As the pressure began mounting on his administration’s actions in the Gunwalker scandal last week, President Barack Obama turned once again to the Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of the crime as cover:
Today at his news conference, President Obama was asked about the unfolding gunwalker scandal, and whether ATF leadership will be replaced.
Mr. Obama answered, “My attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico. … I’m not going to comment on — a on a current investigation. I’ve made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF, and we’ve got to find out how that happened.”
Mr. Obama added, “As soon as the investigation is completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken.”
Mr. Obama is referring to the investigation being run by acting DOJ Inspector General Cynthia A. Schnedar, who stepped into the position when well-respected longtime Inspector General Glenn Fine retired in late January.
Unfortunately for Schnedar, few seem to have confidence in her ability to run a competent or even unbiased investigation of the apparent crimes — deeds perpetrated by DOJ agencies involved in a program that saw federal law enforcement agencies providing de facto security to gun smugglers working for Mexican narcotics cartels. Attempts to apprehend gun smugglers during the commission of their crimes were thwarted by the very agencies and agents chartered to stop them.
Ultimately, the operation led to the murder of two U.S. federal agents and an estimated 150 Mexican law enforcement officers and soldiers. The strong implication is that those individuals and agencies responsible for allowing Gunwalker to proceed aided and abetted murder, committing felonies as accessories before the fact.
Such serious charges, potentially reaching the highest levels of the Department of Justice and possibly higher, should not be undertaken by an acting inspector general, which is typically a caretaker role until a new inspector general has been appointed.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) made that very observation in a March 8 letter to Kevin L. Perkins, chair of the Integrity Committee for the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
In addition to noting that an inspector general’s office without an inspector general is unfit to investigate such serious allegations, he also noted that the OIG has two conflicts of interest in investigating the scandal, as it may be part of it:
…the DOJ-OIG was aware of the allegations long before the Attorney General’s request and did nothing. Agent Dodson had already contacted the DOJ-OIG in December, just after Agent Terry’s death. He received no reply. After contacting my office, Agent Dodson contacted DOJ-OIG again, and still received no reply. No one from the office contacted him to gather information about his allegations until after my staff contacted the Acting Inspector General directly on February 1, 2011. Given that the DOJ-OIG initially failed to follow-up, it might have an incentive to minimize the significance of the allegations in order to avoid the appearance that its own inaction contributed to the problem in the last few months.
Third, I understand that ATF officials have cited a DOJ-OIG report critical of Project Gunrunner as one of the factors that prompted the shift to a riskier strategy of letting guns be trafficked rather than arresting straw buyers. DOJ-OIG may be sensitive to the appearance that its previous criticism created the conditions under which ATF and DOJ felt pressured to take risks in order to make a “big case” against the cartels. Again, that could create an incentive to minimize the significance of the allegations.
DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General ignored ATF whisteblowers, and previous rulings by the OIG may have contributed to the tactics used in Gunwalker. These are clear and obvious conflicts of interest that demand removing the OIG as the investigating agency.