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?
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.
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.
Short version? Two words: Eric Holder. Or one word if you prefer: circus.
Here’s Sen. Jeff Sessions questioning Holder yesterday trying to get a little clarity on a particular subject, i.e. if there is a presumption that terrorists would be tried in civilian courts:
“My question to you fundamentally is every law enforcement officer involved out there, every military person involved out there needs to know what the policy is,” Sessions said. “So, is the policy that they [captured terrorists] would presumptively be tried in civilian court?”
Holder, citing the president himself, said there is a presumption of that captured terrorists would be tried in civilian courts.
“As I said, the archived speech that the president made was that there is a presumption,” Holder said. “It is not an irrebutable presumption that cases go to the civilian court with regard to the Miranda issue, but I think we have demonstrated hundreds of times, hundreds of times, that we can get actionable intelligence, while at the same time prosecuting people in jail for really extended periods of time.”
Of course Holder leaves himself some wiggle room, but it is clear he holds civilian courts to be superior to military tribunals. That, for some misbegotten reason, he believes justice can be best served in a civilian court regardless of any external concerns. And finally, people who’ve committed an act of war against the United States deserve all the rights reserved for citizens of the United States, even if the act occurred out of the US and they’re not citizens (obviously I withdraw the point if they are US citizens committing acts of terror in the US – the point is our Constitution guarantees their rights – not any rights of foreign nationals committing acts of terror/war).
It makes absolutely no sense to me. It demonstrates a bias that is both arrogant and dangerous. It also has little to do with “justice”. So, given that Holder is our AG and someone I have absolutely no confidence in legally or otherwise, I certainly am glad, frankly, that a couple of rounds found their way into the cranium of OBL. Imagine the three-ring-circus Holder and crew would have tried to put on had we captured him alive.
BTW, anyone know what “irrebutable” means?
House Judiciary Committee to investigate DoJ issues surrounding New Black Panther voter intimidation case
Jennifer Rubin reports that the House Judiciary Committee under new Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has issued its first oversight letter to the Department of Justice. Subject? The New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case as race based enforcement guidelines within the DoJ.
"Allegations that the Civil Rights Division has engaged in a practice of race-biased enforcement of voting rights law must be investigated by the Committee."
Indeed. He gives Holder and DoJ until the 21st to respond to a list of questions including whether Julie Fernandez of DoJ "explicitly or implicitly direct Voting Section staff not to enforce any section of any federal rights statute" or "not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act." This question stems from the claim by J. Christian Adams that Fernandez directed DoJ attorneys "not to bring cases against black defendants for the benefit of white victims."
With an all Democratic Congress, DoJ was able to weather the storm these revelations brought as Democrats successfully blocked any attempts to look into the matter officially. That has obviously changed.
Rubin makes some observations about the letter:
The letter is noteworthy on a number of levels. First, administration flacks and liberal bloggers have insisted that the New Black Panther Party case is much to do about nothing. But as Smith has correctly discerned, the issue of enforcement or non-enforcement of civil rights laws based on a non-colorblind view of those laws is serious and a potentially explosive issue for this administration. Second, Holder’s strategy of stonewalling during the first two years of Obama’s term may have backfired. Had he been forthcoming while Democrats were in the majority, he might have been able to soften the blows; Smith is not about to pull his punches. And finally, Smith is demonstrating the sort of restraint and big-picture focus that is essential for the Republicans if they are to remain credible and demonstrate their capacity for governance.
Bingo on all three. A worthy issue to investigate, a worthy reason to investigate and it will indeed play to the benefit of Republicans and detriment of Democrats – particularly Holder – but also those who tried to wave it away as “no big deal”.
I don’t think there’s any real doubt that Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in New York’s federal court was as much about politics as justice. President Obama’s remarks about KSM’s guilt and the outcome of the trial left little doubt this is to be a show trial. And while I’m certainly no fan of Sen. Lindsey Graham, I thought he made Holder look foolish during the Senate hearings into the matter. It was clear, at least to me, that this decision was not well thought out. It was also clear that Holder had no idea of the possible ramifications of his decision. He continually, but ineffectually, avoided Graham’s points – once these terrorists are brought into the federal court system there are a completely different set of rules at work. And while they may indeed get convictions with these particular defendants, it most likely won’t be pretty and it sets a precedent (criminalizing this war) that we may regret in the future.
It is now emerging that even if the administration adamantly denies that these are show trials, the terrorists in question know exactly what they are and plan on using them to propagandize what they did and why:
Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but “would explain what happened and why they did it.”
Mohammed, Ali and the others will explain “their assessment of American foreign policy,” Fenstermaker said.
“Their assessment is negative,” he said.
Fenstermaker met with Ali last week at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He has not spoken with the others but said the men have discussed the trial among themselves.
But don’t worry – the feds have it all under control. This will be a fair but orderly trial:
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said Sunday that while the men may attempt to use the trial to express their views, “we have full confidence in the ability of the courts and in particular the federal judge who may preside over the trial to ensure that the proceeding is conducted appropriately and with minimal disrupton, as federal courts have done in the past.”
Really? So how does Mr. Boyd and the Department of Justice plan on stopping a terrorist, to whom they just gave this right, from confronting his accusers in court and taking the stand to defend himself?
I mean if this is all about justice and not about, you know, a show?
Sometimes, watching this circus of the Obama administration, you just have to shake your head and laugh a bit, even if the laughter is rueful:
The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.
Officials said the first public moves could come as soon as next week, perhaps in filings to military judges at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, outlining an administration plan to amend the Bush administration’s system to provide more legal protections for terrorism suspects.
Continuing the military commissions in any form would probably prompt sharp criticism from human rights groups as well as some of Mr. Obama’s political allies because the troubled system became an emblem of the effort to use Guantánamo to avoid the American legal system.
The more this crew gets into the weeds concerning Gitmo, the more they seem to validate all the moves Bush made.
I’m sure it’s a bit maddening for them.
Officials who work on the Guantánamo issue say administration lawyers have become concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some terrorism suspects in federal courts. Judges might make it difficult to prosecute detainees who were subjected to brutal treatment or for prosecutors to use hearsay evidence gathered by intelligence agencies.
That was the Bush administration argument for some time. Congress passed legislation to enable it, the SCOTUS shot it down and told them how to fix it and Congress did, only to see SCOTUS change its mind and shoot it down again.
And, of course, that made it very easy to denounce from the campaign trail. But now the reality of governing intrudes:
Obama administration officials — and Mr. Obama himself — have said in the past that they were not ruling out prosecutions in the military commission system. But senior officials have emphasized that they prefer to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts. When President Obama suspended Guantánamo cases after his inauguration on Jan. 20, many participants said the military commission system appeared dead.
But in recent days a variety of officials involved in the deliberations say that after administration lawyers examined many of the cases, the mood shifted toward using military commissions to prosecute some detainees, perhaps including those charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”
Heh … what a surprise.
Administration officials said Friday that some detainees would be prosecuted in federal courts and noted that Mr. Obama had always left open the possibility of using military commissions.
… is pure and unadulterated BS.
Still, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama criticized the commissions, saying that “by any measure our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” and declaring that as president he would “reject the Military Commissions Act.”
But according to both Sec. Gates and AG Holder, military commissions are still very much on the table, because, as Holder said:
“It may be difficult for some of those high-value detainees to be tried in a normal federal court.”
Gee — I wonder who else’s administration said that?
Al Qaeda having difficulty establishing sleeper cells in the US? Not a problem – let the Attorney General help:
European justice ministers met with Mr. Holder earlier this week and pressed for details on how many Guantanamo prisoners the U.S. planned to release domestically, as part of any agreement for allies to accept detainees. Mr. Holder said U.S. officials would work to respond to the questions European officials have over U.S. Guantanamo plans.
For “people who can be released there are a variety of options that we have and among them is the possibility is that we would release them into this country,” Mr. Holder said. “That process is ongoing and we’ve not made any determinations or made any requests of anybody at this point.”
Seriously, anyone – sound like a better option than keeping Gitmo open and these prisoners there until and unless another country can be found to take them?