Defense & National Security

Fast and Furious: The Administration plays “liar’s poker”

House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) was a hot commodity on the Sunday talk-show circuit last weekend, as Congress prepares to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for his refusal to provide subpoenaed documents related to the Fast and Furious investigation.

Appearing on ABC News’ This Week, Issa decried attempts by the Justice Department and White House to play “liar’s poker” with the concealed documents:

During this interview, Issa touched on a few of the more absurd and dishonest spin tornadoes rolling through biased coverage of this enormous scandal, which much of the media simply avoided covering until President Obama’s claim of executive privilege made it impossible to ignore.  One of the silliest media narratives is that contempt charges are being thrown against Holder with unseemly haste.  This plays off the impression, held by many uninformed consumers of negligent mainstream news coverage, that Fast and Furious just blew up in the last couple of weeks.  On the contrary, Holder has been stonewalling for a year, and the far more well-informed patrons of conservative blog sites have known about Operation Fast and Furious since the death of Agent Terry in December 2010.  It only seems like this is a “new” story because it’s been studiously ignored by most reporters for two years.

The new Obama-approved narrative being pushed out to his willing media allies is that it’s all George Bush’s fault.  Well, that’s a very old narrative with this Administration, but it’s been hastily patched into the Fast and Furious scandal, most notably in an amazing press conference where White House spokesman Jay Carney actually forgot the name of slain U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and had to be gently reminded by reporter Jake Tapper of ABC News:

Tapper also served as Issa’s host on This Week, and he hit the Oversight chairman with some tough questions about the existence of gun-walking tactics in the Bush Administration.  The most salient fact about the earlier Operation Wide Receiver is that it ended, and it ended well before George Bush left office.  The Obama spin team is trying to portray gun walking as an unbroken continuum of outrage, stretching from the dark days of the Bush Terror until late 2010.  There have even been absurd attempts to portray Eric Holder as some kind of hero for stopping it.

But Operation Wide Receiver had a distinct end point, and the Bush Justice Department was not shy about concluding it was a failure.  Fast and Furious was a new operation, launched in 2009, from the same Phoenix, Arizona ATF office that ran Wide Receiver.  That means people who knew the gun walking tactic was a horrendous mistake were involved in cranking it up again… except this time it would be ten times larger, feature absolutely no serious attempt to track the guns or arrest the buyers, and be kept secret from the Mexican government.

Wide Receiver really was a “botched sting operation,” as the media has been falsely describing Fast and Furious.  The history of Wide Receiver does not exonerate the Obama Administration, it indicts them.  And the patently stupid idea that Eric Holder somehow put his foot down and exorcised an old ghost from the Bush Administration is a direct contradiction of Holder’s sworn testimony before Congress.  Remember, Holder testified that he was absolutely and totally ignorant of gun walking until long after Agent Terry was murdered, and panicked ATF supervisors shut down Fast and Furious.  Until Terry’s death, ATF whistleblowers were either ignored or actively suppressed.

This is why House Oversight needs the documents Barack Obama is trying to hide from the American people.  As Issa pointed out to Tapper, we already have indisputable cases of Justice officials lying to Congress, and it is highly likely that Attorney General Holder has perjured himself as well.  This is a crime, and executive privilege cannot be invoked to protect the perpetrators of a crime.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that turning over 5 percent of the documents named in a lawful subpoena constitutes any sort of meaningful co-operation on Holder’s part – especially since, as Issa demonstrated, many of the documents surrendered thus far consist of nothing but black redaction ink.  Holder’s “co-operation” should be the topic of late-night comedy skits, not a serious action line peddled to the American public by our negligent media.  Just try to imagine congressional Democrats cheerfully tolerating that kind of foot-dragging from a Republican Attorney General, with hundreds of dead Mexican citizens and a couple of slain U.S. law enforcement agents lying dead on the floor… plus hundreds of missing guns still waiting to turn up at crime scenes!

We still need to know who, precisely, ordered the ATF to resume using tactics that were a proven failure, and make them worse.  These tactics were pursued, with the cooperation of other Justice Department agencies, with insane vigor long after they came completely off the rails.  Conscientious ATF agents were literally ordered to stand by and watch helplessly while guns vanished into Mexico.  As Issa noted in his ABC interview, we also have to find out what the people who ordered this outrage were trying to accomplish, since it has become impossible to claim they were trying to arrest the purchasers of smuggled weapons – the objective of a true “sting” operation.

Until those documents are produced, it is illogical to describe Fast and Furious as “botched,” because we still don’t know what it was intended to accomplish.  On Monday, The Hill published a poll that said only 29 percent of Americans support Obama’s claims of executive privilege.  That’s a remarkably low number, given the much larger base of nearly automatic support the President enjoys.  If the press abandons its last pitiful attempts to spin this story away, public approval of Obama and Holder’s stonewalling will diminish even further.

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