The controversial “gunwalking” program Fast and Furious that lead to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in the Arizona desert in December of 2010 was once again subject of a House Oversight Hearing.
After Congressional testimony, whistle-blower statements and investigative reporting by dedicated journalists, an avalanche of facts have been placed front-and-center. The ill-fated Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Project Gunrunner investigation “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking program made the front page of most newspapers and claimed the life of Agent Terry. However, today’s four-hour hearing revealed little new information other than the administration’s reluctance to provide 93,000 requested documents.
Accountability, culpability, and cover-up are words used repeatedly at today’s hearing to describe this disastrous program that will forever be remembered as a black mark in American history.
It’s been nearly 14 months since the former decorated Iraq war veteran Marine-turned -Border Patrol agent lost his life at the hands of drug smuggler/rip crews. Terry was killed by a firearm that was purchased by a “straw buyer” with the approval of ATF supervisors.
Those are the facts.
Agent Terry’s family, who will never hear Brian’s side of the story have sought the truth from ATF/DOJ for the last 14 months, would like to know- who knew what and when. With the government’s code of silence, Terry’s family has no other recourse than to obtain the truth through a $25 million lawsuit recently filed against the government.
During the Fast and Furious hearings, documents have been requested from the Department of Justice, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder, some have been released, but others fail to see the light of day. For those accustomed to DC politics, it is business as usual.
Despite Congressional requests made by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to the Department of Justice and Eric Holder, for all agency documents relating to Fast and Furious hearings, few documents have seen the light of day. For those accustomed to DC politics, it is business as usual.
During the Fast and Furious investigation, members of Congress have unleashed a circus-like hearing that makes for compelling political theater, but the American people have seen this movie before and it always ends the same- plausible deniability.
It’s been the contention of law enforcement agencies across the country that the results of Fast and Furious were predictable; it was destined to claim the life of an officer. That’s what happens when law enforcement lets a gun “walk”- into the hands of ruthless cartels- they have the propensity to kill people.
Regrettably, Operation Fast and Furious successfully did exactly what it was designed to do- make headlines. ATF agents have admitted time and time again that supervisors in the Phoenix office wanted to bring down the “bad guys” and make “headlines.” They did.
According to an email exchanged released by the House Committee, the Department of Justice in DC and Arizona officials involved in Fast and Furious expressed concern about the media. How are we going “to mitigate the negative press coverage?” And “how are we going to fix the problem” and “guns were being walked to Mexico” were among the main concerns of the officials in charge.
After interviewing, reading and reviewing all the information in the public arena, as well as some documents not released, the conclusion is quite straightforward- it was a terrible ATF operation, according to rank-and-file ATF agents.
It’s also true that this investigation started under the Bush Administration with “The Southwest Border Initiative” and from that sprung “Operation Wide Receiver” which allowed some guns to walk south of the border only to be suspended. But it’s also true that President Obama entered into office in January 2009 and his Administration began the process of suspending many Bush-era programs. Unfortunately, Fast and Furious would not be one of those programs.
In fact, under the Obama/Holder Administration, Operation Fast and Furious progressed and grew in scope. At least seven wiretap applications were requested from the Washington DC Justice Department. These applications exceeded 50-pages each and involved the international border with Mexico. Sources inside Justice say ultimately a committee would need to approve the applications. The aforementioned Washington DC committee meets to ensure ongoing investigations from other departments like the FBI, CIA, DEA and ATF do not interfere with each other or hinder ongoing operations.
Again, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) reaffirmed this point at today’s hearing and asked AG Holder if Fast and Furious would need approval from Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEF); the answer was “yes.”
The logical conclusion to this revelation means AG Holder should have known about Fast and Furious. The fact this operation detailed ATF overseeing the sales of weapons to straw buyers, then transported them to the Mexican border with the intention of arresting drug cartel members once the transaction lifecycle was completed should have bubbled to the desk of the nation’s top law enforcement officer. This assumption did not slip by several Republican lawmakers that sit on the Oversight Committee.
But again, Holder says “no” and he has plausible deniability on his side. The evidence produced thus far cannot place Holder in a room, physically receiving and reading a memo or discussing Operation Fast and Furious on the record. All the communication regarding this case went through a bureaucratic layer meant to protect those at the top. The oversight of Fast and Furious is no different from other, plausible denial programs.
In the end, all the political gamesmanship about who knew what and when will result in a stalemate. Holder will keep his job, even if he is weakened as a leader of Justice.
While logic may be a key factor in the daily life of mortals, plausible deniability rules the day at the Department of Justice. In fact, Holder reminded the committee today that he appointed a Special Prosecutor and Inspector General and once that happened he was out of the so-called loop. Holder says he effectively removed himself from performing a “top-to-bottom investigation.”
Nevertheless, the American people have “lost faith in the system,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) at the conclusion of the hearing. He also referred to words the Attorney General said once he became the nation’s top law enforcer; “It’s about trust…transparency and the rule of law for our administration.”
Yet the self-described most transparent administration in U.S. history finds itself hiding behind plausible deniability time and time again.
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