Much More than a Third Rate Burglary
To believe that no top administration officials were involved in Operation Fast and Furious is not only disingenuous, it's dumb. Of course some top Obama administration officials were involved, if for no other reason than contemporary bureaucrats simply lack the intestinal fortitude to initiate such an ill-conceived and uncoordinated program without clearance from above. Here's a quote from a former ATF operative which makes that clear:
"I can tell you in every case I was involved in, the bureau would've been afraid to let the guns go," said William Vizzard who worked almost 30 years doing gun investigations for ATF and later taught criminal justice at California State University. "There was always the obsessive fear that if a gun goes out there ... it may be misused and traced back to you, and the political implications are terrible."
Note that political implications. Where bureaucratic control of such programs typically ends is at that not always bright line where political control by political appointees pushing political agendas begins. Anyone foolish enough to believe that Operation Fast and Furious was the brainchild of the head of the Phoenix ATF regional office, or even his agency bosses in Washington, needs to pay closer attention to how bureaucratic government operates, especially power-centered, leftist bureaucracies.
The lame rationale offered by the ATF is laughably implausible and refuted by their own field operatives. The parent program for OF&F was Project Gunrunner, initiated in 2005 with the stated official objective:
to deny firearms, the "tools of the trade," to criminal organizations in Mexico and along the border, as well as to combat firearms-related violence affecting communities on both sides of the border.
That was all well and good so far as that appears to have been a legitimate goal of a legitimate program. Contrast that with ATF's justification for OF&F given in testimony last week before the congressional committee investigating this scandal. This from evasive paid answerer and former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office, William Newell:
"Fast and Furious was ... designed to identify purchasers, financers, transporters, and decision makers in a Mexican cartel-based firearms trafficking organization," Newell said in his opening statements. "It was not the purpose of the investigation to permit the transportation of firearms into Mexico."
Sure, identifying the purchasers was easily enough accomplished by ATF agents (and their Washington supervisors) watching in person or on closed-circuit video as the weapons were bought in Southwest gun stores. We should be able to assume that these same agents were collecting information on the drivers and vehicles being used to transport these weapons both down to and across the border. But, and this is one huge but, that leaves the stated goal of identifying the financers and decision-makers yet to be reckoned with. Common sense dictates that these key targets are all safely ensconced within the boundaries of Mexico, where unchecked corruption among law enforcement agencies affords them a degree of safety and sanctuary they certainly cannot expect north of the border.
Considering that ATF agents can't just cross the U.S./Mexican border willy-nilly in pursuit of criminal subjects, we must assume that provisions thus had been made with American ATF agents who are certified to operate within Mexico as well as Mexico's own ATF authorities to assume responsibility for the continued tracking of firearms beyond that boundary, right?
Wrong, completely and totally wrong, as testimony from these certified, Mexico-based ATF officials demonstrates. Here are some findings directly from the joint staff report published by Congressman Issa's committee:
ATF and DOJ leadership kept their own personnel in Mexico and Mexican government officials totally in the dark about all aspects of Fast and Furious. Meanwhile, ATF officials in Mexico grew increasingly worried about the number of weapons recovered in Mexico that traced back to an ongoing investigation out of ATF's Phoenix Field Division.
ATF officials in Mexico raised their concerns about the number of weapons recovered up the chain of command to ATF leadership in Washington, D.C. Instead of acting decisively to end Fast and Furious, the senior leadership at both ATF and DOJ praised the investigation and the positive results it had produced. Frustrations reached a boiling point, leading former ATF Attaché Darren Gil to engage in screaming matches with his supervisor, International Affairs Chief Daniel Kumor, about the need to shut down the Phoenix-based investigation.
So, we have the purported targets of OF&F, financers and decision-makers, located in Mexico, and the professed method of identifying those targets being the tracking of the illegal weapons to them directly. But with the law enforcement resources responsible for that tracking having been kept ignorant of the entire operation, the alleged rationale for OF&F falls flat on its face.
And if government officials are willing to lie and obfuscate, as I believe Agent Newell and others most likely have, to a congressional investigating committee; and if the Justice Department is willing to stonewall document subpoenas and refuse to produce subpoenaed witnesses, this administration is in full Watergate mode. What conclusion is to be drawn from their behavior other than that there are much bigger fish to be caught in Issa's net than a few overeager field operatives?
Are the big fish of the Obama administration ignoring the basic lesson of Watergate -- that it's the cover-up, not the crime, that can bring down a president? But then, in the present situation, we have illegal arms-smuggling, apparently to further a domestic political gun control agenda, which may have resulted in the deaths of Mexican citizens and two United States federal officers. Now that is a crime, a real and true crime, and most certainly a much more serious crime than a third-rate burglary.