Operation Fast and Furious Gets Strange and Sinister

| July 8, 2011 | Reply

The story around Operation Fast and Furious has reached the stage where large chunks of it no longer fit neatly into a straight-line narrative. Let me see if I can bring you up to speed.

First, the “simple” story. Arizona police arrested five people in April outside of Phoenix with at least 500 grams of illegal drugs and 59 weapons, 43 of which the BATFE traced back to Fast and Furious. So we have those guns back, but there are still well over 1,500 guns in God alone knows whose hands.

Kenneth Melson, acting Director of the BATFE spoke with members of Congressman Darrell Issa’s committee this week. I found three points in his testimony interesting, and a little bit puzzling. First, Melson told the committee that he would have testified earlier, but the Department of Justice misled him about how he could testify. As I read the story, Issa’s committee gave Melson two different options. He could either bring the General Counsels from the BATFE and Department of Justice present, or he could come with his own lawyer — either would suffice. According to Issa, the DoJ did not tell Melson about the second option, which he gladly chose when the committee informed him of it. Second, Melson told the committee that he knew nothing of Fast and Furious until the story began to break into public view. At that point he reviewed “hundreds” of documents and what he found made him “sick to his stomach”. Shortly thereafter, he ordered every supervisor involved in the operation reassigned off of it. Obviously, he felt that the operation had gone horribly wrong. Third, Melson told the committee that his agency’s response to Congressional requests for information was being handled by the Department of Justice itself, that he had informed the Office of the Deputy Attorney General that it needed to re-evaluate how it was handling those requests, and that he and the senior management team of the BATFE wanted to cooperate more but was told not to do so.

If you don’t have at least a couple questions here, you’re definitely not trying hard enough. The most obvious question, I think, would be to ask if Melson is telling the truth. If he isn’t, it ought to be easy enough to prove. If he is, then we have a real conundrum and several career bureaucrats acting in ways that no career bureaucrat has asked in the history of bureaucracy.

But there’s more.

Remember that wonderful American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009? Around here, it’s known at the Vote Buying Act Stimulus Bill and it passed through Congress on a nearly perfect partisan split. In the House, 244 of 254 Democrats voted in favor of the bill and in the Senate, it gained the approval of all 57 Democratic Senators and the 2 “independent” Senators who caucus with the Democrats. It also pulled the two occasional Republicans from Maine. In other words, that baby belongs to the Democratic Party lock, stock, and pork-filled barrel.

But here’s a section of the over 2,000-page bill about which I’ll bet you didn’t know. I hadn’t heard about it until today when I picked up this tweet from Iowahawk. It happens that the Democrats in Congress may know a bit more about Fast and Furious than they’re letting on right now. Here’s the relevant bit of the ARRA.

For an additional amount for ‘State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance’, $40,000,000, for competitive grants to provide assistance and equipment to local law enforcement along the Southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat criminal narcotics activity stemming from the Southern border, of which $10,000,000 shall be transferred to ‘Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Salaries and Expenses’ for the ATF Project Gunrunner.

So Congress, in early 2009, send the BATFE $10 million for its part of Project Gunrunner (which was the overall enforcement effort of which Fast and Furious was a part). Later that year, someone launched Operation Fast and Furious.

Now, here’s the question. Did the BATFE ask for that extra money as a general Gunrunner request or did someone inside the agency or the Department of Justice ask for the money in anticipation of the new operation they were going to launch?

Here’s something to consider. The administration, Mexican Government, and Congressional Democrats started tossing around the quickly-debunked “90 percent” claim about illegal guns in Mexico in March of 2009, not even a month after the ARRA became law (and the $10 million went to the BATFE). Fast and Furious, which allowed thousands of illegal guns to flow unchecked into Mexico, began about six months later. Are these events connected? I can’t tell you right now that they are but they’re certainly close enough that a reasonable person could wonder.

I think it’s time for all of us reasonable people to ask.

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