The most damning revelations coming out of the hearings on Operation Fast and Furious held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are the unmistakable indications that the program was never designed to succeed as a law enforcement operation at all.
A quartet of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) agents and supervisors turned into whistleblowers to bring the operation down, but only after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down in the Arizona desert. Two of the weapons recovered at the scene of Terry’s murder were traced to the operation.
Fast and Furious, also known by the more accurate “Gunwalker,” allowed known straw purchasers to buy large quantities of firearms — often a dozen or more semi-automatic rifles — at a time with the full knowledge of ATF agents and executives. The guns were then smuggled into Mexico, as frustrated front-line ATF agents watched, under strict orders to do nothing.
ATF agents testifying in front of the House Oversight Committee could not explain how the operation was supposed to succeed when their surveillance efforts stopped at the border and interdiction was never an option.
ATF Agent John Dodson, testifying in front of the committee, said that in his entire law enforcement career, he had “never been involved in or even heard of an operation in which law enforcement officers let guns walk.” He continued: ”I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.”
The obvious answer is that Gunwalker’s objective was never intended to be a “legitimate law enforcement interest.” Instead, it appears that ATF Acting Director Ken Melson and Department of Justice senior executives specifically created an operation that was designed from the outset to arm Mexican narco-terrorists and increase violence substantially along both sides of the Southwest border.
Success was measured not by the number of criminals being incarcerated, but by the number of weapons transiting the border and the violence those weapons caused. An ATF manager was “delighted” when Gunwalker guns started showing up at drug busts. It would be entirely consistent with this theory if DOJ communications reflected the approval of the ATF senior officials they were colluding with — but as we know, Holder’s Department of Justice refuses to cooperate.
At the same time in 2009 that federal law enforcement agencies (the ATF, the DOJ, and presumably Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security) were creating the operation that led to the executive branch being the largest gun smuggler in the Southwest, the president’s team was crafting the rhetoric to sell the crisis they were creating.
On television, in various news outlets, and even in a joint appearance with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Obama pushed the 90 percent lie, implying that 90% of the guns recovered in Mexican cartel violence came from U.S. gun shops.
At the same time they were damning gun dealers in public, the administration was secretly forcing them to provide weapons to the cartels, by the armful and without oversight. More than one gun industry insider suggests that the administration extorted cooperation and silence from these gun shops. As the ATF has the power to summarily shut dealers down for the most minor of offenses, that is very, very possible.
The administration has spared no effort to stop the investigation in its tracks. Democrat senators attempted to poison the well the day before the Oversight Committee’s hearings. The ranking Democrat on the committee did as well, before being flummoxed into silence by the testimony presented.
And Obama himself has offered the solutions we would expect from a gun prohibitionist:
Faced with a Congress hostile to even slight restrictions of Second Amendment rights, the Obama administration is exploring potential changes to gun laws that can be secured strictly through executive action, administration officials say.
The Department of Justice held the first in what is expected to be a series of meetings on Tuesday afternoon with a group of stakeholders in the ongoing gun-policy debates. Before the meeting, officials said part of the discussion was expected to center around the White House’s options for shaping policy on its own or through its adjoining agencies and departments — on issues ranging from beefing up background checks to encouraging better data-sharing.
Administration officials said talk of executive orders or agency action are among a host of options that President Barack Obama and his advisers are considering.