At David Codrea's War on Guns.
At Big Government: Which was worse? Watergate or Operation Fast and Furious?
New York Post OpEd: 'Fast & Furious' gets hotter for Holder
Don't look now, but the real action in Washington this week isn't the parti san wrangling over the debt ceiling but something -- literally -- even more incendiary: Operation Fast and Furious, which seems about to explode right in the face of Attorney General Eric Holder -- and maybe other administration officials, too.
Also known as Project Gunrunner, the Arizona-based operation was supposed to be a sting, under which the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is part of the Justice Department, allowed "straw purchasers" to transfer weapons from gun shops in Arizona to Mexican drug cartels to trace and halt crossborder arms-trafficking.
That's the official version, anyway -- but it's crumbling, fast.
The ATF's acting director, Kenneth Melson, has been singing like a canary to congressional investigators as he pushes back against administration pressure for him to resign and take the fall for something that, at the very least, had to include the US Attorney's Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and possibly the Homeland Security Department. . .
That's the key to this mess -- and the reason that Operation Fast and Furious might turn out to be the biggest Washington scandal since Iran-Contra.
As Issa and Grassley note in their letter, had the other agencies shared information -- theoretically the goal of the post-9/11 revamp of the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies -- "then ATF might have known that gun trafficking 'higher-ups' had already been identified."
So if the identities of the Mexican criminals were known to the feds, what was the point of Project Gunrunner -- and why is Holder so desperately trying to stonewall by withholding hundreds of documents from Congress?
Law-abiding gun owners and dealers think they already know. With the Obama administration wedded to the fiction that 90 percent of the guns Mexican cartels use originate here -- they don't -- many suspect that "Fast and Furious" was a backdoor attempt to smear domestic gun aficionados as part of its stealth efforts on gun control by executive fiat.
"I just want you to know that we're working on it," Obama was quoted as saying to gun-control advocate Sarah Brady in March. "We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."
Unfortunately for the administration, this one's out in the open now.
Matthew Boyle at The Daily Caller: Justice Department snipes back at Issa, Grassley
Attorney General Eric Holder’s deputies hit back at allegations of investigation stonewalling made by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, late Wednesday.
Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich accused Issa and Grassley of ginning up controversy and claims their allegations of the Department of Justices ’s transparency failure aren’t true.
Weich’s July 6 letter was an official DOJ response to Grassley’s and Issa’s July 5 letter to Holder detailing the key findings from a secret transcribed interview with acting ATF director Ken Melson on July 4.
“We are puzzled by your criticism of the Department for its efforts to facilitate the Committee’s access to documents and witnesses,” Weich wrote. “Indeed, those concerns seem flatly inconsistent with statements that Chairman Issa has made on this subject in the recent past.”
Weich goes on to cite a comment from Issa at a June 15 hearing, when he said the DOJ had a “breakthrough” when it came to producing documents and other information.
“Yet, just a few weeks later and notwithstanding the Department’s continuing production of documents, that ‘breakthrough’ has been re-characterized as an effort to prevent the Committee from receiving the information it requested,” Weich wrote.
A key takeaway from Melson’s secret July 4 testimony is that the acting ATF director told investigators about the existence of a number of new documents and many more pieces of information he said the administration is withholding. Also, the top Congressional Republicans said Melson told their investigative team that senior Justice Department officials in the Obama administration were attempting to prevent him from testifying or helping Congress find the facts about Operation Fast and Furious.
Another key takeaway from the secret testimony were that Melson acknowledged to investigators that agents had witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without following the guns afterwards. Straw purchasers are people who could technically legally buy guns in the U.S. but their intent was to turn around and sell them to drug cartels in Mexico.
Issa and Grassley also say Melson clarified for investigators was that the ATF group carrying out the mission of Operation Fast and Furious was placed under the direction of the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office. The U.S. Attorney in Arizona, Dennis Burke, is a political appointee of the Obama administration.
In addition to attacking Issa and Grassley for their transparency criticisms, Weich contends the top Congressional Republicans “fail to note” that Melson conducted a non-transcribed three-hour interview with investigators on July 3, a day before he conducted his testimony without DOJ officials present. Weich also jabbed Issa and Grassley for accusing the Justice Department of not informing Melson he had a right to testify without DOJ officials appearing with him.
“We believe that Acting Director Melson was aware of his right to private representation,” Weich wrote, adding that lower-level ATF employees have requested legal representation from private counsel. “[I]t seems unreasonable to suppose that Mr. Melson did not did not understand what appears quite clear to his subordinates.”
Well, there take that, says the limp-wristed Weich, and I'll stick my tongue out at you too.
Ronald Weich as a youngster.