Operation Fast and Furious — How the Obama Administration Conned the Washington Post
This apparent leak by the administration to mislead the Washington Post was not a one-time incident. On May 26, just two weeks before the Issa hearing, La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States (based in Los Angeles), published a story about the smuggling of guns from America into Mexico. The spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Phoenix again specifically named Lone Wolf Trading, which had sold guns at the express direction of the ATF, as being responsible along with other gun dealers for “a great majority of confiscated weapons in crimes on the other side of the border.” This is the same U.S. Attorney’s Office that “encouraged and supported every single facet of Fast and Furious,” according to the Joint Staff Report prepared by Rep. Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley.
There are two final points that should be made about this fiasco. The fact that Holder sent Weich up to testify on June 15 is very revealing to anyone familiar with internal Justice procedure. Weich is the head of the Office of Legislative Affairs, the office tasked with dealing with Congress. It is not a line department directly involved in prosecutions and investigations. The Fast and Furious Operation would have been handled out of the Criminal Division, headed by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, former special counsel to Bill Clinton. Breuer (or Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke) would obviously be the witnesses with the most direct knowledge -- particularly the question of who at Justice in the top leadership offices was briefed or asked for approval of the operation.
The only reason for Justice to send Weich was to send someone with no actual knowledge of who approved this operation so he could truthfully testify under oath -- as he did despite tough questioning by Issa -- that he did not “know the answer to that question.” The fact that the Inspector General is supposedly investigating -- one of the other excuses Weich gave for not answering questions -- is also not a legitimate reason to withhold information from Congress when it is exercising its constitutional oversight function.
Finally, the most obvious question that Issa, Grassley, and others have been asking is: Why would the administration implement such an obviously perilous, risky, and foolish operation that sent hundreds of dangerous weapons into Mexico?
For a possible answer, recall that in 2009 the Obama administration was making a huge public issue about the flow of guns from American gun dealers into Mexico. President Obama himself erroneously claimed at a joint press conference with President Filipe Calderon in Mexico City on April 16, 2009, that “90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.” Everyone from William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the ATF, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed this same claim.
The problem, however, was that the 90 percent figure was demonstrably false. Only a small portion of the guns seized by Mexican authorities have traceable serial numbers. In 2008, GAO reported that the Mexican government seized 30,000 guns, and only 6,700 were confirmed to have originated in the U.S. That represents only 22 percent, not 90 percent.
The administration’s claim was widely criticized as being wrong -- which may have provided a political motivation for an ill-advised operation that poured U.S. weapons into Mexico. This could provide the administration with a public-relations coup that supported its claims when it unveiled its prosecutions. Perhaps that’s why one ATF supervisor was described as “jovial, if not, not giddy, but just delighted” [sic] when Fast and Furious guns were found at Mexican crime scenes, and why Acting Director of the ATF Kenneth Melson took such a personal interest that he watched live feeds from secret ATF cameras in guns stores while sitting at his desk.
The bottom line is that considerations other than objective, professional law enforcement judgment seem to have driven the decision-making of the Holder Justice Department. The result has been tragedy and violence -- and the bloodshed will persist as these weapons continue to be used.
Update: The ATF responds to Issa's warning...by firing a whistle-blower.