Fast and Furious Cover-up Rewarded in Appointment of New ATF Director
On Friday, March 20, 2015, B. Todd Jones, the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF,) announced his resignation. Mr. Jones's departure comes on the heels of the disastrous attempt by the ATF to ban a common rifle ammunition, yet another federal sub rosa effort at gun control through governmental constriction of the ammunition supply. The real news is Mr. Jones's replacement, although you would not know that from any mainstream reporting.
The announced new Acting Director is the current Deputy Director, Thomas Brandon, a man with an apparently secret history at the ATF. In news dispatches of March 20th, Mr. Brandon is described blandly by the AP, CNN and ABC as a 26-year veteran at the agency who was appointed Deputy Director in 2011. This gives the impression of an earnest, knowledgeable, hard working civil servant, does it not?
Perhaps all of the professional reporters are too pressed for time these days to perform a basic Google search. Or, perhaps not a single so-called journalist has the brain capacity to remember a shameful, deadly national disaster called Fast and Furious. In that government-operated illegal gun running scheme, thousands of guns were allowed to be straw purchased in the U.S. and transported to Mexico for sale to drug cartels so the Feds could track them. Rather than tracking the guns, however, the Feds lost them. That gross incompetence cost the lives of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry, I.C.E. Agent Jaime Zapata and an untold number of Mexicans who were murdered with those unlawfully trafficked firearms.
For those of us who do not live in the memory hole that shields this administration from any accountability, here are some relevant facts about Acting Director Brandon and his involvement in the Fast and Furious cover-up.
According to outgoing Director Jones's sworn testimony of April 2, 2014 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Mr. Brandon was the person who determined disciplinary punishments for all of the ATF personnel involved in Fast and Furious. Brandon was "the ultimate decision maker." Director Jones confirmed that Thomas Brandon did not fire a single person for participation in Fast and Furious.
The 471 page Justice Department Inspector General Report by Michael E. Horowitz recommended disciplinary action be considered for 14 federal officials. Let's examine what happened to just a few key ATF players. Special Agent William Newell was the Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious. The IG Report specifically recommended his termination. Per an August 17, 2011 ATF press release, Mr. Newell was initially reassigned to the Office of Management "to assist with the OIG investigation and congressional inquiry."
Director Jones confirmed in his testimony on April 2nd that although the ATF Professional Review Board (PRB) also recommended Newell's firing, Mr. Brandon saw fit to impose a far lighter penalty. Mr. Newell was only demoted from Senior Executive Service to a GS 13 grade pursuant to a settlement. Director Jones also confirmed during testimony that the PRB recommended a 14-day suspension for Lead Case Agent Hope MacAllister. Deputy Director Brandon issued her only a letter of reprimand. David Voth was the Phoenix Group Supervisor during Fast and Furious. Per the August 17, 2011 ATF press release, Mr. Voth was transferred laterally to ATF Headquarters in 2011. The PRB recommended demotion to a non-supervisorial Special Agent status. In settlement, Mr. Brandon issued a simple demotion.
According to a March 28, 2014 letter to Director Jones from Senator Charles Grassley and Congressman Darrell Issa, it appeared that all three of these Fast and Furious alumni were still on the ATF payroll. Through Director Jones's testimony, we now know that Mr. Newell retired at some point and at his higher pay rate of the Senior Executive Service. As the Director did not dispute the congressional presumption that Agents MacAllister and Voth remained employed, we are left to assume that they are still working for the ATF.
This easily researched history reveals Brandon's key role in keeping the truth of Fast and Furious hidden from Congress and the public. Had heads rolled, angry ex-employees might have turned whistle-blower and implicated higher-ups at DOJ and even the White House. The game of mutual extortion; employee silence in exchange for job security, achieved its purpose.
Bear in mind that Brandon's efforts were only a part, albeit a critical one, of a larger information black-out strategy. The suppression of information was further assured by Obama's assertion in 2012 of executive privilege to shield from disclosure Fast and Furious documents Congress sought. Eric Holder's stonewalling and misrepresentations to Congress provided the third prong of the cover-up. For his role in information suppression, Mr. Holder received a civil contempt citation from the House.
Brandon's team player credentials, earned by keeping ATF silence, explain his continued value to the administration. Although out of the media spotlight, of course, the facts of Fast and Furious and the ensuing cover-up continue to be probed by a determined few.
Judicial Watch has multiple Freedom of Information Act suits pending against the DOJ and the ATF. Eric Holder's intention to resign was announced in striking proximity to a federal court ruling in one of those actions which compelled the DOJ to release certain information regarding Fast and Furious. For this victory, Judicial Watch was treated to an election eve document dump from DOJ on 11/04/14.
In addition to the Judicial Watch suits, the House filed a lawsuit for judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas issued to and ignored by DOJ, during the Fast and Furious oversight investigation (Oversight Committee v. Holder.) So far, the Federal District Court Judge has compelled the obstructionist DOJ to prepare an "executive privilege log" of the documents it is withholding. The ruling is another significant step in forced extraction of information sequestered by administration fiat.
So, now that you know a few facts about Mr. Brandon, his elevation to Acting Director makes complete sense. This most deadly and despicable of scandals is still simmering. Thomas Brandon was just handed the ATF Directorship to keep the lid on that pot for the next two years.