If this story follows previous ones, this will also appear in tomorrow's USA Today. Perhaps they'll find a consistent spelling of my name by then.
The initial story line of Fast and Furious was about outrage -- anger that guns, let out of sight, had been used in crimes. But the backstory of the investigation is one of hidden motives, curious contradictions and strange allegiances, both among those who organized the effort and those who exposed it. . .
A growing number of ATF employees wanted to expose Fast and Furious. The question: How?
Dobyns and Cefalu began networking with two of the most prominent and prolific Second Amendment bloggers in America.
David Codrea, an Ohio-based writer, is field editor for GUNS Magazine and an author on a website known as "The War on Guns: Notes From the Resistance."
Mike Vanderboegh runs a website, Sipsey Street Irregulars, which he identifies as a gathering place for the 3 percent of Americans willing to fight for the right to bear arms.
Vanderboegh and Codrea, longtime friends, this year received Soldier of Fortune Magazine's Second Amendment Freedom Award and the David and Goliath Award from Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
Dobyns says he turned to the bloggers because of a shared animus toward ATF administrators. "Do they have an agenda? Of course they do," he said. "But it's my experience that they're not anti-ATF; they're anti-bad ATF."
Codrea and Vanderboegh began churning out essays on Fast and Furious, even giving the operation its sardonic nickname, "Project Gunwalker." They joined forces with other bloggers, government employees and gun dealers in what Vanderboegh calls "a coalition of willing Lilliputians."
Their reports, frequently quoting anonymous sources, exposed the dubious investigative strategy but went much further, speculating that the White House was involved. A typical posting by Vanderboegh carried the headline, "... Obama's Gunwalker Was a Deliberate Conspiracy Vs. the 2nd Amendment."
That hypothesis has gone viral in the gun-rights blogosphere. Proponents, noting that Obama was endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence during the 2008 campaign, claim that high-placed officials in Washington, D.C., devised a plan to flood Mexico with firearms as justification for a crackdown on gun ownership. . .
At a news conference in late January 2011, federal authorities announced indictments against 20 gun-trafficking suspects, including the man who bought weapons found at Agent Terry's death scene.
Newell, then the special agent in charge for Arizona, said those who arm the cartels "have as much blood on their hands as the criminals that use them."
Asked if the ATF knowingly let guns "walk," Newell answered, "Hell, no."
Codrea, the anti-ATF blogger, says outrage swelled because of that response, plus a growing sense of urgency: People were getting killed on both sides of the border, and ATF whistle-blowers were risking their careers by criticizing an agency that has a reputation for retaliation. But mainstream media -- lacking on-the-record sources -- resisted publication of undocumented claims about Fast and Furious.
Bloggers turned to politicians, making calls and e-mailing members of Congress.
Codrea wrote an open letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, begging for an inquiry. "We had to bang pots and pans because we were small fry," he says.
Vanderboegh sent e-mails to politicians for two weeks, with no success. Finally, he says, he wrote to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., threatening to publish an accusation that the senator was "complicit in the cover-up." Within hours, Vanderboegh says, he heard from Sessions' staff and was channeled to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
A congressional investigation was under way.
"We were the midwives of this scandal because nobody else would touch it and the agents were out there, twisting in the wind, willing to tell the truth at great risk to themselves," Vanderboegh boasted in a subsequent Internet post.
In interviews, Vanderbeogh and Codrea chuckle at the irony of government agents relying on their critics to find a congressional audience.
"It's so improbable that ATF guys would come to us, the Second Amendment advocates," Vanderbeogh says. "But we realized we did have common enemies in the ATF hierarchy."
Vanderbeogh says politicians were hesitant, unable to believe whistle-blowers, afraid to go after the Obama administration with such a bizarre tale.
"They were hunting some very, very dangerous game," he says of congressional investigators. "This was something that could turn on them and eat them."
As more agents came forward, some with corroborating records, Republican lawmakers became attentive -- and more assertive in going after an executive branch run by Democrats. . .
Many have suggested that the ATF should be abolished.
Codrea and Vanderboegh say that last option would be a mistake because firearms enforcement might become the province of a larger, more powerful agency such as the FBI -- difficult to attack politically.
"I very much prefer the devil that I know in rehab to the devil that I don't know," Vanderbeogh says.