Many Americans have been wondering for months why Republican House oversight committee chair Darrell Issa has not moved faster and more furiously on a developing scandal with serious implications for the current government. The mainstream media has been reluctant to report on “Operation Fast and Furious,” a part of “Project Gunrunner,” which has the potential to negatively impact the Obama administration. Darrell Issa recently announced he will soon begin serving subpoenas.
But some of the media’s reluctance to move on the scandal is now playing right into the hands of Republicans, because the story is moving beyond damage control. If the media would have addressed the potential scandal more forthrightly earlier and put more pressure on the Obama administration to act, Eric Holder could have been politically axed and the Democrats could have gone on their merry way. As it stands now, there are questions brewing around the Department of Homeland Security’s and the Department of State’s respective roles in the operations, in addition to the Department of Justice’s. The widening of scope is leading to even more uncomfortable questions, whose answers have the potential to rock the entire Obama administration.
Operation Fast and Furious (OFF) was carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in 2009 and 2010, and revolved around allowing arms to be bought by “straw purchasers” at certain gunshows in the American southwest and then smuggled into Mexico. The eTrace program was supposed to track the weapons that fell into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. But of the 2000 weapons involved, only 600 were traced.
The common narrative regarding the operation has been that it was part of a well-intentioned effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which supervises the ATF, to bring a legal case against the Mexican drug cartels, and the operation went horribly awry. But a host of circumstantial evidence now throws into question DHS’ motives and the role of other government agencies in OFF, along with necessarily implicated operations like Armas Cruzadas.
If we can go back to the first stirrings of OFF, on March 24, 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden briefed journalists on U.S. efforts in the ongoing drug war with Mexico, and efforts to curb weapons trafficking. The video can be listened to or the full transcript read here at Sipsey Street Irregulars, but it should be noted firstly that Deputy AG David Ogden mentions Project Gunrunner by name:
DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is increasing its efforts by adding 37 new employees in three new offices, using $10 million in Recovery Act funds, and redeploying 100 personnel to the Southwest border in the next 45 days to fortify its Project Gunrunner, which is aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico.
Such an acknowledgment of Project Gunrunner by one of the highest ranking members of Holder’s Justice Department, given at a joint press conference with the Deputy Secretary of State and the head of Homeland Security herself, make it problematic for Eric Holder to deny that he and his higher ups had any awareness of Operation Fast and Furious.
The Attorney General’s response that the Republicans are merely politicizing the issue also throws into question whether he takes the allegations seriously, as there is evidence that well over one hundred OFF weapons found their way into various crimes scenes in Mexico and the United States. At least three of those weapons found at crime scenes in the United States have been confirmed by authorities to be from OFF. A large stash of weapons from OFF was recently uncovered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where drug related violence has spiked. A United States Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, was killed as a result of Fast and Furious, even as some in the ATF may have agreed that it was “collateral damage.” Presumably, the same might be said of the 200-300 Mexican civilians killed by OFF weapons, garnering from Mr. Holder’s attitude.
What is really suspicious is the timing of the announcement of Project Gunrunner at the aforementioned press conference and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Mexico, which followed shortly thereafter. When Hillary Clinton was interviewed on CBS about her trip to Mexico, she cites an often referenced, disputed, and debunked (by a Wikileak State Department cable, no less) statistic that 90% of the guns used by the Mexican cartels came from the United States. Then she vaguely called for immediate action to put an end to it.
In a piece in the NY Times called, “Clinton Says U.S. Feeds Mexico Drug Trade,” printed on March 25, 2009, the newspaper cited the following:
“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” Mrs. Clinton said, using unusually blunt language. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.”
This is where things get really interesting. [Continued on Political Crush]