The Plot Thickens: Obama Asserts Executive Privilege to Block Fast & Furious Disclosures

The Obama administration has a narrative about Fast & Furious. The Wall Street Journal obligingly reported it this morning, as follows:

The gun-walking tactics in Fast and Furious turned up in earlier ATF cases, during the Bush administration. When they were uncovered by Justice officials in the Obama administration, a top Justice official raised concerns with ATF officials, according to Justice documents released last year. But the officials never alerted Mr. Holder, didn't do enough to prevent similar cases and weren't aware the operation was under way until months later, according to Justice documents.

Mr. Holder, in a letter last week to Mr. Issa, said, "The record in this matter reflects that until allegations about the inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious were made public, department leadership was unaware of those tactics."

There are a variety of reasons to be skeptical of this version of events. To name only two:

(a) there were wiretaps in the F&F investigation, and when the government seeks a wiretap, federal law requires it to explain what investigative tactics have been used in the case, an explanation that is vetted by top DOJ officials because the government cannot apply for the wiretap without the approval of the attorney general or his designee (a high Justice Department official) -- it seems highly unlikely, assuming DOJ complied with wiretap law, that top Justice Department officials did not know about the gun-walking tactic until late in the game; and

(b) the gun-walking tactic -- which in F&F involved providing well over a thousand firearms to violent criminals -- was shocking, and it is hard to believe that if "Justice officials" knew enough to raise their concerns with the ATF brass, they failed to alert Attorney General Holder or follow through to make sure ATF and the U.S. attorney's office -- both arms of the Justice Department -- stopped the tactic.

But let's put all that aside for argument's sake and assume that the Obama administration's narrative is true. If this is what really happened, Attorney General Holder does not deserve our condemnation; he deserves a commendation. And if this is really what happened, what are the chances that the administration that can't shovel national defense secrets out fast enough to the New York Times would withhold a paper trail that covers Mr. Holder in glory?

The issue in F&F is not the withholding of DOJ documents. The issue is the reckless provision of an arsenal fit for an army to violent cartels, quite predictably resulting in the murders of possibly hundreds of people including at least one United States law enforcement officer. That is the reason Congress did not go away, as it usually does, when the Justice Department ignores or slow-walks demands for information. What happened here is too grave to take "no" for an answer.