As we continue to watch the general uproar over the Operation Fast and Furious program, and specifically what Attorney General Holder knew and when he knew it, it needs to be noted that perjury is not the only apparent violation of law to have occurred.
I refer to the apparent violation of at least one (probably two) major U.S. laws by the Holder Justice Department. A few years ago, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701, the follow-on to the Trading with the Enemy Act) was expanded in order to criminalize any transactions between U.S. entities — to include departments and agencies of the U.S. government — and all foreign drug cartels.
I am familiar with these prohibitive statues because several years ago, while serving as the senior drug analyst for the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was tasked to initiate and became the principal drafter of legislation which became known as the Kingpin Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 1901-08). The Kingpin Act is an extension of the highly successful IEEPA sanctioning program specifically targeting Colombian drug cartels. It expands sanctions authority against various drug cartel operations worldwide — including Mexico — which have been determined by the president to be threats to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.
A violation of any of the IEEPA sanctioning programs or the Kingpin Act carries stiff penalties, both criminal and civil, and potentially totaling decades in prison and tens of millions of dollars in fines. It is not necessary that an individual or governmental entity be shown to have “knowingly” violated any of these programs: it is illegal for any U.S. entity or individual to aid, abet, or materially assist — or in the case of Operation Fast and Furious, to facilitate others to aid, abet, or materially assist — designated drug traffickers. There are no exceptions within IEEPA programs for unlicensed U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency operations.
Based on the July 5, 2010, memo to Eric Holder, it would appear that Fast and Furious facilitated the delivery of weapons to — at a minimum — the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. The U.S. Department of the Treasury, which administers both the IEEPA and Kingpin Act programs, has designated numerous members of the Sinaloa cartel under both programs. IEEPA prohibitions apply to the U.S. government as well as to individuals, and as stated there are no exceptions within IEEPA programs for unlicensed U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency operations.
There is a provision in the Kingpin Act for “authorized” law enforcement and intelligence activities, however the only procedure by which an Operation Fast and Furious program could have been “authorized” under the Kingpin Act was by the U.S. attorney general requesting a waiver (known within the Treasury Department as a Specific License), prior to any such operation being undertaken. To illustrate and emphasize this point: even during the run-up to war in Iraq, the U.S. secretary of Defense had to obtain waivers (specific licenses) from the Treasury Department to allow U.S. Special Forces and their necessary equipment (to include weapons, intelligence gathering, and targeting gear) to go into Iraq, as Iraq at the time was under separate IEEPA sanctions.
As an aside: having spent many hours in discussions and negotiations over the exception in the Kingpin Act for authorized law enforcement and the intelligence community, I can assure the reader that the intent of this provision was not to allow for the transfer of thousands of semi-automatic weapons to cartel members. The intent of this portion of this particular Act is to allow for cash payments by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to confidential informants and intelligence sources within cartels to aid in their dismantlement, and not to facilitate the transfer of weapons used to murder hundreds of innocent civilians in Mexico and a U.S. Federal Border Agent.
As part of Congress’ ongoing investigation, as well as its constitutionally mandated oversight activities, it should be asked of Attorney General Holder if any such specific licenses were requested or granted by the Treasury Department. Additionally, Treasury Secretary Geithner should explain whether his Department has begun an investigation into these apparent violations of IEEPA and the Kingpin Act.
Interestingly, and of serious note — if Secretary Geithner finds that the laws and programs which his Department administers have been violated, Treasury procedures mandate that the matter be referred to Eric Holder’s Justice Department for enforcement!
Perhaps the appointment of a special prosecutor is necessary after all.