As David Steinberg points out, the latest hearings on Operation Fast & Furious are now ongoing at the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. Chairman Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released a second report this morning that includes several new findings:
• There was little to no information-sharing from the Phoenix Field Division, ATF Headquarters and the Justice Department to their colleagues in Mexico City. Every time Mexico City officials asked about the mysterious investigation, their U.S.-based ATF counterparts in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., continued to say they were “working on it” and “everything was under control.”
• Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, was clearly aware of Operation Fast and Furious and touted the case during a visit to Mexico.
• ATF officials in Mexico City were incredulous that their agency would knowingly allow guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and they were incensed when they finally began to learn the full scope of Operation Fast and Furious and the investigative techniques used.
The fact that ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is usually a big defender of the administration, expressed his concern over this ATF operation in his opening statement and that he would work with Chairman Issa to go where the evidence leads them, is a sure indication that the administration is in big trouble — as is the fact that there are only ATF representatives testifying today. The administration is obviously offering up the ATF as the sacrificial lambs, rather than any of the political appointees from the Justice Department who approved this operation (such as Lanny Breuer) who have been complicit in trying to cover up their involvement.
One of the most startling facts was given by witness Carlos Canino, the ATF Acting Attaché to Mexico, whose testimony reflected his obvious fury about this “felony stupid” operation. The 2,000-plus guns that this out-of-control operation allowed to be trafficked into Mexico means that the “Sinaloa cartel may have received almost as many guns that are needed to arm the entire [US Army’s 75th Ranger] regiment. Out of these 2,000 weapons, 34 were .50 caliber sniper rifles. That is approximately the number of sniper rifles a Marine infantry regiment takes into battle.”
Canino said that “what happened here was inexcusable – and we in Mexico had NO part in it.” Canino said “that ‘walking guns’ is not a recognized investigative technique. These guns went to ruthless criminals. U.S. Law Enforcement and our Mexican partners will be recovering THESE guns for a long time to come as they continue to turn up at crime scenes in Mexico AND the United States. It INFURIATES me, that people – including my law enforcement, diplomatic and military colleagues – may be killed or injured with these weapons.” Canino mentioned that even his mother called him and said “Please tell me you weren’t involved in this.” Canino made a very salient point – that his mother may not know much about law enforcement, but “she knows right from wrong. Even at a great distance, she could see that walking guns was a terrible risk.”
Too bad none of the Obama political appointees in the top leadership positions of the Justice Department recognized that risk.