Remember early on when the controversial and failed ATF/DoJ operation “Fast and Furious” came to light where the ATF bought guns and allowed them to be smuggled into Mexico, there was conjecture this was to be used as a means to demand more gun control?
CBS has uncovered some emails where it become pretty clear what the ATF’s intent was during the operation:
On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF’s Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:
"Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks."
On Jan. 4, 2011, as ATF prepared a press conference to announce arrests in Fast and Furious, Newell saw it as "(A)nother time to address Multiple Sale on Long Guns issue." And a day after the press conference, Chait emailed Newell: "Bill–well done yesterday… (I)n light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case."
But here’s the problem for the ATF – those multiple purchases demonstrated nothing but cooperation with them as requested by them. The gun dealers involved only did what they did at the request of the ATF and even then they were (as it turns out, properly) even concerned about that:
In April, 2010 a licensed gun dealer cooperating with ATF was increasingly concerned about selling so many guns. "We just want to make sure we are cooperating with ATF and that we are not viewed as selling to the bad guys," writes the gun dealer to ATF Phoenix officials, "(W)e were hoping to put together something like a letter of understanding to alleviate concerns of some type of recourse against us down the road for selling these items."
ATF’s group supervisor on Fast and Furious David Voth assures the gun dealer there’s nothing to worry about. "We (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into detail."
Two months later, the same gun dealer grew more agitated.
"I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys. I guess I am looking for a bit of reassurance that the guns are not getting south or in the wrong hands…I want to help ATF with its investigation but not at the risk of agents (sic) safety because I have some very close friends that are US Border Patrol agents in southern AZ as well as my concern for all the agents (sic) safety that protect our country."
Obviously the gun dealer had more concern for the life of the agents than did the ATF. But this was all an apparent ploy to advance more sweeping gun control in the area:
Two earlier Demand Letters were initiated in 2000 and affected a relatively small number of gun shops. Demand Letter 3 was to be much more sweeping, affecting 8,500 firearms dealers in four southwest border states: Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. ATF chose those states because they "have a significant number of crime guns traced back to them from Mexico." The reporting requirements were to apply if a gun dealer sells two or more long guns to a single person within five business days, and only if the guns are semi-automatic, greater than .22 caliber and can be fitted with a detachable magazine.
On April 25, 2011, ATF announced plans to implement Demand Letter 3. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is suing the ATF to stop the new rules. It calls the regulation an illegal attempt to enforce a law Congress never passed. ATF counters that it has reasonably targeted guns used most often to "commit violent crimes in Mexico, especially by drug gangs."
It’s one thing to want to “reasonably target guns” used to commit crimes in Mexico legitimately, and another to use the results of cooperation with an ATF operation, not matter how ill begotten, as a basis for targeting gun sales:
Larry Keane, a spokesman for National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group, calls the discussion of Fast and Furious to argue for Demand Letter 3 "disappointing and ironic." Keane says it’s "deeply troubling" if sales made by gun dealers "voluntarily cooperating with ATF’s flawed ‘Operation Fast & Furious’ were going to be used by some individuals within ATF to justify imposing a multiple sales reporting requirement for rifles."
Just another version of government creating a problem and then rushing in to fix it with more government control. A sort of “create a crisis and then don’t let it go to waste” if you will. The dishonesty and cynicism is appalling. Rep. Darrell Issa, whose Congressional committed has been investigating this operation said very pointedly about this evidence:
"In light of the evidence, the Justice Department’s refusal to answer questions about the role Operation Fast and Furious was supposed to play in advancing new firearms regulations is simply unacceptable," Rep. Issa told CBS News.
This sort of behavior is, as noted, unacceptable, but, unfortunately, more and more frequent. Government becomes less and less of a servant of the people and more and more their master. Operations like this remind one of the legal veneer authoritarian governments use to gradually oppress their people.
Eric Holder and all those who planned and executed this travesty should be given their walking papers. It would be a welcome change to see them actually held accountable for their unacceptable behavior.
Yeah, that’s going to happen. We’re talking government here.
UPDATE: The Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched a website to cover the Fast and Furious investigation.
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.
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.
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.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale are joined by special guest Clyde Middleton from Liberty Pundits to discuss Barbara Boxer, the controversy surrounding the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, and the week’s Congressional antics.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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Remember the uproar during the 2004 presidential election about supposed voter disenfranchisement and voter intimidation that allegedly took place in Florida. Reports of blacks being stopped at police roadblocks and turned away from voting places? The Civil Rights Commission as well as numerous media outlets descended on the state in an attempt to validate the rumors. The story remains an urban myth to this day despite the fact that no evidence of any of that taking place was found.
Fast forward to the 2008 election and these video tapes:
What you would expect to happen, at the time and given the video evidence, happened:
The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.
What happened next, however, wasn’t expected, although for most it comes as no real surprise:
The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.
Got that? A default judgment. A done deal. Guilty.
But they were ordered to drop the charges and case and settle for this:
A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections.
Ed Morrisey asks the pertinent question:
Recall, please, that Democrats screamed about the supposed politicization at Justice during Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as Attorney General for replacing political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President. They claimed that the replacement of nine US Attorneys was a plan by the Bush administration, supposedly through Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, to affect the outcome of investigations and prosecutions. It touched off a Constitutional fight over executive privilege that continues to this day, as the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are still conducting its “investigations” into this supposed politicization.
This looks significantly more like politicization of outcomes that anything alleged during the Bush administration, especially since the DoJ already won the case. In fact, the government had prepared arguments for penalties against the men as late as May 5th, before the political commissars under Attorney General Eric Holder ordered them to withdraw. Holder, during his confirmation hearing, had called career DoJ lawyers his “teachers” and the “backbone” of Justice. Apparently, the political leadership trumps teachers and backbone when it comes to voter intimidation on behalf of Barack Obama.
So will the same Congressional committees open an investigation into this reversal to benefit voter intimidation on behalf of the administration?
Just as important, will the same portion of the leftosphere which went berserk over Gonzo and made a cottage industry of the allegations treat this obvious politicization of justice the same way they treated the alleged politicization by the Bush administration?
Methinks probably not. Let the spinning (or ignoring) begin.