Book Review: Fast and Furious, Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up
Fast and Furious is the story of Justice Department deception, ideological recklessness, and, above all, murderous indifference toward good government. Katie Pavlich’s new book, aptly titled Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up (Regnery), is an encyclopedia-style account of the scandal. If you want a single source for an objective and thorough chronology of the outlandish DOJ program, and the names of the guilty bureaucrats, this is the book.
One of the most disturbing things to emerge from the Fast and Furious scandal (apart from the hundreds of murdered victims of DOJ policy) is the fact that nobody has lost their job. Eric Holder exhibits no outrage, and nobody was held accountable. The architects, foot soldiers, and propaganda mouthpieces remain unpunished.
Fast and Furious also reminds us about something I emphasize: Attorney General Eric Holder is not the Alpha and Omega of bad decisions and rotted policy in the DOJ. Individual bureaucrats deep inside DOJ are also at fault, and in the past remained anonymous. Not anymore. The civil servants who leverage petty power to corrupt ends should be accountable for their behavior, if by no other means, by exposing their role in the new media.
During the Bush administration, some foolishly labored under the false notion that DOJ lawyers were all upstanding professionals free from political bias or reckless indifference to the law. Most at DOJ aren’t unprofessional liars, but sadly, some are.
Pavlich names the names of the people responsible for Fast and Furious. Consider Emory Hurley.
Emory Hurley is an Assistant United States Attorney in Phoenix who helmed Fast and Furious. He blocked the arrest of straw gun purchasers repeatedly, even after ATF agents gift wrapped multiple cases for him. Pavlich records Hurley as saying again and again “no probable cause,” even though video existed of illegal straw purchases.
Hurley even prevented arrests in “a case on grenades.” Pavlich describes emails from cooperative gun dealers expressing concern to Hurley about the safety of border agents, but the dealers were told everything was fine and no guns were going to Mexico. Hurley kept the spigot of guns flowing wide open into Mexico.
I confirmed today that Emory Hurley still has a job as an attorney at the Justice Department.
Pavlich paints a disturbing portrait of ATF Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell. Newell comes across in Fast and Furious as someone who would find himself right at home in the Polish Służba Bezpieczeństwa in 1980, using his civil service perch to approve rough handling of Gdansk shipyard workers or authorize tails on unruly Catholic priests. After all, he just had a job to do and a regime to serve.
Pavlich: “Newell had earned a reputation for punishing those who questioned his authority.” When an ATF agent complained not enough was done to address threats against another agent, Newell retaliated. After the agent’s house was set on fire, “Newell doubled down. He had subordinates accuse [the agent] of purposefully burning down his own home.” A subsequent inspector general report concluded not enough was done to protect the threatened ATF agents, but Newell still has a government job.
Newell was the enthusiastic ATF captain on the ground in the gun running operation, as detailed in Fast and Furious.
Pavlich also details the deception and diabolical plotting of presidential appointees at DOJ. Topping the list are Assistant Attorneys General Lanny Breuer, Ron Weich, and Holder’s current chief of staff Gary Grindler. These three appear to be the top level political appointees responsible for concocting and managing the program.
Soon after taking power, top Obama political appointees were plotting to expand an old Bush-era gun interdiction program called “Wide Receiver.” Breuer and others were on an October 26, 2009, conference call. The agenda described in the book said, “given the national scope of the this issue, merely seizing firearms thought interdiction will not stop firearms trafficking to Mexico.” The solution? Dispense with “seizing” any firearms, and let thousands of high powered weapons walk across the border.
Some Democrats, as they reflexively do, have told the media: “Bush did the same thing, and it was called ‘Operation Wide Receiver.’” As Pavlich describes in detail, this is false. Wide Receiver traced, monitored, and stopped the guns before they got across the border. When the Bush DOJ discovered some guns got across without being traced, the whole program was terminated.
The response of DOJ officials to Fast and Furious was familiar to me. I witnessed firsthand a DOJ culture that is incapable of viewing outside criticism as anything more than the uninformed complaints about matters that complainers do not understand. Arrogant denial is the response to any scandal.
Pavlich cuts to the heart of the program’s motivation: “In the aftermath of Fast and Furious scandal, administration officials repeatedly denied that their activities were motivated by an effort to curtail Second Amendment Rights, but what they said when the initiative was launched was rather different: they implied that American gun shops were the source of the problem.”
Fast and Furious describes handwritten notes of Gary Grindler about plans to expand government power over long-gun sales. The “guns sold by cooperating gun shops that were part of Fast and Furious” were “evidence for a demand letter supporting new gun control regulations. Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler’s handwritten notes from the March 2010 meeting in Phoenix suggest a similar intent.” The Obama administration wanted to force gun dealers to provide reports about who was buying rifles across the United States, and asked Congress for legislation in 2010.
The mayhem caused by Fast and Furious was used to support the legislative request, of course without revealing DOJ was behind the mayhem.
Fast and Furious also describes the existence of a “smoking gun” DOJ memo that reveals emails from ATF head Ken Melson to the deputy attorney general complaining about political appointees not telling the truth, and describing the people who hatched Fast and Furious.
Breuer and AAG Weich (who provided false information to Congress repeatedly) were both appointed by the president and could be impeached by the House. That Gary Grindler still has a job as Holder’s chief of staff tells you all you need to know about the arrogance of DOJ officials regarding Fast and Furious.
On the other hand, Pavlich describes some heroes, such as ATF whistleblower John Dodson. Dodson protested the policy privately then publicly blew the lid off. But the book alludes to many other ATF agents afraid to come forward. That’s too bad. Americans yearn for courageous patriots to step up the same way many others have over the centuries.
Pavlich’s account is refreshingly free from hyperbole. Too often some rail about crimes that occurred in the scandal without citing a single statute broken. Fast and Furious chronicles the facts. It doesn’t engage in reckless rhetoric.
I was contacted in late 2010 about a blockbuster story sources wanted me to break. It involved DOJ corruption of a scale unimaginable. I asked a few former Bush DOJ political appointees what they thought of the story that I was being spoon fed. “Impossible,” one said. “Crazy, couldn’t happen,” said another. So I didn’t touch the story. I wasn’t going to carry water for the tin-foil-hat crowd.
The story rejected as implausible was Fast and Furious.
That Bush DOJ officials dismissed entirely the possibility that the Obama DOJ would run Fast and Furious demonstrates the naiveté some have about those now in power. Your opponents are not following the Marquess of Queensberry. As Pavlich describes in Fast and Furious, even a murderous bloodbath does nothing more than activate the community organizing instincts of name calling and wagon circling.