Fed Prosecutor Emory Hurley Deserves Some Blame in ATF’s “Fast and Furious” Operation
There seems to be plenty blame to go around when it comes to the ill-thought out “Operation Fast and Furious”, ATF’s program that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hope of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.
Some have already taken a hit as a result. ATF Director Ken Melson just stepped own. So did Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke.
But someone who deserves a fair share of the blame in the mess appears to be Arizona’s Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who was the point man in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Operation Fast and Furious. He has since been transferred from the criminal to the civil division.
Sources tell ticklethewire.com Hurley let guns walk and prevented agents from stopping and questioning some straw purchasers and seizing weapons. Agents were frustrated and angry with Hurley.
Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley, in a Sept. 1 letter to Acting Arizona U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel, pointed the finger at Hurley as well. The letter was posted on the CBS News website.
“Witnesses have reported that AUSA Hurley may have stifled ATF agents’ attempts to interdict weapons on numerous occasions,” the letter said. “Many ATF agents working on Operation Fast and Furious were under the impression that even some of the most basic law enforcement techniques typically used to interdict weapons required the explicit approval of your office, specifically from AUSA Hurley.”
“It is our understand that this approval was withheld on numerous occasions.
“It is unclear why all available tools, such as civil forfeitures and seizure warrants, were not used in this case to prevent illegally purchased guns from being trafficked to Mexican drug cartels and other criminals..
“We have further been informed that AUSA Hurley improperly instructed ATF agents that they needed to meet unnecessarily strict evidentiary standards merely in order to temporarily detain or speak to suspects.”
Hurley did not comment through a spokesman for his office.
Espresso Pundit bounced a theory about all of this and asked for comments.
I'll be on Sunday Square Off this Sunday morning on Channel 12. We discuss the Dennis Burke firing, Fast and Furious, Congressional Jobs package and predictions. As usual, I had a big cup of coffee in the Green Room and was so jacked that I couldn't see out of my left eye...I have to wait an hour before I try to drive, but it makes for better TV.
I floated this theory to the panelists after the show and they thought I was full of it, so I'm going to bounce it off you guys.
I think that Dennis Burke's downfall was that he was part of the culture of arrogance and corruption in the Napolitano Administration and lost his bearings. So when he saw Fast and Furious, he knew it was illegal, but simply didn't believe that the rules applied to him. . .
So I think that Burke spent a decade learning that the rules didn't apply to him and that one of the scandals got too big to contain and he was fired for it. He should have looked at Fast and Furious and realized that it was an insane policy and then spoke up. Instead, it was just one more program that was against the rules--but that he knew he could get away with.
There are at least three dynamics going on here.
First, Burke owed his job as a USA to Napolitano. I'm sure that they have maintained social contacts since Janet the Second went to DC to become America's top secret political policeman. Remember too that Fast & Furious was an OCDETF investigation -- that is, prosecutor-driven. (See Grassley/Issa latest letter to Phoenix USAO). The other thing is that any OCDETF investigation is perforce multi-agency, including of course DHS agencies including ICE. Question for Burke under oath: did you and Nappy have conversation, official or unofficial, about Fast and Furious?
Second, as a new USA Burke would come to the job inexperienced, leaning on more experienced subordinates like Hurley for guidance, less likely to confront his DOJ superiors about potential federal lawbreaking. In technical terms, he was an inexperienced schmuck who owed his position to his political connections. He was tailor-made as a sap, manipulatable from above and below.
Third, one of the reasons that Phoenix became the F&F stage was because he was so politically reliable and inexperienced. Any experienced USA confident of himself and what he was doing probably would have rejected such a BS operation out of hand, just as experienced ATF street agents did because they KNEW that it made no sense from a law enforcement perspective. By the same thinking. ATF SAC Newell was an anti-gun zealot, politically reliable and, actually, not too bright when it came to the important things. These guys were made for each other and made for manipulation by cynical superiors and scheming underlings. not that it exculpates them in any way. It simply makes it easier to understand the dynamics.
Having an experience in low-level political corruption and log-rolling didn't hurt. But political reliability at the expense of morality and common sense was critical.
There is an old guerrilla's prayer which goes, "Oh, Lord, make my enemies slow, arrogant and stupid." Fast and Furious showcased all three characteristics. They could not have gone along with this unless they were at least both stupid AND arrogant.
Throughout administrations of both political parties, federal LE agencies have not in recent memory been called to account for misdeeds or subjected to serious oversight. They did it because they thought, not without reason, that they could get away with it.
And, absent some very principled and courageous ATF street agents, they would have. In fact, it would still be going on.
Remember that. And remember that "Gunwalker Bill" Newell did not get up one morning and, in between his shower and brushing his teeth, decide to create his own foreign policy, violate the ITAR regulations and commit numerous acts of war on a sovereign government and its people. Such decisions come from above, where policy is decided and actions to facilitate that policy are handed down to underlings.
Newell was one such underling. Burke was another. Both were compromised from the start or they would never have been given the task. Had they demurred, they would have been transferred and/or replaced.
Think of Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil." Evil does not come more banal than Mssrs. Burke and Newell.
Posted by: Mike Vanderboegh | September 02, 2011 at 10:41 PM