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Debunking The Fast & Furious Gun Control Conspiracy

One of the persistent ideas that has driven interest in the Fast & Furious story among many on the right is the idea that the entire operation was created by forces within the Obama Administration as an operation designed not to catch Mexican drug gangs illegally buying guns in the United States, but to essentially manufacture evidence that could be used to push for additional gun control legislation. This theory has circulated within the conservative blogosphere for months now, but achieved much more prominence this weekend when House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa suggested on ABC’s News’s This Week that this theory may in fact be true: (video and transcript of Issa’s comments at the link)

This morning on “This Week,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., continued pressing a conspiracy theory that the botched “Fast and Furious” operation could have been part of a larger plan by the Obama administration to push through tougher gun laws in the United States. But Issa had no firm evidence to back the claim, and said he could not be certain that gun control efforts were ever an original aim of sending guns across the border.

“Here’s the real answer as to gun control.  We have e-mail from people involved in this that are talking about using what they’re finding here to support the — basically assault weapons ban or greater reporting. So chicken or egg?  We don’t know which came first; we probably never will,” Issa said this morning on “This Week.” “We do know that during this — this ‘Fast and Furious’ operation, there were e-mails in which they’re saying we can use this as part of additional reporting or things like assault weapons ban.  So the people involved saw the benefit of what — what they were gathering.  Whether or not that was their original purpose, we probably will never know.”

Issa’s response came after I challenged him on comments he made in April at an NRA convention to NRA News’ “Cam & Company” program, where he said, “Could it be that what they really were thinking of was in fact to use this walking of guns in order to promote an assault weapons ban? Many think so. And they haven’t come up with an explanation that would cause any of us not to agree.”

PJ Media’s Bill Whittle argues passionately in favor of this hypothesis in a recent video, and Investors Business Daily lays out its argument in favor of the theory in an Editorial which cites evidence of emails exchanged between Arizona ATF officials that discuss using Fast & Furious “evidence” in a White Paper that was being prepared on the issue of the need to tighten rules applied to gun dealers. As I noted in a post I wrote last week, though, all of those email were exchanged after Fast and Furious had already been in effect for nearly a year, and several were changed just before the program was shut down completely in the wake of the death of Border Patrol evidence Brian Terry. While it’s somewhat disturbing that the ATF may have been trying to use “evidence” from their own blown operation to make a case for gun control when said evidence really provided no such support is disturbing, it isn’t proof that the entire program was designed as essentially a political and law enforcement Potemkin Village for the purpose of manufacturing such “evidence.”

Power Line’s Paul Migrenhoff points out some of the logical flaws in the conspiracy theory argument:

First, Fast and Furious does not appear to have been the brainchild of President Obama or Attorney General Holder. Rather, the program reportedly was formulated by the ATF in Phoenix in response to an edict from Washington to focus on eliminating arms trafficking networks, as opposed to capturing low-level buyers, as had occurred under traditional interdiction programs. If Fast and Furious had been the product of a conspiracy by the administration to promote gun control legislation, the program would have come from the top down, not from the bottom up.

(…)

Second, Obama and Holder probably would not have believed that increased violence in Mexico could lead to tougher regulation of guns in the U.S. Americans simply don’t care enough about Mexico to alter domestic policy based on what occurs there, especially when it comes to an issue as passionately and endlessly argued as gun control. Americans view violence in Mexico the way they viewed violence in Colombia – unfortunate, typical, and not our problem at any fundamental level.

It was always possible that a few Americans, especially some involved in law enforcement, would be killed with guns that were part of Fast and Furious. But in this event, the probable consequence is what we have witnessed – major embarrassment for the administration, not an effective vehicle for advocating more gun control. On balance, it seems unlikely that the administration would come up with a program this risky in the pie-in-the-sky hope of incresing gun control.

Why, then, was the program implemented? As noted, considerable frustration existed over attempts to deal with gun running through interdiction at the point of sale because this form of enforcement resulted in the apprehension of only the small fry. Those who came up with Fast and Furious probably hoped that if guns followed their natural course into Mexico, they would lead to much more important players. Wire taps and other surveillance of Mexican cartel bosses would assist in nailing these players, or so the thinking went.

It was a very bad idea, poorly executed. But, as conservatives should understand better than most, the government frequently implements very bad ideas and does so incompetently. In any case, trying to apprehend cartel bosses through Fast and Furious strikes me as less foolish than intentionally increasing shootings in Mexico to enhance the cause of gun control in the U.S.

This strikes me as largely correct. If this was a conspiracy theory, it was an incredibly poorly designed one from Day One and it depended on Americans giving much of a crap about Mexicans killing Mexicans, which honestly doesn’t seem to be very likely. More importantly, though, and as I argued myself last week, it is far more plausible to believe that what happened in Fast & Furious operation was the result of a group of people with a bad idea who put together a bad plan that was badly executed. You don’t need to look very far to find examples of other badly executed government operations than that it was part of some nefarious political conspiracy. Indeed, the extent to which this seems to occur on a regular basis, and to which the details of said operations inevitably leak out at some point, makes it hard to believe that a true nefarious conspiracy could ever really be executed by American political officials. Watergate was arguably such a conspiracy, but it was so incompetently handled that its main even was referred to, quite correctly, as a “third-rate burglary.” The remarkable thing about conspiracy theorists, most of whom tend to be very anti-government, is that they seem to ascribe far more competence and ability to keep a secret to government officials than available evidence would suggested is warranted.

There’s another reason that the conspiracy theory story falls apart, and  it’s an issue for which the advocates of the theory don’t seem to be able to provide an answer. From the time he was a candidate all the way through the first three years of his Presidency, there’s not been any evidence that the Obama Administration placed any real priority on trying to strengthen gun control laws. If Fast & Furious really was part of a conspiracy to tighten those laws, then where was the legislation that would have been waiting to be pushed once the “evidence” started coming out? Even during the two years when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House, there was no serious effort to push any such legislation. Mostly, this is because there just isn’t a political constituency for gun control like there was during the first two years of the Clinton Administration when things like the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban were passed.  Indeed, many Democrats lost their jobs in 1994 because of their votes on those bills, and the GOP took over Congress, so it strikes me as unlikely that Democrats would want to kick that hornet’s nest again any time soon.

As I’ve said several times when I’ve written about this story, there are legitimate questions about Fast & Furious that deserve an answer. It’s the proper role of Congress to ask those questions and the Administration’s reticence to cooperate fully in that investigation dis-serves the public and only serves to reinforce the notion of some that they have something to hide. At the same time, though, Issa does the investigation no favors by pandering to the conspiracy theorists. As Joe Friday used to say, Congressman, just the facts, that’s all you need to be looking for. The rest is a waste of time.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Galanti says:

    As a curious aside, there are an insane number of after-market parts on the guns shown in the image of weapons confiscated by Mexican authorities. I see Magpul CTR buttstocks and angled foregrips, RIS handguards, and so on. It strikes me as unlikely that the Zetas are customizing their weapons to such a degree, but I suppose it`s perfectly possible, too.

    If I had to guess, I`d say a great many of these guns came from private ownership.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    Fortune has a good take down as well

    It was nearly impossible in Arizona to bring a case against a straw purchaser. The federal prosecutors there did not consider the purchase of a huge volume of guns, or their handoff to a third party, sufficient evidence to seize them. A buyer who certified that the guns were for himself, then handed them off minutes later, hadn’t necessarily lied and was free to change his mind. Even if a suspect bought 10 guns that were recovered days later at a Mexican crime scene, this didn’t mean the initial purchase had been illegal. To these prosecutors, the pattern proved little. Instead, agents needed to link specific evidence of intent to commit a crime to each gun they wanted to seize.

    .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  3. Michael Hamilton says:

    I don’t buy that Obama or Holder created this plan to help enact federal gun control laws.

    What I don’t understand, and what this post doesn’t discuss, is what the point of the entire operation was.

    What is the purpose of discovering who the players in the Mexican gun trade are if they fall outside of your jurisdiction?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Dan Collins says:

    Here are some of the problems with this supposed Occam’s razor approach. The administration was making at the time a big push to brainwash Americans that 90% of the weapons used in violent crimes in Mexico came from the US. The numbers were false, demonstrably and by a long shot, and if they believed that Americans wouldn’t give a shit about dead Mexicans, they hardly would have gone so far trying to disseminate the propaganda, which the lapdog media duly publicized . . . just as though their readers would give a shit about dead Mexicans.

    Call it coincidence.

    No prior program of American illegal gun sales interdiction, as far as I’m aware, included no attempt at . . . well, interdiction. No similar operation was ever conducted, as far as I’m aware, without the involvement and consent of Mexican law enforcement. Never has anything so botched, whether accidental or not, ever been conducted with less head-rolling, never has an Attorney General ever stuck his neck out so far to cover for small-time local bureaucrats, and never have those involved in such abject failures been transmigrated to Washington DC in nominally higher and better posts for having provided material support for terrorists in a neighboring country.

    Otherwise, your post is spot-on, Doug.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 31

  5. jan says:

    Doug, While this commentary is written with reason, I think the one place it does fall down is using the lack of any gun control legislation being promoted early on in the Obama administration as useful in judging whether or not a gun control conspiracy existed with the F&F operation. Comprehensive immigration reform (other than the last minute Dream Act in 2010) was also not on Obama’s legislative agenda as well as a myriad of other reforms and policies that Obama now says are very important to him, ie. spending cuts, tax reform/raises (extension of tax cuts also last minute 2010 gestures) etc. Where were any oif these policies introduced in 2009-2010?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 19

  6. David M says:

    @jan: Obama pushing for immigration reform in 2009.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Yeah, the gun control thing never really made any sense whatsoever. Not because Team Obama is not Machiavellian enough to pull that sort of stunt. Definitely they are. It’s because there are too many moving parts and in any event that sort of play would have been unsuccessful. Team Obama doesn’t have that much control over the rank and file. The days of Tammany Hall are long gone. Even if the body count along the border would have resembled Stalingrad’s the Dems in any case still wouldn’t have gotten the votes in Congress for stricter federal gun control laws. On that issue too many Democrats represent conservative jurisdictions.

    That all said, this particular operation fails the basic cognition test. Although government programs often are misguided and have unintended consequenes when they fail the basic cognition test there’s more than simply negligence or even gross negligence afoot. This isn’t Waco nor is it FEMA and Katrina. Something nefarious was going on here. Something purposeful. Can’t be any other way. Even the Feds are not dumb enough to ship assault rifles across the border without tracking them. The fact that Holder won’t release the documents and that Obama has gone all Nixonian on us simply proves that point. Let’s not be naive.

    If I had to guess I’d say that it relates to money and specifically in some way to illegal campaign donations. Some sort of quid pro quo. Mexico is a very corrupt state. Someone held a chit and called it in. That someone couldn’t be brushed off, because they knew where bodies were buried, so to speak.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  8. mantis says:

    It’s fairly east to see the formula Issa is following here, and it has nothing to do with concern for Mexicans, gun control measures, or any of the other crap they claim this is about.

    Step 1: Demand documents and testimony related to program under investigation.
    Step 2: If nothing damning to The Enemy (i.e. the White House) is found in those documents or testimony, focus on any minor discrepancy you can find to demand an enormous quantity more, well outside the scope of the investigation. Request special prosecutors in the hopes that they may also go well beyond the investigation and dig up some dirt, somewhere, or something that can be spun negatively for The Enemy.
    Step 3: If The Enemy refuses to give you everything under the sun for your fishing expedition, start talking conspiracies and cover ups even though there is no evidence to support your claims.
    Step 4: If/when The Enemy finally relents and gives you more documents/access, repeat steps 2-4 until you can find something bad enough to start impeachment hearings.

    We have, of course, seen this play out before. It’s no way to run a government, but then the Republicans have long since abandoned even pretending to be interested in governance.

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  9. Jib says:

    The right wing paranoia on gun control is one of the prime examples I use to point out to people how stuck in the past the right wing is. As far as I can see, the left wing gun control movement is dead. There are some individuals who still are sympathetic to it but nothing organized is going on with it. Believe me, if there was anything going on with it you would have heard about it after the Seattle shootings.

    The nuclear freeze movement is more active than gun control. There is at least a small group of grey hairs that still go out and get arrested protesting at Bangor.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 12

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: Nice formulation. Did you lift that from the Valerie Plame investigation?

    Dan Collins and Michael Hamilton hit upon the key point: just what was the goal of the program, anyway? The “gun control” theory reflects that there is no coherent story that is consistent with the known facts of the case.

    And no one seems in any hurry to put one forward.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 24

  11. mantis says:

    @Dan Collins:

    The administration was making at the time a big push to brainwash Americans that 90% of the weapons used in violent crimes in Mexico came from the US.

    Evidence of this big brainwashing push, please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  12. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Nice formulation. Did you lift that from the Valerie Plame investigation?

    No I didn’t, but your assumption once again shows that you know jack shit about absolutely nothing.

    See, with Plame, there was actual evidence that her identity had been revealed when…her identity was revealed. Furthermore, the CIA requested an investigation into how one of their agents was exposed. So you’re missing two key elements of the “formulation.” First, it wasn’t a politician on a fishing expedition, but rather our spy agency requesting an investigation. Second, there was actual evidence of a crime.

    Good try though. I’m sure you know exactly what investigation I was referring to though.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  13. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The “gun control” theory reflects that there is no coherent story that is consistent with the known facts of the case.

    The stated goals make plenty of sense, unless you don’t think its possible for the ATF agents to screw up an investigation. Even if someone is looking for an alternative explanation, the “secret gun control” conspiracy is not a reasonable alternative, as there is even less evidence to support it.

    There is only one reason to end up with the “secret gun control” conspiracy as the motivation for the Fast & Furious operation, and that reason is to make the Obama Administration look bad. If that’s your goal and you are willing to lie and actively ignore the facts in evidence, then the conspiracy makes sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  14. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s good to see both sides of the aisle debunking the idea.

    I wish more attention were being paid to the “sting” operation aspect of it, though. I think that these sorts of activities are more problematic than they’re being credited. In some countries they’re prohibited.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    From the Forbes article:

    The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico.

    From an article about gun sales in AZ for 2011:

    In Arizona, it is likely that more than 200,000 new weapons will be put in buyers’ hands after background checks this year. That figure doesn’t include firearms purchased at gun shows and through private transactions. Such non-tracked sales are thought to account for 40 percent of all sales, adding about 150,000 guns purchased annually. The estimated sales total: about 350,000 guns per year.

    Play with the 2000 a day number any way you want. Cut in half to a 1000, and say that 25% of these guns come from Arizona. 250 a day, 91,250 a year. That’s over 25% of all gun sales…So basically, Arizona gun dealers need drug money. Is it any wonder that the laws are so lax?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David M: The stated goals make plenty of sense, unless you don’t think its possible for the ATF agents to screw up an investigation.

    The stated goal makes plenty of sense. But it bears no resemblance to what actually happened.

    To repeat for the umpteenth time, there was no plan to track or recapture the guns once they got into Mexico. None. The plan was to get the guns into the hands of the straw buyers, watch as they were transferred to Cartel agents, watch (and assist) as they crossed the border…

    And then nothing. No agents in Mexico to track the guns. No cooperative Mexican officials to track them. Just help the guns across the border, then go back and start more guns on the path.

    That’s why people are coming up with these “stealth gun control plot” theories — because there is nothing out there that makes sense, and they’re trying to make it make sense.

    And as crazy as it sounds, it’s still saner than the official story.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 14

  17. Boyd says:

    @mantis: You’ve seriously never heard the “90% of guns captured from the drug cartels in Mexico came from the United States” lie? Really? I truly thought you were better informed than that.

    And @Ron Beasley: That Fortune article is pathetically bereft of facts, and when they get close to a fact, I’ll generously characterize them as “sadly mistaken.” One glaring example that leapt out at me:

    Lying on [ATF form 4473, wherein the purchaser certifies many things about the purchase being legal] is a felony, but with weak penalties attached.

    The “weak penalties?” Up to $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail. I’d hate to see what they consider to be a “strong penalty.”

    All of which is not to say that I believe Barack Obama or Eric Holder sat down one day and said to himself, “Self, how are we going to get more gun control” and came up with F&F. But the Obama Administration apologists here don’t do yourselves any favors by willfully sticking your heads in the sand over the true problems in the Justice Department’s involvement in F&F, both during its operation and in trying to cover up said involvement.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

  18. mantis says:

    @Boyd:

    You’ve seriously never heard the “90% of guns captured from the drug cartels in Mexico came from the United States” lie?

    No, I just asked for evidence that the government was involved in “a big push to brainwash Americans” into thinking that. It was, after all, a rather strong claim, don’t you think?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 7

  19. MM says:

    @Boyd: What is the average penalty for failing to fill out that form?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  20. mattb says:

    And thus @jan trots out the ultimate form of unprovable and illogical evidence — that lack of action actually demonstrates conspiracy to take action. It’s the old lul us into the false sense of security.

    This ultimately develops to, only in a second term will Obama’s socio-liberal-facist-marxist-statists-anti-white tendencies manifest and we’ll all be sent to FEMA camps. So vote Romney and stock up on ammunition before he finally comes to take all of it away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  21. mattb says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I wish more attention were being paid to the “sting” operation aspect of it, though. I think that these sorts of activities are more problematic than they’re being credited. In some countries they’re prohibited.

    Oh Dave… That type of request would require us to open up a much larger can of worms about our Sting based counter terrorism efforts. An we’d prefer not to think about how those particular sausage gets made and what the results of it are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Dan Collins says:

    @mantis

    You could have Googled all of this yourself, were you really interested, but here’s a start: https://www.google.com/search?q=administration+lies+90%25+of+mexico+guns+US&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    Forget everything that was posted after Fast and Furious first reared its ugly head, and look at all the posts that had simply to do with the falsehoods being spread by various agencies, politicians and political appointees. The outrage about the 90% lie wasn’t manufactured ex post facto, but was registered in real time. Many of the people making the claim that it was registered ex post facto are among the more vocal denouncers of right-wing conspiracy theorizing, naturally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  23. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    That’s why people are coming up with these “stealth gun control plot” theories — because there is nothing out there that makes sense, and they’re trying to make it make sense

    If you are trying to come up with something that makes sense, but embrace a theory with less evidence, then you might be the Jenos a GOP hack.

    My complaint is not about alternate theories, it’s about latching onto a specific theory with even less evidence to support it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  24. mattb says:

    BTW, credit where credit is due… Big kudos to Power Line’s Paul Migrenhoff for a well written and reasoned essay. It is a great example of policing you own side, not to mention logically working with the facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  25. Dan Collins says:

    Regarding the Forbes article, my eyes glazed over when I saw the author refer to Brian Terry’s murderers as “Mexican bandits.” Could she have been any more vague?

    Also, if she were on the other side of the nonexistent border fence, wouldn’t that have been raaaaacist?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  26. mantis says:

    @Dan Collins:

    You could have Googled all of this yourself, were you really interested, but here’s a start

    Sorry, that ain’t supporting your assertion. Proof of a “brainwashing push” by the government, please. An accurate but misleading statistic in a GAO report that is misused by some people is not the same as a government “brainwashing push.”

    If you’ve got nothing, just say so. Don’t send me to Google. I’m aware of how to use Google. Put up or shut up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  27. Tlaloc says:

    There’s a part of me that wonders if this is another rope a dope ala the birth certificate fiasco. let the right crawl way out on the limb and then maliciously saw it off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  28. Tlaloc says:

    BTW, credit where credit is due… Big kudos to Power Line’s Paul Migrenhoff for a well written and reasoned essay. It is a great example of policing you own side, not to mention logically working with the facts.

    Really what that means is the intellectual rigor of the right has fallen into such disrepair that the guys from freaking powerline look smart by comparison. Not much of an accomplishment being only half way crazy, unless you live in the land of the fully batsh!t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  29. Modulo Myself says:

    From Polifact:

    Alberto Islas, a security consultant with Risk Evaluation in Mexico City, said the 90 percent figure is based on an incomplete sample. Mexican officials only require ATF traces of guns used in “high-impact crimes,” he said. That certainly includes crimes involving violent drug cartels. That’s the sample from which the ATF derives its 90 percent statistic. Driving up that percentage, Islas said, is the fact that nearly all of the handguns traced by ATF come from the United States, Islas said, while assault weapons are more of a mixed bag — some come from the United States, but others come through drug routes in Eastern Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

    When looking at all the weapons used in violent crimes in Mexico, Islas said the figure of 90 percent coming from the United States may be a bit on the high side, but he said the real number is certainly a lot higher than the 17 percent cited by Fox.

    Man, those brainwashing crazies in the White House…it was only 90 percent recovered from high impact crimes. But for all violent crimes, it could have been 75 percent, which is closer to zero, in a certain way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  30. Boyd says:

    @mantis: I wouldn’t have characterized it as an attempt to “brainwash Americans,” but when you have both the President and the Secretary of State (among others) perpetuating this false information, let’s just say I personally find it more than troubling.

    Even taking it in the best light, that is, a) they don’t know the information they’re relating is incorrect, and b) they don’t intend to use this incorrect information as a justification for limiting our civil rights, others can (and have) used these statements by our leaders to push the gun control agenda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  31. sam says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And then nothing. No agents in Mexico to track the guns. No cooperative Mexican officials to track them. Just help the guns across the border, then go back and start more guns on the path.

    We really don’t know that, do we? There is evidence that the “no agents in Mexico” claim is false.

    U.S. Agencies Infiltrating Drug Cartels Across Mexico ( October 24, 2011):

    American law enforcement agencies have significantly built up networks of Mexican informants that have allowed them to secretly infiltrate some of that country’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations, according to security officials on both sides of the border.

    As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.

    Perhaps some of these infiltrators were tasked with tracking guns. It’s not unreasonable to assume so, is it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  32. Boyd says:

    @MM:

    What is the average penalty for failing to fill out that form?

    There is no “penalty” for failing to fill out the form, other than not being able to buy the gun because the dealer won’t sell it to you unless you fill out the form.

    If you meant to ask about the average penalty for lying on the form, I’ve got not a clue, nor any idea on how to find reliable statistics to answer the question. You’re welcome to do your own research, though. I’m not inclined to do your work for you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  33. mantis says:

    @Boyd:

    I wouldn’t have characterized it as an attempt to “brainwash Americans,”

    Then you and I are in agreement. It was not such an attempt.

    but when you have both the President and the Secretary of State (among others) perpetuating this false information, let’s just say I personally find it more than troubling.

    The information isn’t false. It was based on an incomplete sample, as @Modulo Myself notes, but that doesn’t make it false. How accurate the claim is depends on how it is presented, but regardless it is certainly an indication of the nature of the problem of US guns going into Mexican crime, and no one has presented any data to refute it, only doubts to its accuracy based on an incomplete sample (largely out of necessity, as we cannot trace guns we don’t receive or those with no serial numbers).

    Anyway, we can debate the legitimacy of using such a figure, but it’s not brainwashing, no matter how you slice it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  34. Boyd says:

    @sam: I was begrudgingly with you up to the end:

    It’s not unreasonable to assume so, is it?

    Yeah, I kinda think it is unreasonable to assume. There’s no evidence to indicate they were used to track the guns, at least none that I’ve heard of, and I’ve been tracking this issue since March of last year. It would make more sense to see some sort of evidence beyond, “They’re there.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Thanks for posting that. What Voth’s opinions are in this whole thing have been a huge mystery to me.

    I disagree with the authors opinion that this wasn’t “allowing guns to walk”, but most of what Voth is saying here strikes me as very much in line with my recollections of what the other agents were saying in the hearings.

    There is something I’ve suspected to be at the root of all this, the bringing of the military mindset to law enforcement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. mattb says:

    @Tlaloc:

    Really what that means is the intellectual rigor of the right has fallen into such disrepair that the guys from freaking powerline look smart by comparison. Not much of an accomplishment being only half way crazy, unless you live in the land of the fully batsh!t.

    Nice cheap shot.

    I look at things in a different way… the place where people need to stand up is at places like Powerline, Kos, and on radio call in shows. That’s the place where the problem is being perpetuated. And so that’s where people need to do the work first and foremost.

    To get bibical for a sec (and you don’t need to be a Christian to see the moral here) – to tackle the issue of sin, Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time with Church Elders. Instead he did his work of salvation among the common sinners.

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  37. mattb says:

    @Boyd:

    There’s no evidence to indicate they were used to track the guns, at least none that I’ve heard of, and I’ve been tracking this issue since March of last year. It would make more sense to see some sort of evidence beyond, “They’re there.”

    Fair point.

    (Ahead of time note: Boyd I know that you’re not pushing the conspiracy theory for F&F, I’m just going to riff of what you wrote).

    An that point proves some of the issues with the entire conspiracy thread — the general lack of evidence (other than the three memos). In both cases, people are making jumps of reasoning through phrases like “it stands to reason” or “wouldn’t it make sense if.”

    Granted, there could be an acutal anti-gun conspiracy. But I will only take that possibility seriously if someone can build a case on actual evidence rather than linking disparate things like “wouldn’t it make sense if.”

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  38. sam says:

    @Boyd:

    Yeah, I kinda think it is unreasonable to assume. There’s no evidence to indicate they were used to track the guns, at least none that I’ve heard of

    It’s an unreasonable assumption because you haven’t heard of any evidence? Just a thought: It’s the nature of an infiltration that much of what the infiltrators do in a specific sense is not something to be bruited about.

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  39. J-Dub says:

    @Boyd: They go to say in that article that prosecuters can’t prove they were lying on the form when the straw buyer claimed the gun was for themself just because they sold the gun later (even 10 minutes later), i.e, when they bought it they claimed it was for themselves and changed their mind as they walked out of the store.

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  40. Boyd says:

    @sam: The problem with that theory is that ATF and Justice representatives have testified to the House committee that they just let the guns walk, with no indication that there was anyone of any stripe who was following up on them. Not even something along the lines of “I can’t talk about how we were tracking them,” just “Nope, it was a screw-up.”

    Which leads to…

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  41. Boyd says:

    My previous comment is in the moderation queue, for no discernible reason.

    @J-Dub: Again, this would be more believable if someone had mentioned it the many times the “powers that be” were testifying before the Oversight committee. Since it’s only presented by a periodical in an article with a blatantly obvious bias, and that from a man who would greatly benefit from the idea of “we wanted to prosecute them, but the USAO wouldn’t let us!” (Voth), I put that theory in a similar category to the “Obama conspiracy” one.

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  42. Tlaloc says:

    Nice cheap shot.

    Sometimes that’s what the situation calls for…

    I look at things in a different way… the place where people need to stand up is at places like Powerline, Kos, and on radio call in shows. That’s the place where the problem is being perpetuated. And so that’s where people need to do the work first and foremost.

    I don;t disagree but again when you have the knuckle draggers of powerline standing up for reason you know things have gotten pretty damn bad. it’s like having Nixon say “godDaymn, there sure is a lot of corruption in politics today!” I can’t argue with the content but the fact that that S.o B. is the one saying it says a lot about the situation as a whole.

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  43. Someone help me with this 90% thing. I’ve been to Mexico, many times. I know that they have a very controlled economy. I know that many things are blocked. Heck, I was with a buddy when he, no lie, bribed custom agents to get a Macintosh computer into Mexico.

    I’m not aware of a domestic gun industry, so why wouldn’t 90% be smuggled, either recently, or in the past?

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  44. Fredw says:

    Read this at fortune.com:
    http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/27/fast-and-furious-truth/

    If they are correct, then when forced to testify, agents will have to say that they had no legal basis to interdict the guns that went to Mexico. This could be biggest sandbag of all time. The republicans will force an investigation whose only possible conclusion will be we need more gun laws and they will be sure that everyone is watching when it happens. I don’t think that this administration is smart enough to have done this on purpose, but it is the current situation and Issa’s conspiracy theory may become a self fulfilling prophecy. I don’t see any way out of this now. The trap has been set by Issa himself and if the fortune article is correct we are screwed.

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  45. matt says:

    As I read it the study that produced the 90% figure had some flaws including the fact that they disregarded any gun they couldn’t identify the source of. So if the gun had the serial number removed or otherwise defaced then it wasn’t counted. It’s very true that quite a lot of the guns used by the drug cartels are from the USA. WE know this because we have the serial numbers of those guns because originally those guns were shipped to the Mexican military or police. Most Mexican authority figures along the border with the USA are corrupt. Those that cannot be corrupted end up dead. The drug cartels have also infiltrated the military units stationed in northern Mexico. So it’s no real surprise that the drug cartels are buying or stealing litterly tons in fully automatic M16s and such. All thanks to uncle Sam and our motto of “throw money or guns or both and it’ll fix itself”..

    The only real solution is to bring about sane drug policies in this country.

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  46. matt says:

    In case anyone is wondering I happen to live in Texas down near the border. I haven’t gone south of the border for some time thanks to the increase in violence. I do have friends with family who live there and their stories are heartbreaking..

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  47. steve says:

    Question- After reading more on this, I am less sure about what happened. Did the govt sell these weapons directly in a sting? Did the govt give these weapons to private sealers to sell? Did the govt document serial numbers on weapons for sale at private dealers, then attempt to track them, but lost them? I have seen all three scenarios claimed as what really happened. Thank you in advance if you actually know.

    Steve

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  48. Fredw says:

    Steve –
    Read the fortune.com ( not known for being a left leaning site) post based on their own research :

    http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/27/fast-and-furious-truth/

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  49. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @john personna: Someone help me with this 90% thing

    Bob Owens has done yeoman’s work on this story. Here’s him busting the “90%” crock parroted by Obama, Holder, and Hillary Clinton.

    Key takeaway quote:

    Of the 100,000 weapons recovered by Mexican authorities, only 18,000 were determined to have been manufactured, sold, or imported from the United States, and of those 18,000, just 7,900 came from sales by licensed gun dealers.

    And he got all his data from sworn testimony by Obama administration officials. In brief, to get the 90% figure, the data was massaged so thoroughly it got a happy ending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  50. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @matt: Short version, Matt: Mexico recovered 100,000 guns. Of those 100,000, 20,000 were suspected of being from the US. Of those 20,000, 18,000 checked out as of US origin. (There’s the “90%” figure.) And of those 18,000, 7,900 were from dealer sales.

    So, to save you the math, the Obama administration said “90% of the guns seized were of US origin.” What they meant was, “of the total guns seized, Mexico thought 20% were from the US. It turns out that 18% were certifiably US-made, and 7.9% were from dealer sales.”

    But why say 7.9% when you can say 90%? All it takes is some serious dishonesty.

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  51. steve says:

    Where did the other 80% come from? Did they investigate those?

    Steve

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  52. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: See, with Plame, there was actual evidence that her identity had been revealed when…her identity was revealed. Furthermore, the CIA requested an investigation into how one of their agents was exposed. So you’re missing two key elements of the “formulation.” First, it wasn’t a politician on a fishing expedition, but rather our spy agency requesting an investigation. Second, there was actual evidence of a crime.

    But, astonishingly, you don’t explain how Fitzpatrick discovered the source of the leak almost immediately — Richard Armitage — but kept digging and digging until he managed to convict Libby of “remembering things differently than Tim Russert did.”

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  53. Boyd says:

    @steve: The other 80% came from other countries besides the US. Who should investigate them?

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  54. JKB says:

    The curious element is, where is the State Department. Where’s Hillary? An alphabet soup of agencies and offices run an op that is likely to create an international incident with one of our closest neighbors but no one bothers the Secretary of State, whose portfolio is foreign relations, with such details?

    And when these US-origin firearms started showing up in Mexico without a record of being licensed for export by the Directorate of Defense Trade Control (DDTC), the State Department office that has jurisdiction over all firearm exports, except for certain shotguns, why didn’t they investigate these unlicensed exports? They can impose administrative and civil penalties while they build a criminal case.

    And why isn’t Hillary PTFO at having a hostile op run against a friendly foreign government without her involvement? Or did Holder and Hillary’s boss approve the op and the freeze out of the foreign relation professionals?

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  55. An Interested Party says:

    So when does the House commence the impeachment proceedings?

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  56. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: Baby steps, chump. Baby steps.

    Obama had a choice in this matter: stand for openness and honesty, or get himself personally involved in the coverup. He choose the latter.

    And ain’t it kinda funny that he didn’t bring up the whole “Executive Privilege” when the documents were first subpoenaed, but waited right up until it was clear that the House was NOT going to back down? It’s almost like he was saving it as a last resort, in case all the other ploys (stonewalling, misleading, offering half-assed bargains, playing the race card, etc.) failed.

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  57. Tlaloc says:

    The more I think about it the more likely it seems that you guys are putting the noose around your necks just like with the birther nonsense.

    The great thing is that since the defining characteristic of the right is reactionary frothing hatred of anything outside themselves the same trick can be used over and over again. Not only won;t you learn, you can’t learn without growing out of the callow small caricatures you’ve become, so either way is a victory for the rest of humanity- either you become such laughing stocks that no one takes you seriously or you actually abandon the frightening xenophobia that has served as your life blood the last couple decades.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  58. An Interested Party says:

    Baby steps, chump. Baby steps.

    Brave words from one of the suckers who will probably fall for the Rope-A-Dope strategy yet again…perhaps there’s something to John Personna’s theory

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  59. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    One thing I find utterly fascinating about the rope-a-dope theory is the sheer amorality required to pull it off. “We’ll get a bunch of Republicans to go way, way out on a limb over this, then saw it off and let them fall. All we have to do is help kill a few hundred brown people and two US federal agents…”

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  60. Boyd says:

    Hmm…the conspiracy theory is too incredible to be believed, yet the rope-a-dope theory is sound, logical reasoning. I sure am glad you folks are merely looking for the truth instead of blindly supporting “your guy.”

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  61. mattb says:

    @Boyd:

    Hmm…the conspiracy theory is too incredible to be believed, yet the rope-a-dope theory is sound, logical reasoning.

    100% agreement on the problem with rope-a-dope on this issue. While I think there are cases where Obama has engaged in a bit of this, this is clearly not one of them.

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  62. Mike Sherline says:

    @MM: If you don’t fill out the form, you can’t buy the gun.

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  63. Mike Sherline says:

    @steve: The Fortune article gives a lot of details. Simply put, the ATF agents ordered reluctant licensed (and heavily regulated) dealers to complete sales, against their will and against the law, to obvious criminals (straw purchasers) so the agents could “track” them to the gangsters for whom they’d been bought. Then the agents lost track of them. The Fortune article says it was prosecutors’ fault, and the congressional committee spokeswoman says that’s been debunked and that a lot of the article is untrue. We’ll probably never really know for sure.

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  64. Mike Sherline says:

    @steve: @Mike Sherline: I forgot to mention that when the ATF agents did manage to followup, they found that the “kingpins” who had ordered the straw purchases turned out to be FBI and DEA confidential informants.

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  65. Xander says:

    who’s the dude on the right in a red hat?

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  66. Jim Parker says:

    “Fast and Furious does not appear to have been the brainchild of President Obama or Attorney General Holder. Rather, the program reportedly was formulated by the ATF in Phoenix in response to an edict from Washington…”

    2 points.

    Managers ( like the President and the AG ) do not come up with the detailed pland. That’s what staff are for.

    “an edict from Washington” means “from the boss” In this case the “Boss” is Eric Holder and his boss is Barak Obama.

    Conclusion: it was not a “conspiracy.” It was employees of the DoJ following their bosses’ (EH & BO) orders.

    EH & BO did not have to personally think up the plan to be responsible for it. By being the executive in charge of the DoJ, EH is, by definition responsible for everything, everyone in the DoJ does.

    By being EH’s boss, BO is responsible for what EH does.

    If EH didn’t know anything about what was going on then he has demonstrated that his organization is out of control and he is not competent to run it.

    If he did know what they were doing and did not prevent it then he approved of it and should be fired for stupidity.

    In less than 150 days the American people will have an opportunity to fire both of these incompetent people.

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  67. Neo says:

    @Ron Beasley: From the Congressional Record [Page: H4409]:

    From the beginning, ATF was transparent about its strategy. An internal ATF briefing paper used in preparation for the OCDETF application process explained as much:

    Currently our strategy is to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place, albeit at a much slower pace, in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of co-conspirators who would continue to operate and illegally traffic firearms to Mexican DTOs which are perpetrating armed violence along the Southwest Border.

    The plan was to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes.

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  68. Black Caiman says:

    “If Fast and Furious had been the product of a conspiracy by the administration to promote gun control legislation, the program would have come from the top down, not from the bottom up.
    (…)
    Second, Obama and Holder probably would not have believed that increased violence in Mexico could lead to tougher regulation of guns in the U.S. Americans simply don’t care enough about Mexico to alter domestic policy based on what occurs there, especially when it comes to an issue as passionately and endlessly argued as gun control. Americans view violence in Mexico the way they viewed violence in Colombia – unfortunate, typical, and not our problem at any fundamental level.”

    (snip—enough already. That’s skullduggery to the Nth power, and underwhelming Newspeak)

    That’s asinine reasoning, and hellishly far too much to expect when it comes to linear, pragmatic logic from an administration that works primarily in the realm of radical ideology of the type you see in the “Um, dude, like um, let’s Choom it, dude” Heavy Deep Thought Late Night Make the World All Nice and Equal encounters one finds in college bull sessions with a pothead proffy–now come to power.

    First, I doubt this was bottom up. (Besides, when it comes to “bottom up, baby”, methinks the author is confusing this scandal with the secret service debacle with whores and 20-spots)

    IF the ATF has that much leeway, they’re rogue and need to be shut down. Immediately. No questions, no commentary other than reading them their Miranda cards, and then lock them in handcuffs and have them await trial. Period.

    Actually, though, he who pays the band gets to call the tunes. The ATF works for the feds and the feds’ overseers. That ain’t the ATF, Chico.

    Second, Holder is an idiot. And that, combined with ideology, as I said above, makes for curious combos in and of itself. You need not worry what he’s thinking on this because just as with the Black Panther stick thumpers, it really makes little difference.

    Oh, Yes, indeed, as someone said above, it can only be “right wing” paranoia that makes up all this stuff about how libs secretly wish to ban guns, but need a better pretext given the current political climate.

    Yes, it’s all myth. Libs don’t REALLY call for bans on guns, or restrictions. Oh fie, now!
    How dare anyone utter such blasphemy!?

    Except…well…we have their own words: http://www.gunscholar.org/gunban.htm

    The ATF has plainly admitted–though not intentionally, but via leaked emails–its primary purpose in this clustermuck was making the case for gun control measures based on this supposed horrid “flow” of deadly weaponry into the hands of nacro nuts via gun dealers stateside.

    Ergo, it was NOT the issue of stanching dope lords or their operations, or making any follow-up noises about gun interdiction regarding the same, or sending so much as a kind CYA-FYI Luv note to Mexican authorities about what the hell was going on.

    And, as Holder is…well…HOLDING out on the finer details as well, come to think of it, there is absolutely nothing unkempt going on here, now is there?

    Perish the thought that the administration is not infamous for playing both ends of an issue against the middle for political gain, makes mentions to gun control advocates about how some issues will face legal and cultural hurdles and thus must be pushed “under the radar” of public scrutiny, and that the ATF answers to higher offices. Of course. How silly of us.

    In reality, the other notion here put forth by author Lord Obfuscation above, can only be that the ATF just makes things up as it goes along, they run their own little pony shows for giggles, with no oversight or input from the White House.

    This must be why Eric Holder suddenly finds the 5th Amendment to be the best blessing in legal protections since the age of Magna Carta.

    It’s not conspiracy thinking to use process-of-elimination to read between the lines here, or understand that only rarely, when the stars are aligned and a blue moon appears, does government help more than hinder people’s core freedoms with any particular scheme.

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  69. Black Caiman says:

    PS–the dope lords are not the only ones who…well….fly “under the radar”….

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/over-a-barrel-meet-white-house-gun-policy-adviser-steve-croley/2011/04/04/AFt9EKND_story_2.html

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  70. Sally says:

    Facts are facts. They have the emails, they have the proof. All of the long-winded convulated ‘reasoning’ does not change the facts.

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  71. Black Caiman says:

    @jan:

    Neither was gay marriage on the administration agenda, if what he said in previous interviews was truly his thinking on the matter (he opposed it, ya see).

    And yet now he’s draped in the rainbow flag on the cover of leading mags as the First Gay President. Funny how things can turn on a dime with every tick closer to certain dates in November….ah well….

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  72. Black Caiman says:

    @David M:

    How nice. Bravo. So he DID bring up the issue as a talking point, no doubt. Good work.

    Except that…..well…. I don’t recall a story from that era that said that as part of this “comprehensive immigration” reform, we’d stop with the legal niceties if Congress stalls and we can’t find a “prioritize(ed)” end run, and just declare–de facto and de jure,–a million illegal aliens legal with little more than the snap of a finger and a spare fountain pen.

    Actually, what I thought I sorta heard him say back in those days when some were understandably outrages that in the midst of high unemployment and a border that nonetheless was leaking like a spaghetti colander, was STILL something akin to “frustration and roadblocks or not, we have to follow the law on this….”

    Or, something to that effect. All that sort of separation of powers rot we got taught in school, right?

    Obama flip on Dream Act and the use of executive order to just “change the law” at will:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3HB96NeMUE&feature=player_embedded

    Near election time, when making his autobiography work magic yet again:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/303776/obama-s-great-american-novel-mark-steyn?pg=2

    As I said, things can turn on a dime. It’s not just the Mayans who felt 2012 will be a year of some tectonic plate shifting here and there…

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