As Operation Fast and Furious and related gun-walking allegations continue to unravel under the sunlight provided by Congressional investigators and 35 members of Congress have banded together to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign for his apparent perjury in denying he knew about the program, the Associated Press’s Pete Yost once again steps forward to try to provide the Obama Administration with a smokescreen.
A briefing paper prepared for Attorney General Michael Mukasey during the Bush administration in 2007 outlined failed attempts by federal agents to track illicitly purchased guns across the border into Mexico and stressed the need for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials to work together on such efforts using a tactic that now is generating controversy.
The information contained in one paragraph of a lengthy Nov. 16, 2007, document marks the first known instance of an attorney general being given information about the tactic known as “gun-walking.” It since has become controversial amid a probe by congressional Republicans criticizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for using it during the Obama administration in an arms-trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious that focused on several Phoenix-area gun shops.
Though the briefing paper for Mukasey does not use the term “gun-walking,” ATF officials at the time referred to the failed attempts in that way. The tactic – following suspected low-level “straw” buyers of guns instead of arresting them right after purchase – is aimed at identifying and bringing charges against gun-trafficking ringleaders, who have long escaped federal prosecution. Justice Department policy long has required that illicit arms shipments be intercepted whenever possible.
Attorney General Eric Holder is due on Capitol Hill next week to respond to Republicans who doubt his assertion that he didn’t know about allegations that the tactic was in use until early this year.
If Yost’s most current attempt to conflate Operation Fast and Furious with the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver sounds like the retelling of an old lie, it should; he made the same deceptive claims in October.
A second Bush administration gun-trafficking investigation has surfaced using the same controversial tactic for which congressional Republicans have been criticizing the Obama administration.
The tactic, called “gun walking,” is already under investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general and by congressional Republicans, who have criticized the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama for letting it happen in an operation called “Fast and Furious”.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show how in a 2007 investigation in Phoenix, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — depending on Mexican authorities to follow up — let guns “walk” across the border in an effort to identify higher-ups in gun networks. Justice Department policy has long required that illicit arms shipments be intercepted whenever possible.
The 2007 probe operated out of the same ATF office that more recently ran the flawed Operation Fast and Furious. Both probes resulted in weapons disappearing across the border into Mexico, according to the emails. The 2007 probe was relatively small — involving over 200 weapons, just a dozen of which ended up in Mexico as a result of gun-walking. Fast and Furious involved over 2,000 weapons, some 1,400 of which have not been recovered and an unknown number of which wound up in Mexico.
The apparent goal of both reports by this Associated Press reporter are to draw as many sketchy parallels as possible between Operation Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious. Unfortunately for Mr. Yost, the claims he is making are very inaccurate, and appear purposefully designed for deception.
The differences between the botched Bush-era interdiction effort that was Wide Receiver and the blatant gun-running of Obama’s Fast and Furious are something that we’ve discussed previously, but the ABC News article provides even more details that highlight just how different the operations were.
Wide Receiver was a botched, small-scale, law enforcement gun-smuggling interdiction effort that involved local Phoenix-based ATF agents working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement. When guns were lost — roughly 200 — irate supervisors immediately shut down the program.
Wide Receiver could hardly be any more different than Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious used elements of at least four cabinet-level departments: Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury. U.S. attorneys, the directors of the FBI and DEA, the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and senior DOJ officials were briefed. High-level State Department approval was critical, in order to avoid breaking arms export control laws. Even the White House National Security Counsil (NSC) had direct communications about the operation.
Unlike Wide Receiver, Operation Fast and Furious excluded Mexican government officials. Instead of working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement in order to prevent gun smuggling, the operation was designed to ensure that more than 2,000 guns would be successfully smuggled into Mexico by the drug cartels to be used in violent crimes.
The same supervisors that were appalled at the failures of Wide Receiver seemed to be giddy at the “success” of Fast and Furious when the weapons they sent over the border were found at murder scenes, or taken from the bodies and stash houses of narco-terrorists.
The Associated Press was asked by PJ Media whether or not the AP would stand behind Yost’s claim of these two very different operations were examples of “using the same controversial tactic.”
AP Washington bureau chief Sally Buzbee responded.
The AP stands by its story. Government documents indicate the programs under the Bush administration and the Obama administration were similar in their overall goals, overall concept and basic structures: They attempted to use straw buyers to follow guns and track them back up the chain to gain evidence on criminal higher-ups, with the aim of taking out whole networks. We think the memo cited in today’s AP story makes clears the similarities.
We also have clearly outlined the main difference in the programs, again using contemporaneous documents.
Our reporting on this story continues.
Like his colleagues in the media, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings (D-MD), is attempting to run interference for the Obama Administration and has attempted to pile on to Yost’s “but Bush did it too!” excuse-making. Cummings sent a letter Friday to Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa requesting to have a meeting with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who was the Attorney General when Operation Wide Receiver took place.
In sending the letter, Cummings suggests that the office of the Attorney General should know about a small locally-run interdiction operation that failed. He seems utterly unaware that if that standard apples to Mukasey, then current Attorney General Eric Holder should be well aware of Operation Fast and furious, a gun-walking plot involving four Cabinet-level agencies, the White House, and almost exactly ten-times more weapons transiting the border, ultimately causing the deaths of hundreds of Mexican citizens.