New Documents Highlight Differences in Bush-Era, Obama-Era Gunrunner Investigations
There seem to be two avenues of document extraction in the ongoing Gunwalker scandal, in addition to witness testimony. One is the subpoena process being used by House and Senate committees investigating the plot. The other is selective leaking to favored media sources, which appears to be a preferred tactic of the White House. The former is official process, the latter an attempt to short-circuit the process.
Both approaches have been used in a pair of articles released via the Associated Press (via National Public Radio) and ABC News about an early Operation Gunrunner interdiction effort known as Operation Wide Receiver.
The Associated Press article presents an interesting variation of reality:
A second Bush administration gun-trafficking investigation has surfaced using the same controversial tactic for which congressional Republicans have been criticizing the Obama administration.
The tactic, called "gun walking," is already under investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general and by congressional Republicans, who have criticized the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama for letting it happen in an operation called "Fast and Furious." ...
The 2007 probe operated out of the same ATF office that more recently ran the flawed Operation Fast and Furious. Both probes resulted in weapons disappearing across the border into Mexico, according to the emails. The 2007 probe was relatively small — involving over 200 weapons, just a dozen of which ended up in Mexico as a result of gun-walking. Fast and Furious involved over 2,000 weapons, some 1,400 of which have not been recovered and an unknown number of which wound up in Mexico.
The Associated Press article goes on to paint the picture of a serially incompetent ATF office that began acting in a dangerous manner in 2007 and which continued until ATF whistleblowers came forward after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down in December of 2010, in a variation of the "Bush did it" meme that has long been a reflexive defense mechanism of the Obama White House.
But the ABC News article paints a very different picture, using newly obtained emails between ATF supervisors running Operation Wide Receiver:
“ATF agents observed this vehicle [carrying guns] commit to the border and reach the Mexican side until it could no longer be seen,” Carroll wrote in a Sept. 28, 2007 email. “We, the ATF … did not get a response from the Mexican side until 20 minutes later, who then informed us that they did not see the vehicle cross. For the first time we are working hand in hand with the GOM [Government of Mexico] and providing them with what they want and this is what we get!”
The following day, ATF Acting Director for Field Operation William Hoover was demanding information on the strategy.
“Have we discussed the strategy with the U.S. Attorney’s Office re letting the guns walk? Do we have this approval in writing? Have we discussed and thought thru the consequences of same?” Hoover wrote to Newell and Carroll. “Are we tracking south of the border? Same re U.S. Attorney’s Office. Did we find out why they missed the hand-off of the vehicle? What are the expected outcomes?
“I do not want any firearms to go south until further notice,” Hoover wrote on Oct 5. “I expect a full briefing paper on my desk Tuesday morning from SAC Newell with every question answered.”
On Oct. 6, 2007, Newell wrote in an email, “I’m so frustrated with this whole mess I’m shutting the case down and any further attempts to do something similar. We’re done trying to pursue new and innovative initiatives – it’s not worth the hassle.”
The AP claim that the Bush-era Wide Receiver and Obama-era Fast and Furious were "using the same controversial tactic" is deceptive, verging upon being a fabrication. The differences between the botched Bush-era interdiction effort that was Wide Receiver and the blatant gun-running of Obama's Fast and Furious are something that we've discussed previously, but the ABC News article provides even more details that highlight just how different the operations were.
Wide Receiver was a botched, small-scale, law enforcement gun-smuggling interdiction effort that involved local Phoenix-based ATF agents working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement. When guns were lost -- roughly 200 -- irate supervisors immediately shut down the program.
Wide Receiver could hardly be any more different than Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious used elements of at least four cabinet-level departments: Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury. U.S. attorneys, the directors of the FBI and DEA, the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, and senior DOJ officials were briefed. High-level State Department approval was critical, in order to avoid breaking arms export control laws. Even the White House National Security Counsil (NSC) had direct communications about the operation.
Unlike Wide Receiver, Operation Fast and Furious excluded Mexican government officials. Instead of working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement in order to prevent gun smuggling, the operation was designed to ensure that more than 2,000 guns would be successfully smuggled into Mexico by the drug cartels to be used in violent crimes.
The same supervisors that were appalled at the failures of Wide Receiver seemed to be giddy at the "success" of Fast and Furious when the weapons they sent over the border were found at murder scenes, or taken from the bodies and stash houses of narco-terrorists.
Operation Wide Receiver was a failed law enforcement operation that was shut down immediately when it went wrong. Operation Fast and Furious was a possible criminal conspiracy to ensure that one of the most powerful and violent criminal cartels in the world was armed not with inexpensive fully-automatic military weapons that can be had on the black market very cheaply, but with sporting semi-automatics that were American-imported or manufactured firearms costing 100%-400% more. The obvious, and only logical, explanation for such a plot was to ensure that as many American weapons as possible were showing up at Mexican crime scenes.
Perhaps one day the mainstream media will finally ask who ordered Operation Fast and Furious, who approved the plot, and why.
Until then, Congress is right to push for oversight and the presidential appointment of a special counsel to investigate the criminal conspiracy and the coverup.