Gunwalker: Fast Leaks, Furious Congressmen
July 5, July 12, July 19, July 26, and August 9, 2010.
These are the dates of weekly memos provided by National Drug Intelligence Center Director Michael Walther to Attorney General Eric Holder. Each was a short document that included information on Operation Fast and Furious, including descriptions of the operation as a multi-agency task force targeting a gun trafficking ring headed by Manuel Celis-Acosta that had purchased "1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”
The release of these documents from mid-2010 -- and supporting documents from Department of Justice insiders discussing "gunwalking" -- has led House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) to ask President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor. The special prosecutor would investigate whether or not Attorney General Holder committed perjury when he stated in sworn testimony in March: "[I] probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
With the increased attention on the case -- including coverage from johnny-come-lately ABC that needed to add a backstory section to get their readers up to speed -- the White House and Department of Justice are fighting back, alleging that the growing scandal is nothing but a game of "gotcha" being played by Republicans:
"Here they go again. Chairman Issa and Senator Grassley can re-package and re-release the same documents every other day and it won't change the facts: the attorney general's testimony to both the House and Senate committees has been consistent and truthful," the department said.
The department said the "brief" passages were "buried in a few written reports" and did not detail the full extent of the operation.
"Instead of peddling selectively edited transcripts and distorting questions and answers in some distracting political game of gotcha, these congressional leaders should be focusing their attention on the underlying public safety problem we confront as a nation -- that too many guns are being illegally trafficked to Mexico," the statement said.
It is worth noting: the documents being released are new; the information was not buried, but featured bullet points of weekly summary reports; and there were no "selectively edited" transcripts or "distorted questions." The DOJ pushback seems rooted in political firefighting, not facts.
Even left-leaning NPR -- which seems to doubt Holder's truthfulness -- reported the details of the key question and answer accurately:
At a hearing in March, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa asked: "When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called Fast and Furious? To the best of your knowledge, what date?"
Holder replied: "I'm not sure the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
Texas Senator John Cornyn blasted President Obama's forceful defense of his attorney general, claiming that the president was the "the only person left with any confidence" in Holder:
“It is difficult to believe that after memos were sent to his office, ATF officials briefed Congress on Fast and Furious and it was reported in the media, Mr. Holder still didn’t have knowledge of it, as he claims, for several months,” Cornyn, a San Antonio Republican, said in an emailed statement.
The worst news of the week for Holder and Obama may have come last night. Bill O'Reilly interviewed CBSNews investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has provided the most dogged mainstream media coverage of the administration's gun-walking plots. O'Reilly asked Attkisson what caused a White House staffer to scream and curse at her several days ago. Her response left little doubt that more damning revelations are to come:
Well, I would say there have been some pretty incredible developments in the past week. Also, documents we haven't even had time to report on all of them. They are very sensitive documents and allegations going around. Many of them we haven't reported yet because we need to get more confirmation of them.
But what you see on the surface that we do report in our stories is really only a part of what may be going on and we may be reporting the future when we can get confirmation.
Attkisson may have been alluding to more evidence about Operation Fast and Furious, or perhaps about the nine other alleged gunwalking programs in five states which seem to have been implemented with the singularly practical purpose of getting thousands of weapons into the hands of criminals, both drug cartels and domestic gangs. Using Operation Fast and Furious as a baseline, it is reasonable to assume that if the other gunwalking operations were as productive, the U.S. may have run between 10,000 and 20,00o guns, enough weapons to outfit an entire U.S. Army infantry division.
If these numbers could be verified, it would prove that the Obama administration is the number one U.S. source of cartel guns.
As if things were not bad enough for the White House, Mike Vanderboegh -- one of the bloggers who broke the original story linking ATF gunwalking to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's death -- has sources claiming "Obama's man in the State Department," (former) Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, was the State Department operative who helped Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General David Ogden formulate the strategy that led to the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious.
If evidence can be obtained to support these contentions, then perjury is going to be the least of the worries for those involved. As Dave Gibson at the Examiner notes:
With the recent revelation that Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the ATF gun smuggling scheme as early as July 2010, which is nearly a year earlier than he claimed before Congress, the question becomes … Is Eric Holder an accomplice to Agent Brian Terry’s murder?
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu recently pointed out: “If somebody gives a gun to somebody knowing they’re going to commit murder, guess what we call them? ... We call them accomplices.”