October 13, 2011
Lanny Davis Arrives to Spin Gunwalker
You can gauge how serious a political crisis is by who the people under fire bring in to shore up their defenses. Clintonista Lanny Davis, who represented former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment, has now stepped up to issue an op-ed piece that attempts to make a molehill out of a mountain.
Davis' article in the Huffington Post is a perfect culmination of the spin that has been offered so far by the Justice Department, the White House, a smattering of loyal House Democrats, and the media. As such, it offers one-stop shopping to debunk all of the deception being offered to undermine the pursuit of the most deadly and damning political scandal in American history.
If ever there is an example of hyper-partisanship, the recent personal attacks challenging the honesty and competence of Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the ATF's errors in its "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking program should be Exhibit A.
Davis is entirely correct... just not in the way he intended. Under Eric Holder, the Department of Justice has been packed with far-left wing ideologues and Stalinesque snitch programs designed to silo and isolate employees, compartmentalizing the sweeping and radical changes that the Administration seems to implement, as noted in Christian Adams' new book, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department. As for Eric Holder's credibility, Davis "forgets" to mention the Attorney General's two previous bouts of forgetfulness on the stand, regarding the pardons of nationalistic terrorists and financier Marc Rich in years past. The only question regarding Mr. Holder's sworn testimony is why he isn't required to present it while wired to a polygragh.
Then Davis gets very creative with his description of Operation Fast and Furious.
This was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) program in which guns were allowed to be illegally purchased so that they could be tracked to gun traffickers and Mexican drug cartel leaders. But the ATF, which now is supervised by the Justice Department, lost track of the guns -- which were "allowed to walk," as the parlance goes. Some of the guns were later found at the scene of murders of law enforcement officers.
Davis is desperate to compartmentalize the scandal as a rogue operation carried out in isolation by local ATF agents. The facts are that Operation Fast and Furious was a multi-department, multi-agency operation.
In the Department of Justice alone, the ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (and the directors of each), and a dozen top Justice Department officials, including Deputy Attorney Generals, Assistant Attorney Generals, Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals, and U.S. Attorneys were aware of the plot, with documentation already revealing that the #2 man in Justice was getting detailed briefings, in addition to the at least five reports that crossed Attorney General Holder's desk.
Operation Fast and Furious also could not have occurred without extensive interaction with the State Department, which would have had to authorize the shipment of thousands of weapons in what would otherwise be felony violations of the Arms Export Control Act.
The Department of Homeland Security, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol would also have been in the loop, and it was agents from these agencies that have become the first known U.S. law enforcement agents murdered by guns provided under Operation Fast and Furious other alleged gun-walking programs.
The Treasury Department also played a role in the task force, specifically the IRS Criminal Investigative Division (IRS-CID).
The White House National Security Council (NSC) was also briefed directly from agents in the field.
This wasn't an isolated operation, but a cabinet-level orchestration seeking to achieve unofficial, illegal, unconstitutional, possibly terrorist and treasonous policy goals.
There is no question that the program was botched -- Eric Holder has called it seriously flawed and immediately established a DOJ Inspector General investigation. But the Republican haste to blame it all on Holder and accuse him of lying to Congress -- even calling for a special prosecutor -- seems to me to be way over the top.
Let's be crystal clear on this next claim by Mr. Davis, so that there can be no mistake. There was nothing "botched" about Operation Fast and Furious. There wee no mechanisms in the program to track weapons, specific, documented incidents where federal agents interfered on behalf of weapons smugglers who were interdicted by state law enforcement, and at least one incident where an ATF agent bought weapons with taxpayer funds, authorized by a senior ATF agent, and delivered weapons directly to cartel members.
ATF agents have testified in sworn statements in front of Congress that the purpose of Operation Fast and Furious was to put thousands of American guns in the hands of the Sinaloa cartel. Interdiction was dissuaded, and tracking impossible. Supervisors were elated when OFF turned up at the scenes of murders. This was government-sanctioned arms smuggling to narco-terrorists locked in a near civil war with the legitimate government of Mexico. Nothing was "botched," and there was never an attempt to enforce laws until Brian Terry was killed and whisteblowers came forward to shut the program down.
Here are the facts I believe congressional Republicans making these personal attacks on Holder know, or should know.
First, Republican congressional leaders know that this is not the first time this type of ATF gun-tracking program has gone wrong. A similar program with similar problems began under the George W. Bush administration. As CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson reported, "Operation Wide Receiver" was implemented in 2007 during the tenure of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. A source told Attkisson that during this program, hundreds of guns "walked" across the Mexican border.
Davis would love to be able to muddy the waters of the scandal by implying that the previous Administration was involved, but the facts do not support his spin.
Where Operation Fast and Furious was a multi-agency, multi-department plot involving high-ranking government appointees and possibly elected officials, Operation Wide Receiver was a local BATF operation, using untested new technologies in an attempt to interdict and capture weapons smugglers. Wide Receiver used RFID chips placed in weapons shipments and surveillance aircraft in hopes of tracking smugglers to their bosses. The plan failed because agents did not know how to install the RFID devices competently, shortening the range of their broadcast signals, combined with the fact that smugglers were far more cunning than the agents allowed. Aware of the limited loiter times of then-current surveillance assets, the smugglers would wait until the monitoring aircraft had to refuel, at which point they would sprint to the border. Wide Receiver's failures were apparent and the operation was shut down after hundreds of guns made it over the border. Operation Fast and Furious was designed explicitly to walk guns, and succeeded wildly, successfully delivering thousands of guns, responsible for the deaths of 200+ people before ATF agents finally blew the whistle.
Second, Republicans know Holder was asked a question during a congressional hearing about when he first learned about this program in the context of prior questions concerning the mismanagement of the program. He said he first learned about it -- meaning the problems and faulty tactics -- in the spring of 2011.
Republicans know that the former U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona, the jurisdiction in which ATF was implementing the program, and the former acting director and deputy director of ATF supposedly in charge, have said they also did not know about the problems in Fast and Furious until just recently, and that they had not briefed the attorney general until this year, as he testified.
The "former U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona" Davis refused to name is Dennis Burke, a political appointee elevated to that position due to his loyalty to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Burke was Napolitano's Chief of Staff while she was Governor of Arizona, and he is now the "former" U.S. attorney due to his actions in the gun-walking scandal.
Third, the Republicans know Holder could not be expected to have remembered a few lines making general reference to this program among hundreds of pages of reports from 24 departments regularly delivered to the office of the attorney general. Even if Holder had read every line of every report -- and Republicans know he didn't and it would be unreasonable to expect an attorney general to do so -- it is a fact that none of the references to the program included any disclosure of the problems and errors in the Fast and Furious program, as Republicans also know.
Davis asks us to believe that a high-risk, politically-motivated multi-department, multi-agency plot that measured its success in the body count of Mexican citizens was something that the Attorney General not only was unaware of while it was being run, and that even after whistleblowers brought the program down he had no interest in learning anything about the program in the months before he was asked to testify under oath. If you find that credible, Mr. Davis would like you to be part of the jury pool when the criminal trials start.
Fourth, congressional Republicans should recognize that ultimately, this is a law enforcement issue that needs bipartisan support and assistance, not political cheap shots. You would think that conservative Republicans, who are known to emphasize law enforcement, would be providing the ATF and other law enforcement with the maximum number of tools to control and track these guns. These include closing loopholes in laws that facilitate following guns across the border and imposing strict reporting requirements for gun purchases to help combat gun trafficking. Unfortunately, many of those most vocal in criticizing Holder have opposed this legislation.
As we have well established in our continuing coverage of the scandal, there was nothing like a law enforcement operation that came out of Operation Fast and Furious, or the nine other alleged gun-walking operations in five states. The obvious and apparent goal of the plot was to ship as many guns into Mexico as possible, so that when they were recovered at crime scenes, they could lend credence to the 90-percent lie that President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Secretary of State Clinton and others had staked the reputations on.
Americans have become so tired of politicians in Washington politicizing virtually everything.
Mistakes can never be honest. Motives are always questioned. Members of the opposition are not only the subjects of policy disagreements; they must be demonized.
I say respectfully to Republicans responsible for these unfortunate attacks on Eric Holder what I have previously said to Democrats who unfairly personally attacked Bush Attorney General Gonzales:
We are all sick of this -- in both parties.
The only honest mistake related to Operation Fast and Furious was the mistake that field agents had that their supervisors and the political appointees they reported to cared about law and justice more than political opportunism.
Three American Federal agents were shot with guns walked by the Obama Administration, and their sacrifice pales in number when compared to the 200+ dead that the Mexican Attorney General has claimed in her investigation into this betrayal.
A bipartisan group of Arizona sheriffs (5 Republicans, 5 Democrats) have called for an independent counsel to prosecute those involved in the murderous scheme.
They too, have cried out, "Enough!"
Mr. Davis isn't supporting them.
I guess they couldn't afford his retainer.