The whole congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious has been designed to answer three questions, what did they know, when did they know it, and then depending on their answers to the first two questions, why didn’t they do anything to stop it.
The “they” as we know applies to everyone involved, including those individuals who occupy the highest levels of government, i.e. Attorney General Eric Holder and even President Obama.
And as part of the investigation, spearheaded by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), several top-ranking government officials have been subpoenaed to testify to answer those very questions.
The latest to take the stage was Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism regarding his knowledge of the BATFE’s gun-walking operations.
Breuer told the committee, “I regret that in April of 2010 that I did not draw the connection between Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious.”
“Moreover, I regret that even earlier this year, I didn’t draw that connection,” he added.
To clarify things, Operation Wide Receiver, which dates back to 2006-2007, was a similar operation to that of Fast and Furious were guns were permitted to walk across the US-Mexico border unimpeded.
Breuer, for whatever reason, failed to draw a connection between these two failed programs despite the fact that both DOJ and ATF policy prohibited gun-walking.
A recently publicized briefing written on Nov. 16, 2007, headlined “Meeting of the attorney general with Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora,” and prepared for former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served as part of the Bush Administration, highlighted the flawed nature of those non-interdiction and minimal surveillance tactics that characterized operations like Fast and Furious and Wide Receiver. It substantiated that gun-walking has been around for quite some time.
In Section G, titled “Arms Trafficking,” the briefing paper for Mukasey stated, “of particular importance, ATF has recently worked jointly with Mexico on the first-ever attempt to have a controlled delivery of weapons being smuggled into Mexico by a major arms trafficker.” It adds: “While the first attempts at this controlled delivery have not been successful, the investigation is ongoing, and ATF would like to expand the possibility of such joint investigations and controlled deliveries — since only then will it be possible to investigate an entire smuggling network, rather than arresting simply a single smuggler.”
“To that end, it is essential that a Mexican vetted unit be assigned to work with ATF in this regard,” the briefing paper states. “ATF’s attache in Mexico City has briefed Attorney General Medina Mora on this attempted controlled delivery, and stressed the importance of such a vetted unit being assigned.”
As we now know, those controlled deliveries (the process of gun-walking) were not all that controlled. In part because that vetted Mexican unit was never quite assembled. The guns were permitted to walk, but there was no coordinated effort, no unit on standby, to track them after they had crossed the border.
Also, within the briefing, it claimed that that effort was the “first-ever attempt” at a controlled delivery, but an ATF official disputed that.
“I am going to ask DOJ to change `first ever.’ … There have been cases in the past where we have walked guns,” ATF official Carson Carroll wrote in an email to ATF headquarters official William Hoover, the assistant director for field operations.
According to investigators, those earlier cases most likely refer back Operation Wide Receiver.
To some extent this investigation has done a fair job of getting answers to the when and what questions listed above. We now know that gun walking – or as it’s euphemistically known “controlled delivery of arms” – was taking place as early as 2006. We also know that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and that current Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, among others within the Justice Department, were privy to information that would have lead more competent officials to investigate the matter. In short, people failed to do their jobs. The question that remains is why?
Why would they (the DOJ) allow the BATFE to continue to use severely flawed and inevitably deadly (Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry) gun-walking tactics?
Some have argued that it’s just gross incompetence. Others believe that there’s something more sinister going on here. For example, some have implied that the BATFE is purposely funneling guns into Mexico as a way to drive up gun crime along the border.
They argue that higher gun crime would create an atmosphere where the BATFE would have an easier time pushing through gun legislation like the multiple tracking mandate for those who purchase semiautomatic long arms with detachable magazines.
Those critics point to this exchange between Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Breuer, at the same hearing, as further evidence of that motive:
Feinstein: Mr. Breuer, in June of this year, I received a letter from the ATF. . . stating that 29,284 firearms [were] recovered in Mexico in ’09 and 2010, and submitted to the ATF Tracing Center. With those weapons, 20,504, or 70 percent, were United States sourced. . . . Is it fair to say that 70 percent of the firearms showing up in Mexico are from the United States?
Breuer: Thank you, Senator, for the question, and for your leadership on this issue. . . . Of the 94,000 weapons that have been recovered in Mexico, 64,000 of those are traced to the United States. We have to do something to prevent criminals from getting those guns, Senator. . . .
Feinstein: . . . .“[W]e have very lax laws when it comes to guns. . . . And so the question comes, do you believe that if there were some form of registration when you purchase these firearms that that would make a difference?
Breuer: I do, Senator. . . . Today, Senator, we are not even permitted to have ATF receive reports about multiple sales of long guns, of any kind of semiautomatic weapon or the like. . . . Very few hunters in the United States or sports people and law-abiding people really need to have semiautomatic weapons or long guns. . . .”
Sen. Grassley stepped up and refuted the numbers Feinstein cited. He said at the hearing, “I released a report that I would like to ask be made a part of the record. It refutes the numbers referenced early that 70 percent of the guns in Mexico came from the U.S. The answer isn’t to clamp down on law abiding citizens or gun dealers.”
Why was gun-walking allowed to continue over two Administrations? Gross incompetence? Plot to pass gun control? Some combination of the two?