun owners and dealers think they already know. With the Obama administration wedded to the fiction that 90 percent of the guns Mexican cartels use originate here — they don’t — many suspect that "Fast and Furious" was a backdoor attempt to smear domestic gun aficionados as part of its stealth efforts on gun control by executive fiat.

"I just want you to know that we’re working on it," Obama was quoted as saying to gun-control advocate Sarah Brady in March. "We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."

Unfortunately for the administration, this one’s out in the open now.

Now you may be saying, come on, isn’t that a little far fetched?  Not really.  This is an administration that talks out of both sides of their mouth so anything they’ve said in the past supporting gun rights has to be taken with a grain of salt.  And, you have to remember this is an administration that comes from the Chicago tradition of politics.   So combined with the DoJ stonewalling and refusal to turn over documents to Congress (you know, the “transparent administration), one has to suspect there may be some fire causing the smoke.

As Greyhawk says:

Maybe there’s a better answer – but I haven’t heard it yet. I can understand something like passing traceable funds/"marked bills" to suspects to help expose networks, and even temporarily allowing those suspects freedom of movement to facilitate that. But this – the transfer of weapons – is another matter entirely. Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence is an axiom especially true of government work, but in this case it’s hard to imagine someone that incompetent. That’s obviously a factor, along with stupidity, ignorance, hubris and a host of other character flaws Americans can only tolerate to a certain extent in government officials (a vague line well crossed here) – but even all of those flaws combined fail to describe motive.

It think his point is well taken.  At the moment, it is the most plausible explanation given the facts we have.   With the fact that the names were known within the law enforcement community, it is up to the administration to explain why doing such a stupid thing.  And as Greyhawk mentions, it is hard just to write this off to incompetence, unless you believe in total incompetence and, in fact, stupidity, all up and down the line of those who would have to approve an operation like that.

So it’s up to the administration to explain this fiasco.  The “plausible” explanation is out there.  And right now it is as good an explanation as any.  If that’s the case, as Confederate Yankee explains, the consequences could be dire:

If it is confirmed that the worst suspicions are true—that the Obama Administration supplied weapons to narco-terrorists, in order to undermine U.S gun laws—there will not be a stonewall big enough for them to hide behind, and both impeachment and jail time must not be just possible, but probable for those involved. They are, after all, accessories before the fact who aided and abetted the murders of two U.S. federal agents, and an estimated 150 law enforcement officers and soldiers, and an unknown number of civilians, in Mexico.

We’ll see what the administration can come forward with a better one, but I think this scandal has the potential to really shake up this bunch and expose the DoJ for the travesty it has become.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO