A Different Take On Fast & Furious

A Fortune Magazine investigation puts a new spin on Operation Fast And Furious, but questions still remain.

Fortune Magazine is out with the results of its own investigation of the Fast And Furious story, and their reporters argue that there are some fundamental misconceptions at the heart of the political uproar surrounding the whole operation:

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It’s a story that starts with a grudge, specifically Dodson’s anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration, which, for its part, has capitulated in an apparent effort to avoid a rhetorical battle over gun control in the run-up to the presidential election. (A Justice Department spokesperson denies this and asserts that the department is not drawing conclusions until the inspector general’s report is submitted.)

(…)

The ATF’s accusers seem untroubled by evidence that the policy they have pilloried didn’t actually exist. “It gets back to something basic for me,” says Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). “Terry was murdered, and guns from this operation were found at his murder site.” A spokesman for Issa denies that politics has played a role in the congressman’s actions and says “multiple individuals across the Justice Department’s component agencies share responsibility for the failure that occurred in Operation Fast and Furious.” Issa’s spokesman asserts that even if ATF agents followed prosecutors’ directives, “the practice is nonetheless gun walking.” Attorneys for Dodson declined to comment on the record.

For its part, the ATF would not answer specific questions, citing ongoing investigations. But a spokesperson for the agency provided a written statement noting that the “ATF did not exercise proper oversight, planning or judgment in executing this case. We at ATF have accepted responsibility and have taken appropriate and decisive action to insure that these errors in oversight and judgment never occur again.” The statement asserted that the “ATF has clarified its firearms transfer policy to focus on interdiction or early intervention to prevent the criminal acquisition, trafficking and misuse of firearms,” and it cited changes in coordination and oversight at the ATF.

Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal. But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

There’s much more to the article, and I commend it your attention quite simply because it puts the whole story in an entirely different light. Instead of the story of a policy that was deliberately allowing guns to be taken into Mexico, it becomes the story of a policy that was badly thought out and badly executed but where agents were in many cases prevented from taking the actions necessary to stop the gunwalking due to the fact that they could not get the proper warrants to execute searches and make arrests.

Not surprisingly, the article is receiving widespread coverage on the left side of the blogsphere, largely because it reinforces the belief that they have had about this matter from the beginning that it was much ado about nothing. The right, meanwhile, is largely ignoring the story today. Of course, with tomorrow’s impending Supreme Court news and the contempt vote against Eric Holder this report is likely to be buried in the news cycle for at least a few days. Nonetheless, it deserves to be given attention, although it’s worth mention that CBS News reporter Sharryl Attkison, who has been reporting on this story for more than a year now, has come to very different conclusions than the Fortune reporters. So, anyone who accepts this report as the final answer without considering the other work that has been done is missing out on at least half the story.

National Review’s Robert VerBruggen points out some inconsistencies between the Fortune story and what we actually already now:

For starters, several ATF officers, including Dodson, have come forward saying that they were told to let guns go when they could have interdicted them. (Fortune presents this as the result of grudges among ATF staff.) Also, while the Justice Department denied in February of last year that “gunwalking” had happened in Fast and Furious, it retracted the claim in December — it’s hard to imagine why they’d concede something like this if it isn’t true, especially when the administration is expending so much effort to fight the congressional Fast and Furious investigation in other ways. (Fortune says the administration is trying to avoid a fight over guns in the run-up to an election.) Further, there is an e-mail exchange between Justice officials about Fast and Furious containing the lines “It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked” and “It’s not going to be any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX, so I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.'” While the wiretap applications from Fast and Furious are not public, those involved in the congressional investigation say that they, too, discuss “reckless tactics.”

And gun dealers who cooperated with the ATF report a shift in policy that coincided with Fast and Furious — from stopping sales and questioning customers, to telling store owners to just go ahead and sell the guns. While Fortune reports that the ATF had no chance to interdict the guns that killed Border Patrol agent Brian Terry — the shop that sold the guns informed the ATF that the transaction was suspicious, but it was a holiday weekend and the fax wasn’t seen for days — the gun store’s owner has said he was told in advance to go ahead and sell guns to people he normally wouldn’t. The entire Fortune piece seems to neglect the distinctions between probable cause for an arrest, the act of at least questioning people who are trying to buy guns illegally, and the ATF’s advice to store owners that they refuse to make any sale that they “doubt” is legal. A big part of Fast and Furious is that store owners were told to make illegal sales when the ATF couldn’t follow up on them or chose not to.

Adding to that, there is the not insignificant point that even if gunwalking was not part of the Fast & Furious investigation then it at least occurred during the operation and, for reasons that may still debatable were not pursued.  So, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered here. Nonetheless, it’s good to see the media finally paying attention to this story, no doubt solely because of the impending contempt vote and the ongoing conflict between the Legislative and Executive Branches. It would have been nice if they had paid some attention to it before now, though.

Nonetheless, this is a new light on a story that remains shrouded in mystery, bureaucratic cover-up, and political hyperbole. It would be nice if the American people could learn the truth.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. I’m just trying to figure out how the administration covering up a botched, but theoretically reasonable ATF operation is supposed to reflect more positively on them than covering up a deliberate, incompetently-executed political operation directed from DC. If Fortune’s reporting is true, the White House should have dumped all the documents weeks ago.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    @Chris Lawrence:

    That’s what I’ve been complaining about. The only explanation that makes sense to me that I can come up with is extreme, reflexive secretiveness.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    Who says they didn’t? Issa? The same guy who apparently swallowed a ludicrous conspiracy theory hook, line, and sinker?

    See how once you allow for the possibility that people like Issa are complete idiots the whole thing just falls apart?

  4. @Dave Schuler:

    Isn’t “extreme, reflexive secretiveness” the definition of our government these days?

  5. Jeremy R says:

    Adding to that, there is the not insignificant point that even if gunwalking was not part of the Fast & Furious investigation then it at least occurred during the operation and, for reasons that may still debatable were not pursued.

    Well, according to the CNN/Forbes investigative piece the small scale gun-walking that happened wasn’t the policy of Fast & Furious but was instead Issa’s so-called whistle-blowers freelancing without approval:

    Dodson then proceeded to walk guns intentionally, with Casa and Alt’s help. On April 13, 2010, one month after Voth wrote his schism e-mail, Dodson opened a case into a suspected gun trafficker named Isaiah Fernandez. He had gotten Casa to approve the case when Voth was on leave. Dodson had directed a cooperating straw purchaser to give three guns to Fernandez and had taped their conversations without a prosecutor’s approval.

    Voth first learned these details a month into the case. He demanded that Dodson meet with him and get approval from prosecutors to tape conversations. Five days later, Dodson sent an uncharacteristically diplomatic response. (He and Alt had revised repeated drafts in that time, with Alt pushing to make the reply “less abrasive.” Dodson e-mailed back: “Less abrasive? I felt sick from kissing all that ass as it was.”) Dodson wrote that he succeeded in posing undercover as a straw purchaser and claimed that prosecutor Hurley—who he had just belatedly contacted—had raised “new concerns.” The prosecutor had told Dodson that an assistant U.S. Attorney “won’t be able to approve of letting firearms ‘walk’ in furtherance of your investigation without first briefing the U.S. Attorney and Criminal Chief.”

    It was the first time Voth learned that Dodson intended to walk guns. Voth says he refused to approve the plan and instead consulted his supervisor, who asked for a proposal from Dodson in writing. Dodson then drafted one, which Voth forwarded to his supervisor, who approved it on May 28.

    On June 1, Dodson used $2,500 in ATF funds to purchase six AK Draco pistols from local gun dealers, and gave these to Fernandez, who reimbursed him and gave him $700 for his efforts. Two days later, according to case records, Dodson—who would later testify that in his previous experience, “if even one [gun] got away from us, nobody went home until we found it”—left on a scheduled vacation without interdicting the guns. That day, Voth wrote to remind him that money collected as evidence needed to be vouchered within five days. Dodson e-mailed back, his sarcasm fully restored: “Do the orders define a ‘day’? Is it; a calendar day? A business day or work day….? An Earth day (because a day on Venus takes 243 Earth days which would mean that I have plenty of time)?”

    The guns were never recovered, the case was later closed, and Fernandez was never charged. By any definition, it was gun walking of the most egregious sort: a government agent using taxpayer money to deliver guns to bad guys and then failing to intercept them.
    On Feb. 4, 2011, the Justice Department sent a letter to Sen. Grassley saying that the allegations of gun walking in Fast and Furious were false and that ATF always tried to interdict weapons. A month later, Grassley countered with what appeared to be slam-dunk proof that ATF had indeed walked guns. “[P]lease explain how the denials in the Justice Department’s Feb. 4, 2011 letter to me can be squared with the evidence,” Grassley wrote, attaching damning case reports that he contended “proved that ATF allowed guns to ‘walk.'” The case and agent names were redacted, but the reports were not from Fast and Furious. They came entirely from Dodson’s Fernandez case.

    So the GOP then used reports of that freelancing to accuse the letter from Justice of containing falsehoods, which they then used as an excuse to start fishing deep intro Justice’s, post-Feb. 4th, 2011 internal deliberations.

    I’d be shocked if Inspector General’s investigation doesn’t end up recommending charging Issa’s star witnesses.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Nonetheless, it’s good to see the media finally paying attention to this story

    They never stopped paying attention. It was the “lamestream media” that broke the story in the first place.

  7. Tlaloc says:

    to put it another way I imagine the conversation went a little something like this:

    Issa: We demand all papers related to Fast and the Furious!

    Holder: We sent you those weeks ago.

    Issa: Nyu-uh.

    Holder: Wait, what?

    Issa: Nyu-uh.

    Holder: Representative are you having a stroke or something?

    Issa: Nyu-uh you didn’t give us all the papers.

    Holder: Yes we did.

    Issa: Nyu-uh.

    Holder: Jesus Christ. Uh-hunh.

    Issa: Nyu-uh. You didn;t give us all the papers that say Obama personally ordered the ATF to give guns to mexican marxists so they could force catholics to get abortions. Where are those papers?

    Holder: …

    Holder: Those papers don’t exist.

    Issa: Uh-hunh. I read it on WND. This is a cover up! You’re in contempt.

    Obama: Holder, what the hell are you still doing with this tool?

    Holder: I… I don’t know.

    Issa I want papers!

    Obama: Tell the dipsh!t from the great state of whogivesaf*ck that those papers are executive privilege or national security or whatever the secret catch phrase was that bush drilled into them and get back to work.

    Issa: Papers! Papers! Papers!

    Yeah that’s pretty much exactly how I see that conversation going, and now, because for some unfathomable reason people don;t understand how f*cking insane Issa is people believe these mythical conspiracy papers exist and are being hidden.

  8. James Joyner says:

    All I know is that, as a conservative, the notion that some government bureaucrats did something incompetently is hard to swallow. When government screws up, it by definition means that there’s a conspiracy. Because, usually, they’re so good at what they do.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    First, kudos to you, Doug, for writing in an earlier post that incompetence is more likely than conspiracy. It’s almost always the incompetence, stupid. Or the stupid incompetence.

    Second, the NRA remain the absolute lowest type of scum in American politics.

    Third, incompetence still has to be punished. Heads should have rolled.

    Fourth, I have no explanation either for the executive privilege claim.

  10. Jeremy R says:

    @Chris Lawrence:

    I’m just trying to figure out how the administration covering up a botched, but theoretically reasonable ATF operation is supposed to reflect more positively on them than covering up a deliberate, incompetently-executed political operation directed from DC. If Fortune’s reporting is true, the White House should have dumped all the documents weeks ago.

    Haven’t they though? My understanding is they’ve provided the e-mails/documents/wiretaps concerning F&F which took place in 2009 but are asserting executive privilege over post-Feb. 2011 internal documents:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/us/obama-claims-executive-privilege-in-gun-case.html?_r=1

    Mr. Issa was initially seeking a broad range of documents, including some that were sealed by court order. But the contempt citation is more narrowly focused on internal Justice Department deliberations last year amid the Congressional investigation.

    The administration has already released a similar set of documents from before Feb. 4, 2011, showing how it drafted an early letter that falsely told Congress that A.T.F. always made every effort to interdict guns, which the department later retracted. Those documents showed that employees in Arizona had insisted to the officials who drafted the letter that no guns had walked in Fast and Furious.

    The administration said it was making an exception for release of the pre-Feb. 4 documents to show that it had not deliberately misled Congress, but that it would not turn over records of internal deliberations after that. Republicans, however, insist they have a right to see those too.

    On Tuesday evening, Mr. Holder offered to give the committee some of the disputed documents if Mr. Issa would agree to end the fight over contempt, but the lawmaker refused to consider doing so until he saw them.

    On Wednesday morning, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a letter to Mr. Issa that the president was claiming privilege over the documents because their disclosure would chill the candor of future internal deliberations. However, he suggested that there might still be a way to negotiate the release of some of the contested documents.

  11. Jeremy R says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Third, incompetence still has to be punished. Heads should have rolled.

    The ATF’s acting director was forced out, as was Arizona’s U.S. Attorney. I’m guessing after the IG investigation report is released, in a few months, a number of ATF agents, who’ve so far been reassigned elsewhere and to desk jobs, will be let go too.

  12. EMRVentures says:

    @Jeremy R: Exactly. Issa has dropped requests for documents from the actual program, and is primarily interested in documents related to internal deliberations at this point.

    As he has now conceded, there is no evidence of gun walking.

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/06/fast_and_furious_issa_holder_contempt_gunwalking.php

    So, what do you do if you’re Issa? You go after the internals, because as anyone knows who has ever been involved in internal deliberations, there’s going to be communications that don’t look good in retrospect.

    This is a witch hunt, pure and simple. There was no Fast and Furious gun-walking program, as Issa himself concedes, but maybe we can find someone on the Justice Department staff running through consequences of potential responses in an email, which can be chopped up into sounding sinister.

  13. Dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Everybody has to bear in mind that this is LE trying to get vicious international drug cartels. As I said in another thread, there are spies in there, and so much of this is in the same sort of information black hole that MUST cover the people who spy on their own nations for us.

    The news here is Voth is making public statements. As he has always been a central figure, and one of the people whose statements have not been available to the public until now, it’s interesting to hear. I find the claim that this was not allowing guns to walk silly. However, his statements about what the hell they were thinking when they dreamed this dogs breakfast up is not contradictory from similar statements made by the other agents that were allowed to testify at the hearings.

    Everybody seems to be screaming that there has been no explanation of “Why?”, when it has always been one out there, and here it is again, repeated by Voth.

    I guess it’s just not the desired one.

  14. Scott O. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Fourth, I have no explanation either for the executive privilege claim.

    I googled and came up with this:

    “The documents in dispute are “deliberative process” memos that have traditionally been protected by Democratic and Republican administrations so that the White House staff can freely discuss sensitive matters without being influenced by the fear that their internal debates will be made public, administration officials said.”

    Is that a good reason? I don’t know.

  15. Jeremy R says:

    @Dazedandconfused:

    I find the claim that this was not allowing guns to walk silly. However, his statements about what the hell they were thinking when they dreamed this dogs breakfast up is not contradictory from similar statements made by the other agents that were allowed to testify at the hearings.

    According to the CNN/Forbes 6-month investigation, which had access to over 2,000 internal ATF documents concerning the case, F&F seemed to actually involve mostly laborious research to assemble a database of serial numbers of guns bought by likely straw buyers. This was then used in attempting to assemble probable cause for arrests (which ended being a nearly impossible task due to ridiculously lax federal and AZ laws).

    FTA:

    To refocus its efforts, the ATF established Group VII and the other Southwest border units to build big, multi-defendant conspiracy cases and target the leaders of the trafficking operations.

    The group had little equipment and no long guns, electronic devices, or binoculars, forcing Voth to scrounge for supplies.

    They were seven agents pursuing more than a dozen cases, of which Fast and Furious was just one, their efforts complicated by a lack of adequate tools. Without a real-time database of gun sales, they had to perform a laborious archaeology. Day after day, they visited local gun dealers and pored over forms called 4473s, which dealers must keep on file. These contain a buyer’s personal information, a record of purchased guns and their serial numbers, and a certification that the buyer is purchasing the guns for himself. (Lying on the forms is a felony, but with weak penalties attached.) The ATF agents manually entered these serial numbers into a database of suspect guns to help them build a picture of past purchases.

    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.

    None of the ATF agents doubted that the Fast and Furious guns were being purchased to commit crimes in Mexico. But that was nearly impossible to prove to prosecutors’ satisfaction. And agents could not seize guns or arrest suspects after being directed not to do so by a prosecutor. (Agents can be sued if they seize a weapon against prosecutors’ advice.)

    In their Jan. 5 meeting, Hurley suggested another way to make a case: Voth’s team could wiretap the phone of a suspected recruiter and capture proof of him directing straw purchasers to buy guns. This would establish sufficient proof to arrest both the leaders and the followers.

    On Jan. 8, 2010, Voth and his supervisors drafted a briefing paper in which they explained Hurley’s view that “there was minimal evidence at this time to support any type of prosecution.” The paper elaborated, “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 additional co-conspirators.”

    Rep. Issa’s committee has flagged this document as proof that the agents chose to walk guns. But prosecutors had determined, Voth says, that the “transfer of firearms” was legal. Agents had no choice but to keep investigating and start a wiretap as quickly as possible to gather evidence of criminal intent.

    Ten days after the meeting with Hurley, a Saturday, Jaime Avila, a transient, admitted methamphetamine user, bought three WASR-10 rifles at the Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Ariz. The next day, a helpful Lone Wolf employee faxed Avila’s purchase form to ATF to flag the suspicious activity. It was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, so the agents didn’t receive the fax until Tuesday, according to a contemporaneous case report. By that time, the legally purchased guns had been gone for three days. The agents had never seen the weapons and had no chance to seize them. But they entered the serial numbers into their gun database. Two of these were later recovered at Brian Terry’s murder scene.

    According to the article, the only actual gun walking that occurred, where ATF agents actively were involved in getting firearms to suspected straw buyers, was outside F&F, on a much smaller scale, when Issa’s whistle-blowers freelanced. That one operation and F&F’s passively assembled serial number database are often conflated apparently.

  16. john personna says:

    @Chris Lawrence:

    Remember, the administration has handed over thousands of pages of documents.

    Does “cover up” hinge on those documents not having the answer the right wants?

    Maybe the request for 80k more pages really is desperate fishing.

  17. @Alex Knapp:

    No! David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh have been covering this story since December of 2010. They were reporting on anonymous sources, some of whom had been reporting problems and posting on CleanUpATF.org for even longer than that, and were begging anyone with influence to pay attention to them.

    Attkison did not start covering the story until the Congressional hearings started, and is claiming to have broken the story. which is false. If anyone is interested Codrea has a chronology of the story at this link:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/a-journalist-s-guide-to-project-gunwalker-part-one

    It is long and detailed, and the story is much more complicated than is being reported by the MSM

  18. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Jeremy R:

    They had three agents under his command at the hearings describing how they were ordered to let obvious straw buyers walk, and by him.

    The main reason I have always thought Voth was never called before the committee is that he was lawyer’d up. I think his ass may still be on the hook too. I’m taking all that with a grain of salt.

  19. @john personna:

    And some of the documents that were released were redacted so heavily that they were hardly more than solid black squares inside the page margins. Video of Issa showing these documents exists.

    The reason why this investigation continues is that at every step where the DOJ has denied an action, documents showing that those claims were incorrect were subsequently uncovered. In short, someone in the DOJ is lying, and Holder is NOT cooperating to reveal the liars.

    This investigation is not a witch hunt: people have been killed, and laws have been broken. For example, it is illegal for any entity, Federal or otherwise, to export firearms internationally without approval from the State Department. By letting the guns walk, ATF exported firearms. Did they get the required approvals? I doubt it. One violation of Federal law for each firearm that walked over the border.

    Someone is guilty of Federal crimes here.

  20. Davebo says:

    Why didn’t Issa demand documents starting in 2006 when the program was started?

    And why would the current administration feel the need to cover up an ill conceived program that they had nothing to with them?

  21. john personna says:

    @Left Coast Conservative:

    If you purchased a legal gun, and resold it to someone you believed to be a law abiding citizen, would you want your name redacted? There are lots of reasons to redact, including to protect the innocent.

    And really this idea that agents could not sieze guns willy-nilly makes sense. If there was a design error in this program it might have been optimism about future warrants.

    It makes the program dumb in an understandable way.

  22. steve says:

    ” For example, it is illegal for any entity, Federal or otherwise, to export firearms internationally without approval from the State Department.”

    Did they export them? It is sounding like they were monitoring suspects and failed to stop them, either through incompetence, or because there was not enough evidence to stop the buyers. (Buying guns in the US is usually legal.)

    Steve

  23. jan says:

    @Chris Lawrence:

    “If Fortune’s reporting is true, the White House should have dumped all the documents weeks ago. “

    I agree with you and Dave Schuler about relinquishing the documents earlier, before this whole event grew into more of a constitutional crisis, whereas the President had to exert executive privilege, which just extended it into conspiracy territory.

    So far, some 7600 documents have seeped out over 11 congressional hearings. However, this is only a small percentage of the some 80,000 documents said to have been noted, dealing with this operation.

  24. Jeremy R says:

    @Left Coast Conservative:

    And some of the documents that were released were redacted so heavily that they were hardly more than solid black squares inside the page margins. Video of Issa showing these documents exists.

    Yes that was a good example of Issa putting on a public show with a cherry-picked heavily redacted document out of the thousands and thousands he received. Issa has leaked plenty of the documents to the media, so there are many pdf’s you can look at to get an idea of the redacting. It doesn’t look unreasonable, with a name here or there blacked out, an address, a phone number or a perhaps an entire paragraph entitled something like: “Investigative Tactics”.

  25. sam says:

    Well, Jan, (from your cite) this is bullshit:

    Ironically, Executive Privilege cannot be used unless Obama was involved in Fast and Furious. And if he was involved in Fast and Furious, then Obama was involved in sending hundreds of guns to Mexican drug cartels. If Obama was involved in facilitating the murders of hundreds of Mexican citizens, and at least one American citizen—Border Patrol agent Brian Terry—this would necessitate immediate impeachment.

    While it’s true that the president, or his subordinates, invoke the privilege, it does not follow that he or she is at all involved in whatever the invocation is intended to shield. For instance

    On July 13, less than a week after claiming executive privilege for Miers and Taylor, Counsel Fielding effectively claimed the privilege once again, this time in relation to documents related to the 2004 death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman. In a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Fielding claimed certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and would therefore not be turned over to the committee. [Source]

    By the logic of the quote from you cite, President Bush, via Fred Fielding, was involved somehow in the killing of Pat Tillman.

    You really should exercise more discretion in selecting which right-wing loony sites to visit. (Not that I think for a nanosecond that you will.)

  26. john personna says:

    @jan:

    Heed my warning – the administration wants the right to go out in a limb with crazy conspiracy and crime claims – so they’ll look like fools in a week or two.

    The OTHER reason to play hardball is to hang Issa put to dry.

  27. Jay says:

    “Issa and more than 100 other Republican members of Congress have demanded Holder’s resignation.”

    So Fortune gets basic facts wrong. Issa has not called on Holder to resign.

  28. anjin-san says:

    the President had to exert executive privilege, which just extended it into conspiracy territory.

    In the minds of cranks and people who desperately want another Watergate, sure.

    My take on it is that Obama was getting tired of Issa’s fishing and thought it was time to throw an elbow.

  29. jan says:

    @sam:

    “By the logic of the quote from you cite, President Bush, via Fred Fielding, was involved somehow in the killing of Pat Tillman.”

    You presented a wikipedia source and selectively excised a quote which was off base on even my whole point, which was the 80,000 pages of documentation collected, versus the 7600 that has been given over, per the request of Congress.

    As far as Bush’s use of executive privilege, all I can say is that he frequently used it. If he abused it, then I’m not supporting that abuse. However, doing tit for tat, “Bush did it, so it makes it OK for Obama to do it”, doesn’t make it right for anybody on either side of the aisle.

    According to the below wikipedia source, executive privilege can be used when it involves discussions/advice between the President and his aids, people he consults with etc., not to be used as a cover-up for the acts of someone in his administration. So, it appears, by using executive privilege, in the context it is legally to be exercised, Obama must have been privy to or had conversations with Holder about F&F.

    The reason for these distinctions rests upon a bedrock presidential prerogative: for the President to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisors and between those advisors and others within and outside the Executive Branch.

  30. Tlaloc says:

    well let’s see, story on yahoo:

    Ahead of Fast and Furious hearing, Issa tells Holder ‘lead or resign’

    which contains both of the following quotes:

    “When you’re attorney general, you don’t get to follow,” Issa added during an appearance on the Fox News Channel on Wednesday morning. “So [Holder needs to] lead or resign.”

    and

    “You don’t lie to Congress, and then lie about lying to Congress and then lie about knowing you lied to Congress and then not fire the people who did all of that and have it be anything but a cover-up,” Issa added. “That’s really what it has become. [Border Patrol Agent] Brian Terry’s family is not getting the kind accountability for the people who knew and allowed him to be ultimately gunned down in Arizona. That’s part of it. But, Congress also has a role, which is: How can Eric Holder continue to lead an organization when he has people working for him that lied to Congress, are continuing to lie to Brian Terry, the Border Patrol agent who was gunned down with weapons from Fast and Furious? How do we allow that?”

    http://news.yahoo.com/ahead-fast-furious-hearing-issa-tells-holder-lead-040709836.html

    If that’s not calling for him to resign its as close as to make no difference.

  31. jan says:

    @Tlaloc:

    That’s not calling for Holder’s resignation. Rubio has bluntly asked for that. However, what Issa was calling on Holder to do was to do the job he is assigned to do, which is be the AG of the United States, an honest leader for all. He is there to uphold laws, not hide from them or selectively enforce them. If he can’t do that, he should consider another job.

  32. eric_d78 says:

    Why hasn’t anybody compared Fast and Furious to the story of lost guns in Iraq?

    “The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. ”

    “One senior Pentagon official acknowledged that some of the weapons probably are being used against U.S. forces. He cited the Iraqi brigade created at Fallujah that quickly dissolved in September 2004 and turned its weapons against the Americans.”

    Why is this something that everybody seems to already have forgotten about, but Fast and Furious is major scandal?

  33. David M says:

    @eric_d78: The “Fast & Furious” scandal is useful to the GOP because it can make the Obama Administration look bad. They certainly don’t care if about the truth or they would not have come up with the insane theory that it was a secret conspiracy to use the operation to push for gun control.

  34. Jeremy R says:

    I stumbled across a foxnews story from a couple days back that weirdly corroborates a number of details about the F&F “whistle-blower” Dobson that was in today’s CNN/Fortune investigative piece. Basically, it seems that Issa mistakenly referenced Dobson’s own freelanced gunwalking operation in one of his Sunday interviews, and so Fox then publish a few of the details of that with a big dose of House GOP spin:

    Fox: Issa cites ‘gunwalking’ case based on plan floated by ‘Furious’ whistleblower

    Despite vowing to “deliver the facts to the American people” over who thought “gunwalking” was a “good idea,” neither Republicans nor Democrats had ever noted in repeated hearings, reports or interviews the case in which Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Dodson drafted and forwarded a request to “walk” guns just months before he ignited a national controversy over such tactics.

    Issa, the House committee’s chairman, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have repeatedly cited the disclosure of “a document” related to Dodson as evidence Justice Department officials sought to “smear” him. … During a Senate hearing in November, Grassley said documents were leaked “in an attempt to smear one of the ATF whistleblowers.”

    But neither lawmaker had previously discussed the case or mentioned it by name in public — though they’ve known about it for some time, according to Republican staffers.

    Republican staff also noted that this case involved five weapons, claiming they were not being trafficked to Mexican drug cartels but were being sold by the suspected straw purchaser on an online retail site.

    In a statement to Fox News, a committee spokesman defended Dodson’s role: “The committee has known for nearly a year that Justice officials were trying various efforts to retaliate against him for blowing the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious. The deeply unfortunate efforts to smear him are, unfortunately, part of what has been described to investigators as a ‘retaliatory culture’ within ATF.”

    The document in question, a proposal obtained by Fox News, asked ATF supervisors in Phoenix to “allow this investigation to proceed” by authorizing Dodson to deliver firearms to suspected gun-smuggler Isaias Fernandez. By the time of the proposal, Dodson had been introduced — in an undercover capacity — to Fernandez, who said he would pay $100 for each AK-style pistol Dodson could obtain from a licensed gun-dealer.

    “The logic employed is that by authorizing the ‘walking’ of a small amount of firearms that, ultimately, we can cease the trafficking of a significant number,” said the proposal Dodson emailed. “It is believed that if this request be authorized, the benefits would far outweigh any that could be derived from the arrest of individuals on such minor violations as (lying on forms) and potentially provide invaluable, otherwise unattainable, information into the workings of an active/ongoing (firearms trafficking organization).”

    On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, when he was reminded that “gunwalking” cases such as “Operation Wide Receiver” and the “Medrano case” took place under the Bush administration, Issa jumped in to add, “And the Fernandez case, too.”

    But the “Fernandez case” was not a Bush-era investigation. It was proposed and executed in the spring of 2010, at the same time Fast and Furious was well underway.

    In an email on May 18, 2010, obtained by Fox News, Dodson told an ATF colleague in Washington, “As it stands — my (undercover) plan is a Go,” adding that ATF policy neither explicitly authorizes nor prohibits “letting guns walk” for “my (undercover) plan.

    It’s interesting to see the shared details between the two articles.

  35. anjin-san says:

    If he abused it, then I’m not supporting that abuse

    But I will bet you were silent about it at the time, as opposed to all the noise you are making now…

  36. Tlaloc says:

    @jan:

    That’s not calling for Holder’s resignation. Rubio has bluntly asked for that. However, what Issa was calling on Holder to do was to do the job he is assigned to do, which is be the AG of the United States, an honest leader for all. He is there to uphold laws, not hide from them or selectively enforce them. If he can’t do that, he should consider another job.

    Except Issa has made it perfectly clear that there is nothing Holder could do except immolate himself on national television that would satisfy his witch hunt. Seriously read those quotes again he is very obviously saying holder should resign. He accuses him of lying to congress and/or obstruction of justice and makes a quip about leading or resigning, when he knows perfectly well Holder can never lead to his satisfaction.

  37. Jeremy R says:

    @Tlaloc:

    Except Issa has made it perfectly clear that there is nothing Holder could do except immolate himself on national television that would satisfy his witch hunt.

    Agreed, though what they did broach was calling off the contempt vote (though who knows for how long), if DOJ gave them a high enough ranking scalp as a trophy to parade in front of their base:

    During a phone call last week with a senior Justice official, Issa’s chief investigative counsel, Stephen Castor, broached a possible settlement. As the conversation began, according to two sources familiar with the conversation, Castor asked the official where things stood on “accountability.” By that, Castor meant would any heads roll at Justice. Castor mentioned Lanny Breuer, the head of the department’s Criminal Division, whom Republicans had been gunning for because of his knowledge of gun-walking techniques that had been used during the Bush administration. (Their theory was that Breuer should have taken aggressive steps to ensure that such measures were not repeated in future operations.) According to these sources, Castor said that if Breuer resigned, they could head off the looming constitutional clash.

    But the Justice official, Steven Reich, an associate deputy attorney general involved in the Fast and Furious negotiations with Congress, rejected the offer, calling it a “non-starter.”

    Still, Castor’s gambit was seen by DOJ officials as evidence that Issa was more interested in drawing blood than getting to the truth.

    “The reason that this contempt motion happened is that Issa didn’t come up with any evidence and didn’t get a scalp,” says Matthew Miller, a close associate of Holder’s and his former communications director. “When you set expectations that high and you don’t deliver, you have to explain why.”

    A committee staffer familiar with the negotiations said the panel had a number of concerns, including ensuring that whistleblowers were adequately protected. But he did not deny the call for Breuer’s head.

    Issa’s close colleague, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been equally zealous on Fast and Furious, was blunt about his goal. “The only think I want out of this is somebody’s scalp that approved this,” Grassley said on Fox News earlier this month.

  38. Jeremy R says:
  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Jeremy R: Agreed, though what they did broach was calling off the contempt vote (though who knows for how long), if DOJ gave them a high enough ranking scalp as a trophy to parade in front of their base:

    So, the idea was “we’ll stop trying to clean your house if you actually start cleaning it?”

    The BASTARDS.

  40. jukeboxgrad says:

    left:

    One violation of Federal law for each firearm that walked over the border. Someone is guilty of Federal crimes here.

    According to the definition you’re using, “Federal crimes” were also committed when the Bush administration had a program where firearms “walked over the border.” Issa seems to have no interest in those crimes. Why should anyone take him seriously?

    Keep in mind that the standard talking points used to defend Bush in this regard are phony.

    I realize Davebo asked you essentially the same question.

  41. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @jukeboxgrad: So, it’s “phony” that under Bush, GPS trackers were planted in the guns? That Mexican officials were informed of the plan? That they saw it wasn’t working, and pulled the plug?

  42. Neo says:

    Essentially, Fortune said the “whistleblower” was lying, but it’s like Fortune is stuck in a time warp …

    Internally, over the course of the next eight months, the Justice Department identified 140,000 pages of documents and communications responsive to the Committee’s subpoena. Yet,the Department handed over only 7,600 of these pages. Through a series of accommodations and in recognition of certain Executive Branch and law enforcement prerogatives, the Committee prioritized key documents the Department needed to produce to avoid contempt proceedings. These key documents would help the Committee understand how and why the Justice Department moved from denying whistleblower allegations to understanding they were true; the identities of officials who attempted to retaliate against whistleblowers; the reactions of senior Department officials when confronted with evidence of gunwalking during Fast and Furious,including whether they were surprised or already aware of the use of this reckless tactic, and; whether senior Department officials are being held to the same standard as lower-level employees who have been blamed for Fast and Furious by their politically-appointed bosses in Washington.

    Fortune sounds exactly like the DOJ position prior to withdrawing their Feb ’11 letter to Issa last November.

  43. jukeboxgrad says:

    jenos:

    So, it’s “phony” that under Bush, GPS trackers were planted in the guns?

    Did you bother reading what I linked? It wasn’t GPS, it was RFID, something quite different. And it was only used on one occasion, and it was only used on some of the guns on that occasion, and it was a complete failure.

    If you have a reliable source indicating that “under Bush, GPS trackers were planted in the guns” I’d like to see it. I’ve seen that claim many times, but always from unreliable sources like you.

    And it turns out that under Obama, “GPS trackers were planted in the guns.” Issa himself admitted that this was done on at least certain occasions. And there are official documents indicating this was done. So much for the claim, repeated incessantly, that under Obama there was no effort to track guns.

    That Mexican officials were informed of the plan?

    Read what I cited earlier.

    That they saw it wasn’t working, and pulled the plug?

    They kept doing it until they didn’t. And they brought no indictments. Indictments for what happened under Bush didn’t happen until Holder came along.