In Washington, the old joke is, “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”
I have always believed that to be terrible comment on the profoundly dysfunctional political culture of Washington. For most Americans, it is both the crime and the cover-up, and that is definitely the case with Fast and Furious.
Operation Fast and Furious might sound like the name of a Hollywood action movie, but the facts behind the flashy name tell a disheartening story. As widely reported, Fast and Furious spiraled out of control, leaving the Obama administration caught running a program that was not only dangerous but irresponsible. In the end, it directly contributed to the deaths of two federal law enforcement officers and led to the predictable age-old Washington game of cover-ups, deceptions, and fall-guy politics.
From the start, the operation was profoundly ill-advised and posed risks much greater than any conceivable payoff from a hypothetical criminal conspiracy case against Mexican drug gangs could have offered. Very simply, it did not meet the outside-the-Beltway common sense test.
It started with the claims of an “iron river” of guns flowing from the United States into Mexico. This “iron river” existed mostly in Obama administration talking points until the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) became one of the most active facilitators of guns to the Mexican drug cartels.
On April 16, 2009, President Obama visited Mexico and while there he commented on the drug war, saying, “This war is being waged with guns purchased not here but in the United States, more than 90% of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that lay on our shared border.” President Obama was not being honest then, and he is not being honest now about what he knew about Fast and Furious.
Only in Washington could a federal agency believe, as their internal emails show, that shipping guns to Mexican drug cartels would make America safer. Over the course of Fast and Furious, and under the supervision of the Justice Department and the ATF, thousands of weapons moved into the hands of known gun runners in an attempt to track the guns back to Mexican cartels.
When those weapons reached the hands of Mexican cartels, they were put to use, with grim results.
In December of 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down by weapons placed in the hands of a Mexican drug gang by the Obama administration. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata was killed by a gun from the same program in February of this year. Despite the fact that thousands of guns changed hands, only when American law enforcement officers were killed, did any arrests actually take place.
It should not surprise anyone that an agency like the ATF, with a long history of management trouble and wrongheaded policy choices, continues to make errors. What is unforgivable is that the Obama Justice Department and the White House utterly failed to exercise any kind of oversight or supervision.
Internal emails from the ATF, the Justice Department, and the White House prove that senior Obama administration officials approved of, encouraged, and actually boasted about this outrageous program.
Even more troubling, as Members of Congress began asking questions, first of the ATF and then of the Justice Department, was the Obama administration’s stonewalling, obfuscation, and outright lying. Eric Holder and his deputies, and the senior leadership of the ATF have worked to thwart Congressional oversight from the beginning. It has been a shameful performance.
Beginning today, Eric Holder will be forced to answer questions about his knowledge and involvement in Operation Fast and Furious and it is about time. For months Senator Chuck Grassley sought answers from both the Justice Department and the ATF over the death of Brian Terry and for months he was stonewalled. Only when Chairman Darrell Issa started issuing subpoenas did the Obama administration find the time to start explaining its actions.
Senior leaders in Washington have become used to shifting blame, avoiding accountability, and doing the Potomac Two-Step while claiming that “mistakes were made.” If Eric Holder is allowed to maintain his position after this, it is a sad comment about this White House’s values, and a sadder comment on the political culture of Washington.
It is one thing to protect a White House from an embarrassing political failure or public relations mishap; it is completely another to orchestrate a far reaching cover-up of a government program that resulted in the deaths of two federal officers.
Instead of coming clean and working in a bipartisan fashion to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious, they denied everything and made counter accusations. Due to this, the Justice Department has not only further eroded public trust in government, but as suggested by the former Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, did so in an attempt to protect Obama administration political appointees.
Three years ago this month, President Obama was elected, partly based on a promised new era of transparency and accountability. But if the handling of the Fast and Furious scandal is any indication, the corruption inside the Beltway is not only unchecked but more dangerous than ever.
Eric Holder was briefed on this operation but now claims to have never read the briefing documents in question. This answer is not only insufficient but it is insulting to the families of two murdered federal officers and to the people of this country.
There are only two possible scenarios: Eric Holder was either incompetent in failing to exercise any kind of supervisory control over a rogue agency, or he is intentionally misrepresenting what he knew and when he knew it.
Either scenario justifies dismissing Eric Holder from the top law enforcement position in America.