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THE “FAST & FURIOUS” GUN SCANDAL

THE "FAST & FURIOUS" GUN SCANDAL
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  • In the fall of 2011, controversy arose over the role that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder may have played in approving “Fast & Furious,” a program which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (ATF)—an agency of the Justice Department—had administered during 2009-10. In that initiative, the ATF sold some 2,500 guns—including 34 sniper rifles with an effective lethal range of approximately 2,000 meters—to “straw purchasers” in the U.S. who agreed to subsequently smuggle the guns into Mexico and put them in the hands of cartel leaders, who supposedly were to be arrested at some subsequent point.
  • The entire “Fast & Furious” operation ended with only 20 indictments of straw purchasers—all of whom were already familiar to U.S. authorities from the outset. Moreover, the program was linked directly to two weapons found on the scene where U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in Arizona in December 2010. By the fall of 2011, the weapons that had been transferred as part of “Fast & Furious” had been used in at least 200 murders in Mexico. They also had been identified at 11 additional crime scenes in the United States.


RedState.com offers an incisive analysis of the political motivations underlying Fast & Furious:

... The Obama Administration knew that they had to find a new way to justify restrictions on American gun owners, preferably without having to deal with the legislature.

Enter the “Fast and Furious” program, a plan that would let a bunch of weapons cross the border into Mexico, knowing full well that eventually, some of those guns would be bound to turn up in criminal hands there, perhaps being used in violent confrontations between gangs, or even in shoot-outs with Mexican law enforcement. With the levels of drug and gang violence in Mexico, it was a good bet.

Then, after a number of the tracked guns were used in criminal acts, the plan was that Mexico would make a very loud and vigorous “protest” to the U.S. government, demanding that “something be done” about all those American guns that are “flooding into Mexico” -- giving Obama a talking point in order to ratchet up U.S. gun control, while providing Mexican officials with a convenient scapegoat for their own inability to stop the carnage. Both the American and the Mexican administrations win.

Which brings us to the essence of the strategy behind “Fast and Furious.” Once the “gun problem” involved relations between two sovereign nations, it would then no longer be merely a domestic matter, it would be an international “crisis” -- a matter of foreign policy. And in case you forgot your high school civics, foreign policy is the sole province of the Executive Branch, in other words, the President.

Which means Barak Obama would have had a whole range of options previously unavailable in his war on guns.

The president could push through an international agreement with Mexico, which would naturally involve “measures to control the flow of illegal guns” -- like closing down gun shows, for example. He could also sign on to an even broader “small arms” treaty like the one the U.N. has had simmering on the back burner for several years. Or, he could simply issue a series of  Executive Orders....

But then Agent Terry was killed, placing both the ATF and the Obama Administration in an embarrassing predicament, exposing the fact that the United States government was “holding the door open” for gun runners, who had now killed an American, enraging civilians and law enforcement alike. That was not in the plan....

[O]ne would have to be terminally naive, or simply clueless, to actually believe that an operation of this magnitude, especially one that involved allowing guns to illegally flow into a foreign country, could have been created, let alone implemented, without the direct involvement and approval of both the Attorney General’s office and the White House. That Obama and Holder weren’t even aware of it is simply inconceivable.

Thus we are left with only one inescapable conclusion, and that is that the President of the United States and his Attorney General Eric Holder were complicit in an attempt to fabricate an international crisis in order to advance their anti-gun agenda, and in doing so, have facilitated the deaths of an untold number of innocent victims. Which also means that, in a very real sense, Agent Brian Terry’s blood is on their hands.

(Columnist Ann Coulter offers additional insights into the motivations that underpinned "Fast and Furious," which she characterizes as "the most shockingly vile corruption scandal in the history of the country." To read Coulter's analysis, click here.)

While being questioned under oath during a Judiciary Committee hearing on May 3, 2011, Holder indicated that he had known nothing about "Fast and Furious" until about April 2011. But soon thereafter, a newly discovered memo (dated July 2010) showed that Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, had already told Holder that straw buyers in the "Fast and Furious" operation "are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels." Other documents also indicated that Holder had begun receiving weekly briefings on the program from the National Drug Intelligence Center no later than July 5, 2010. Moreover, former ATF special agent William Newell testified under oath that “the DHS, IRS, DEA, ATF, ICE and the Obama Justice Department were all involved” in the operation.

In 2011 the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa) issued a subpoena instructing Holder to turn over all internal Justice Department documents related to the Fast and Furious program -- in particular, documents explaining how DOJ first learned that there were problems with the operation. But Holder refused to comply. By June 2011, the attorney general's delaying tactics were so transparent that Issa began threatening him with contempt citations.

As of late June 2012, DOJ had supplied fewer than 8 percent of the 80,000 documents the congressional investigators sought. (Further, DOJ had blocked 48 of the 70 Justice Department officials who were  involved in Fast and Furious, from testifying.) House Republicans continued to pressure the Attorney General to turn over the remaining documents, but Holder refused.



On June 20, 2012, President Obama granted a request by Holder to exert executive privilege over the documents in question. That same day, the House Committee—having exhausted all other means of obtaining the documents from the Justice Department—voted 23 to 17 (in a vote that was split along party lines) to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress for failing to produce the missing documents.



As it was abundantly clear that the Obama administration had no intention of providing the subpoenaed documents, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch in June 2002 filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the records that were being withheld from the Oversight Committee by Holder and Obama.

On June 28, 2012, the full House of Representatives voted 255-67 to uphold the criminal contempt charge against Holder. Most Democrats walked out of the vote in a gesture of protest led by the Congressional Black Caucus, but 17 Democrats sided with the majority Republicans. The vote represented the first time a sitting Cabinet member had ever been held in contempt by a chamber of Congress.

Minutes after the criminal contempt vote, the House voted 258-95 (with 21 Democrats joining the Republican majority) to pursue a civil contempt case against Holder in court.

On September 19, 2012, the Justice Department's inspector general issued a report saying there was no evidence that Holder had known about Fast & Furious. Instead, the report blamed a total of 18 DOJ officials, most notably the high-ranking Jason Weinstein (number two in the Justice Department's Criminal Division) and Kenneth Melson (former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) for "a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgement and management failures."

In July 2014, Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered DOJ to turn over a “Vaughn index” of all Fast and Furious-requested documents. Bates’ ruling was clear: “In the [February 15, 2013] order granting the stay, this court explicitly noted that the DOJ ‘does not seek, and the court will not award, an indefinite stay pending ultimate resolution of the House Committee litigation,’ and  that ‘the benefits of delaying this case might well [become] too attenuated to justify any further delay …Because many of the issues to be resolved in this case do not overlap with the House committee, and because resolving those issues will not risk upsetting the delicate balance of powers in subpoena disputes between the political branches, the Court will require DOJ to produce a Vaughn index here.” Bates also noted that no court has ever “expressly recognized” the executive privilege claims made by Obama preventing these documents from being seen by Congress and the American public.

In August 2014, DOJ was also ordered to turn over a “privilege log,” a.k.a. a list of the documents being withheld. Both orders were supposed to be fulfilled by Oct. 1, 2014. But in a motion filed on September 15, 2004, lawyers from DOJ
asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson not to require the transfer of Fast and Furious-related documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, until after her rulings could be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. As journalist Arnold Ahlert observed: "If their bid is successful, it could push the appeals process past the Obama administration’s time in office. In short, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to run out the clock."

The Motivation Behind Fast & Furious

RedState.com offers an incisive analysis of the political motivations underlying Fast & Furious:

... The Obama Administration knew that they had to find a new way to justify restrictions on American gun owners, preferably without having to deal with the legislature.

Enter the “Fast and Furious” program, a plan that would let a bunch of weapons cross the border into Mexico, knowing full well that eventually, some of those guns would be bound to turn up in criminal hands there, perhaps being used in violent confrontations between gangs, or even in shoot-outs with Mexican law enforcement. With the levels of drug and gang violence in Mexico, it was a good bet.

Then, after a number of the tracked guns were used in criminal acts, the plan was that Mexico would make a very loud and vigorous “protest” to the U.S. government, demanding that “something be done” about all those American guns that are “flooding into Mexico” -- giving Obama a talking point in order to ratchet up U.S. gun control, while providing Mexican officials with a convenient scapegoat for their own inability to stop the carnage. Both the American and the Mexican administrations win.

Which brings us to the essence of the strategy behind “Fast and Furious.” Once the “gun problem” involved relations between two sovereign nations, it would then no longer be merely a domestic matter, it would be an international “crisis” -- a matter of foreign policy. And in case you forgot your high school civics, foreign policy is the sole province of the Executive Branch, in other words, the President.

Which means Barak Obama would have had a whole range of options previously unavailable in his war on guns.

The president could push through an international agreement with Mexico, which would naturally involve “measures to control the flow of illegal guns” -- like closing down gun shows, for example. He could also sign on to an even broader “small arms” treaty like the one the U.N. has had simmering on the back burner for several years. Or, he could simply issue a series of  Executive Orders....

But then Agent Terry was killed, placing both the ATF and the Obama Administration in an embarrassing predicament, exposing the fact that the United States government was “holding the door open” for gun runners, who had now killed an American, enraging civilians and law enforcement alike. That was not in the plan....

[O]ne would have to be terminally naive, or simply clueless, to actually believe that an operation of this magnitude, especially one that involved allowing guns to illegally flow into a foreign country, could have been created, let alone implemented, without the direct involvement and approval of both the Attorney General’s office and the White House. That Obama and Holder weren’t even aware of it is simply inconceivable.

Thus we are left with only one inescapable conclusion, and that is that the President of the United States and his Attorney General Eric Holder were complicit in an attempt to fabricate an international crisis in order to advance their anti-gun agenda, and in doing so, have facilitated the deaths of an untold number of innocent victims. Which also means that, in a very real sense, Agent Brian Terry’s blood is on their hands.

(Columnist Ann Coulter offers additional insights into the motivations that underpinned "Fast and Furious," which she characterizes as "the most shockingly vile corruption scandal in the history of the country." To read Coulter's analysis, click here.)

 

  • While being questioned under oath during a Judiciary Committee hearing on May 3, 2011, Holder indicated that he had known nothing about Fast & Furious until about April 2011. But soon thereafter, a newly discovered memo (dated July 2010) showed that Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, had already told Holder that straw buyers in the Fast & Furious operation “are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels.” Other documents also indicated that Holder had begun receiving weekly briefings on the program from the National Drug Intelligence Center no later than July 5, 2010. Moreover, former ATF special agent William Newell testified under oath that “the DHS, IRS, DEA, ATF, ICE and the Obama Justice Department were all involved” in the operation.
  • In 2011 the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a subpoena instructing Holder to turn over all internal Justice Department documents related to the Fast & Furious program. As of late June, 2012, the Justice Department had supplied fewer than 8% of the 80,000 documents the congressional investigators sought. (Further, the Justice Department had blocked 48 of the 70 Justice Department officials who were  involved in Fast and Furious, from testifying.) House Republicans continued to pressure the Attorney General to turn over the remaining documents, but Holder refused.
  • On June 20, 2012, President Obama granted a request by Holder to exert executive privilege over the documents in question. That same day, the House Committee—having exhausted all other means of obtaining the documents from the Justice Department—voted 23 to 17 (in a vote that was split along party lines) to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress for failing to produce the missing documents.
  • On June 28, 2012, the full House of Representatives voted 255-67 to uphold the criminal contempt charge against Holder. The vote represented the first time a U.S. Attorney General had ever been held in contempt by a chamber of Congress. Minutes after the criminal contempt vote, the House voted 258-95 (with 21 Democrats joining the Republican majority) to pursue a civil contempt case against Holder in court.
  • On September 19, 2012, the Justice Department's own inspector general issued a report saying there was no evidence that Holder had known about Fast & Furious. Instead, the report blamed a total of 18 DOJ officials, most notably the high-ranking Jason Weinstein (number two in the Justice Department's Criminal Division) and Kenneth Melson (former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) for “a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgement and management failures.” Journalist Joe Klein points out, however, that the inspector general report did not “relieve Holder of responsibility both for the incredible mismanagement under his watch and the obstruction of the investigations that followed.”

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