The scandal over Operation Fast and Furious, in which the Obama administration funneled thousands of guns to violent Mexican drug lords in an abortive, mismanaged sting operation that backfired and led to the killings of many Mexicans and a couple U.S. government employees, has finally resulted in a few resignations by federal officials involved in the operation (including an Obama-appointed U.S. attorney in Arizona, and the acting head of the ATF). But Justice Department higher-ups have so far avoided any accountability.
As lawyer David Rittgers notes, the operation wasn’t simply a blunder, but also a violation of multiple federal laws that the Obama administration simply ignored:
ATF supervisors ordered agents to facilitate firearm sales to known or suspected “straw buyers” that intended to move the guns across the border and give them to drug cartels. Gun dealers in the U.S. reported the suspicious transactions to the ATF, expecting to cooperate in apprehending the gunrunners. As it turns out, the suspect buyers had disqualifying conditions that should have shown up in federally mandated instant background checks…but didn’t. The firearms trafficked across the border predictably showed up at crime scenes, including those involved with the murder of a Border Patrol agent, an ICE agent, a Mexican military helicopter shoot-down, and other murders on both sides of the border.
If you’re a private citizen, this sort of thing gets you 30 years in prison. If you’re a whistleblower within ATF, you get terminated. If you’re a supervisor responsible for such a scheme, you get
promotedreassigned to ATF headquarters.
This ATF scheme broke numerous firearm laws, possibly the Arms Export Control Act, and facilitated multiple murders. The end result this litany of crimes and persistent ATF and DOJ stonewalling congressional investigations cannot simply be Melson’s removal and replacement with a DOJ official who may also have been complicit in the gun-running scheme.
Meanwhile, the multiple long-gun sale reporting mandate that I wrote about last year, which imposes conditions on gun dealers in border states in violation of federal law, has been implemented by the ATF. This was almost certainly one of the goals of the “gun control for the sake of Mexico” push we’ve seen for over two years, even though the numbers of private arms in cartel hands are far lower than we’ve been told, ATF efforts notwithstanding. ATF headquarters is throwing a party to celebrate the latest round of illegal action.
Attorney General Eric Holder long knew about and supported this disastrous operation, says Investor’s Business Daily: “The evidence suggests that Agent Terry’s death was financed by the president’s stimulus package with the full knowledge and support of Attorney General Holder.” As it notes, “At a House oversight hearing last month, three federal firearms investigators testified they wanted to ‘intervene and interdict’ the guns at the border, but were repeatedly ordered to step aside and let the traffickers proceed. Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson, in closed-door testimony in front of Rep. Darrell Issa’s committee, said administration officials sought to control and limit his communications with Congress, including withholding documents that made Melson ‘sick to his stomach.’”
“Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, was clearly aware of Operation Fast and Furious and touted the case during a visit to Mexico. ATF officials in Mexico City were incredulous that their agency would knowingly allow guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and they were incensed when they finally began to learn the full scope of Operation Fast and Furious and the investigative techniques used,” noted the New York Post.
The officials who recently resigned were “scapegoats” for higher-ups in the Obama administration who had more culpability than the officials who resigned, argues Jim Kouri, formerly with the National Association of Chiefs of Police. Others have reached the same conclusion.
But high-ranking Justice Department officials may escape accountability. The Justice Department has been deeply politicized under the Obama administration, which has taken ideological hiring and partisanship to an extreme. All 15 of the attorneys recently hired by the Justice Department’s Employment Litigation Section were ardent leftists, some with no real world legal experience (even though the Justice Department typically receives many applications for each job opening). Ideologically uniform hiring also occurred in other branches of the Justice Department, like the Special Litigation Section, where lawyers have gotten away with ethics violations. Justice Department lawyers have applied ideological double standards in how they enforce federal laws, and left-wing lawyers have gotten a free pass for bad behavior, even as whistleblowers have been forced out of their jobs.