By now, “Gunwalker” and “Fast and Furious” have both entered the national lexicon. And although the amount of information known about the operations varies from person to person, the majority of Americans know they have something to do with the selling of guns to “straw purchasers” in the U.S., who were supposed to smuggle the guns into Mexico and put them in the hands of cartel members, who were then to be arrested.
What most people seem not to know is who exactly was behind the Gunwalker and Fast and Furious operations. Was it the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)? Yes. Was it also Attorney General Eric Holder? Well, there’s no doubt he was instrumental in Gunwalker, and it’s now known that his chief of staff was briefed on Fast and Furious. So how about President Obama? What did he know? According to information that has surfaced during ongoing investigations by Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa), it’s certain that knowledge of Fast and Furious went all the way to the White House.
And let me say at the outset that no matter how much you do or don’t know about Fast and Furious, the one thing we must all accept is that it provides a picture of a federal agency, the ATF, gone rogue, and of government at its worst and most dangerous. For regardless of what this operation was implemented to be when it began under the auspices of Gunwalker in 2009, it is now the reckless operation that flooded the streets of Mexico and Phoenix, Ariz., with upwards of 2,500 weapons (34 of which were .50 sniper rifles with an effective lethal range of approximately 2,000 meters).
What we know beyond a doubt about the operation is that William Newell, former ATF special agent in charge in the Phoenix area, was fully aware of it. And he has admitted in sworn testimony that “the DHS, IRS, DEA, ATF, ICE and the Obama Justice Department were all involved” in the operation. Speaking of the Justice Department, Issa and Grassley … have identified a dozen Justice Department officials who they say knew about the program, and following Holder’s May 2011 testimony in which he told the House Judiciary Committee that he only learned of both Gunwalker and Fast and Furious in “recent weeks,” Issa has pointedly stated his belief that Holder had provided “inaccurate testimony.”
Now we can add the White House to the mix, because during recent congressional hearings, the ATF’s Newell told Issa’s committee he “discussed the operation with the national security director for North America, Kevin O’Reilly.” The means of communication seems to have been an e-mail that was designed both to be kept private and to keep O’Reilly updated. But regardless of the method of communication, the fact is that a Fast and Furious update was sent to a White House official.
Of course, Obama says he knew nothing about either Gunwalker or Fast and Furious, although the President set aside $10 million for the operations in February 2009 via the stimulus package, and talked about “gun tracing” and “gun enforcement policies during a joint press conference in Mexico City with Mexico President Felipe Calderon in April 2009” (which was the same month in which Holder gave a speech in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he bragged of the implementation of Gunwalker).
But although neither Obama or Holder have claimed they had knowledge of the operations until quite recently, both are now actively doing their best to “[stonewall] the oversight committee investigation” that is trying to get to the bottom of this mess. Of Obama in particular, Issa has said, “President Obama has been keen to talk about who didn’t know about the program and who didn’t authorize it. These answers will not suffice. The American people have a right to know, once and for all, who did authorize it and who knew about it.”
It doesn’t take long to connect the dots on this one. We have a president who funded these programs, who talked to Mexican President Calderon two months later about tracing guns, and whose National Security Director for North America received communications from ATF Special Agent Newell regarding the operations. The Justice Department is littered with people who knew about the program, and nearly every federal law-enforcement agency besides the Secret Service was involved.
The President gets away with laughing off the fact that “shovel-ready jobs” weren’t as shovel-ready as he thought they were. But there’s no way he should be allowed to laugh this one off.