Now that the debt ceiling debate is over and done, let’s turn our attention back to Operation Fast and Furious and its alleged sister operations. The multi-agency operation (or operations) of the U.S. government allowed thousands of guns to be supplied to Mexican drug cartels, while American federal law enforcement effectively provided the straw purchasers and smugglers with the cover to operate with impunity.
Despite the tens of thousands of words of outrage written about the Obama administration’s botched Operation Fast and Furious, most of the focus has been on the horrific impact of the program as measured by the number of firearms smuggled over the border and the number of lives lost. Some attention has been consequently paid to the potential political and criminal impact of the operation and cover-up within the Department of Justice.
Sadly, the media has focused very little attention on the probable origins of the plot, or why Gunwalker was created as an adjunct of the longer-running and more successful Gunrunner campaign.
Of course, that may not be entirely true. The crack investigative reporters of print, network, and cable news organizations may very well have done the research and followed the various clues about the origins of Gunwalker to their logical conclusion, and then simply decided that the most probable story was one they not dare tell.
The story is this: no competent federal law enforcement officer would ever have concocted an operation as obviously doomed to catastrophic failure as Operation Fast and Furious.
Let us count the reasons why:
- Federal law enforcement agents don’t let guns “walk.” A gun that is allowed to flow into criminal hands is a gun that could end up killing a fellow cop or citizen. As a result, all prior known operations under the long-running and successful Gunrunner program ended when a straw purchaser was allowed to make the purchase, and then arrested on the spot or shortly thereafter. Throughout the process of these stings, the suspects were under constant surveillance whenever they had firearms in their possession, and officers considered it catastrophic failure if surveillance was lost.
- Federal law enforcement agents knew that this operation would not lead to cartel kingpins. The profiling of criminal activity has become a blend of art and high science in recent decades, and when combined with the intelligence provided by informants and a history of thousands of arrests, the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and IRS agents assigned to the task force knew from the beginning that cartel leaders could not be implicated in Fast and Furious, because they simply aren’t involved. Obtaining weapons for cartel gunmen is a problem for the lower to middle ranks of a cartel’s hierarchy, no different than acquiring vehicles or safehouses. The most commonly used cartel weapons are viewed by the organizations as consumable commodities to be bought, used, and discarded. Do CEOs, company presidents, and vice presidents, or even middle managers go out shopping for paper clips and pens?
- Federal law enforcement agents knew from the outset that they could never arrest their targets, who were outside of their jurisdiction. Jurisdictional battles between federal, state, and local agencies are legendary, and sensitivity to jurisdictional issues is something every law enforcement agent learns, often with frustration. Knowing for a fact that the individuals running cartel gun acquisition would be based in Mexico, and staying in Mexico, agents would have realized from the mission planning phase — well before operational implementation — that effecting arrests of the operation’s stated targets was nearly impossible.
- Middle managers in government would never dare to try such a dangerous, high-risk operation without express orders from above. All agencies — public or private — are saddled with bureaucracy, internal politics, and institutional inertia, which forms a powerful and pervasive cultural force that significantly inhibits change. Changes that threaten the equilibrium of agencies are viewed as a threat, and the more radical the proposed change, the more resistance there is to block it from occurring. Resistance to change occurs even when change is thought to be strongly beneficial.From the ground up and at the very beginning, Fast and Furious was a radical and dangerous proposal that would threaten the very existence of the ATF.
There is no way a politically experienced operative like Phoenix Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Bill Newell would have offered up such a plan merely out of the self interest of furthering his own career. Federal law enforcement officers never would have conceived of and did not support the implementation of Operation Fast and Furious. Agents fought tooth and nail with supervisors over the plot, as has been documented extensively in congressional testimony.
Operation Fast and Furious would not have come from agents in the field.
Operation Fast and Furious could not have come from regional SACs.
The one and only way that this multi-agency operation could have been organized and forced into action against the wishes and better judgment of seasoned professionals is through a top-down push from high-level executives within the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Treasury, which all played a role in the plot. Four executive branch departments, led by cabinet-level political appointees loyal to the Obama administration, worked on an operation together that was explicitly doomed to failure from the outset.
Was the goal of the project ever law enforcement?
The most logical explanation for Fast and Furious and related operations was that it was not a law enforcement operation, but a political operation designed to advance an anti-gun political agenda that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have been pursuing since the beginning of this presidency.
This explosive scandal at the heart of Gunwalker isn’t a matter of “what did he know and when did he know it?” It now instead seems to be a matter of who will come forward, and how much evidence will they provide to implicate officials at the highest levels of a lawless government.