Thanks to Operation Fast and Furious, the incompetence and ineptitude that has infected the Holder Justice Department is becoming more obvious all the time. For department prosecutors (and senior ATF personnel) to approve the sale of firearms to Mexican drug cartels through straw buyers was a deadly misstep.
It led directly to the tragic death of Border Agent Brian Terry. Mexican officials estimate that “150 of their people have been shot by Fast and Furious guns,” Fox News reports. The obdurate refusal of Justice to provide the names of the senior Justice leadership who approved this operation at the recent House hearing held by Rep. Darrel Issa shows the willingness of Justice to cover up its mistakes and defy congressional oversight. As Issa accurately said, this growing scandal “was so felony stupid that it got people killed.”
But Operation Fast and Furious also shows how willing this administration is to deliberately mislead the press and how easily the Washington Post was conned by the administration in a story it published last year.
On December 13, 2010, the Post ran a story about U.S. gun dealers with “the most traces for firearms recovered by police.” The Post included “the names of the dealers, all from border states, with the most traces from guns recovered in Mexico over the past two years.” The Post did not reveal where it got this information, but pointed out that Congress passed a law in 2003 exempting the trace information maintained by the ATF from public disclosure. So the Post had to have gotten this information through a leak directly from the ATF (or by illegally hacking the ATF’s records, a far-fetched and highly unlikely scenario).
Two of the gun dealers the Post’s story assailed were Lone Wolf Trading Co. in Glendale and J&G Sales in Prescott, Ariz. Lone Wolf Trading is number one on the list for Mexican traces; J&G is number three.
However, at the time the ATF was apparently leaking this information to the Post, both of these dealers were cooperating with the ATF in the Fast and Furious Operation. When Fox News talked recently to the owner of J&G, Brad DeSaye, about the ATF’s disastrous operation, he said that when he questioned the ATF about whether the agency wanted the gun shop to sell to the cartel front men, the ATF said, “Keep selling.”
The Post actually interviewed DeSaye over his store’s appearance in the trace records. DeSaye, to his credit, did not reveal the still-secret ATF operation to the Post reporters, even though they were clearly writing a negative story that was potentially embarrassing to DeSaye.
This double-dealing by the ATF is appalling. It was bad enough that the ATF was running a secret operation that had gone off the rails and was supplying dangerous weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels. But then the agency apparently leaked deceptive information on gun sales that put the gun dealers in a bad light, or at a minimum, misled the Post when it should have tried to provide cover for dealers who were following ATF instructions. Indeed, these dealers were showing up in the Mexican trace information because the ATF was telling them to ignore the law and the usual verification procedures and sell guns to the cartels, sometime dozens in a single day to one person.
In an irony that could almost be considered comeuppance to the ATF, the Post story was published the day before Agent Terry was killed. Terry’s death panicked the ATF supervisors who were running Fast and Furious, a panic that was deserved after two of the weapons found at the murder scene were traced to the operation. Yet in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley on Feb. 4, 2011, DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, the same individual who testified before Issa’s committee, claimed the ATF had not “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico.” As the whistleblower ATF agents testified, this was patently false.