As is often the case after we slam written torpedoes into the side of the ATF bureaucratic ship, it was deadly quiet yesterday. Not a chirp. Not a peep. We saw this before during the agency's chase for a stuffed child's toy, Ramsey A. Bear, in the Len Savage "economic Waco" case and other scandals.
When they're stunned, when they're frightened, the fifth floor clams up tight. And on the fifth floor and elsewhere the Senior Executives of the ATF are stunned and frightened. They are also, in their moments, very, very angry. Often that anger is vented upon each other in 20-20 hindsight about the decisions which have led them all now to probable ruin and disgrace, although they are careful not go shouting in the halls at each other as they have in the past, lest Waldo or one of his buddies pick up some juicy tidbit which is then reported back to the Coalition Of Willing Lilliputians for evaluation and dissemination, here and elsewhere.
For they find themselves now in a different position from that which they always thought themselves to be -- they WERE law enforcement officers, now they are just garden variety federal criminals. As a friend of mine observed, "They're all crooks now, Mike. That takes a bit of getting used to, realizing that you are now a crook when you always thought of yourself as a cop." Most are still in denial, but a few, and there's always the crafty few, are surely plotting the launch of their own personal lifeboats from the wreckage that is now the ATF's Project Gunwalker.
There were meetings yesterday in Washington on the Project Gunwalker scandal -- meetings at extremely high levels from what we hear. This is now a budding international incident, and the State Department is gradually realizing the awful extent of what this could do to our relations with Mexico and to the probable discredit this is going to create to the entire anti-firearm agenda of the administration, abroad and at home. Even some Christians in Action are gossiping about this, many of them with undisguised glee.
Among the experienced, informed street agents, talk has now gone to a sort of betting pool on who among the vain and previously powerful muckety-mucks will roll over first and thereby save their own skin from the collapse of the cover-up. Melson? Good odds, is the street wisdom. The piano player in the whorehouse. He never bargained for THIS bill of excrement that the Chief Counsel's Office sold him on. Billy Hoover? Not smart enough, is the thought, too entwined in what he was to recognize what he's become. Newell? He has the most to lose in any case, but the documents and the witnesses are there that this was approved at the highest levels. Will he use them as a life preserver?
Another topic of fervent speculation: are there really tape recordings of the various phone calls between Phoenix, Mexico City and DC made by the reluctant and careful as has been whispered?
Lanny Breuer is feared by the lesser mortals of this conspiracy, certainly, but he also, if he is human, must be frightened as well. As one of my DC friends said, "Well, hell, Mike, if the SOB was THAT smart, he wouldn't have been in the meetings."
The same friend told me this, with a laugh, "You know, I bet that right now they wished they had killed your ass in the Nineties."
Probably so. Probably so.
As the trail of cover-up goes up the chain to folks like Lanny Breuer and beyond, some people are getting nervous. I had another source yesterday fairly slam the phone down when I called after telling me abruptly, "I can't talk to YOU right now." Fair enough. We here at Sipsey Street pride ourselves on our patience. "We serve no scandal before its time."
Kurt Hofmann asks the 1.1 Billion Dollar Question about this scandal ($1.1 billion is the size of the ATF budget):
If, as a growing-by-the-day (hour?) body of evidence indicates, "Project Gunrunner" is intimately linked to the sinister "Project Gunwalker," whereby the BATFE approves some trafficking, including the trafficking of the rifles used to kill Border Patrol Officer Brian Terry, could an increase in the BATFE's budget, tied in large part to an expansion of "Project Gunrunner," not be seen as an expansion of a program--by the U.S. government--that helps arm the Mexican narco-thugs?
This is the question that the State Department is now choking on. No doubt Hillary Clinton is now looking for someone skilled at a bureaucratic CYA Heimlich maneuver. Just who will be spit out remains a matter of wager among the street agents.
Place your bets, madames and monsieurs, place your bets.