Among the many serious scandals that have plagued Barack Obama’s presidency and for which nobody in charge has ever been held accountable, Operation Fast and Furious was one which the White House had hoped was forgotten, but the original ATF whistleblower has revealed a new twist. Attorney General Eric Holder, who previously lied to Congress about his knowledge of the botched illegal gun-running scheme, cannot escape the obvious fact that he is still responsible, ultimately, for the entire tragic and criminal enterprise.
Fast and Furious was an ATF sting operation that allowed associates of Mexican drug cartels to enter the United States and make straw purchases of firearms in US gun stores, before returning to Mexico with the weapons and selling them to the cartels. The stated objective was to track and apprehend senior cartel members but this never happened; the weapons were not tracked effectively – if at all – and most of them disappeared; some being recovered later at the scenes of numerous murders.
Since an ATF agent blew the whistle on the operation – which began in 2009 – congressional hearings have failed to reach any actionable conclusions; the Justice Department (DoJ), of which the ATF is a branch, has refused to hand over most of the documentation relating to this criminal enterprise. The Attorney General himself lied to Congress when he told the hearing that he had known nothing about the operation until just a couple of weeks before the hearings. The oversight committee later acquired internal documents that proved Holder had known about the operation much earlier.
The House of Representatives later voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt. As head of the Justice Department, he clearly knew of, and approved, the illegal gun-running; since, if he did not, then he displayed a level of incompetency that would warrant instant dismissal. The guns that Holder allowed to be sold to Mexican criminals have been linked to the deaths of over 200 Mexican citizens and at least two US federal agents.
The latest revelation comes in a book, The Unarmed Truth – the publication of which the Obama administration attempted to block. In the book, former ATF Special Agent John Dobson states that the FBI – also part of the Justice Department – was working closely with Mexican drug gangs, setting them up to “rip off” drug shipments coming over the border into the US. One such encounter lead to a shoot-out with an elite tactical team from Border Patrol. The gun battle claimed the life of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Dobson claims that his information is based on firsthand knowledge, personal opinion and press reports. Whilst it is possible to question the veracity of “personal opinion and press reports,” it is beyond question that the facts so far established should have resulted in criminal charges for a number of top Justice Department officials.
Those facts are; that Operation Fast and Furious was actually begun in 2009. During a televised interview with Univision, President Obama stated that the operation was actually begun during the Bush administration and that Holder had no prior knowledge of it: Both of these statements were already known not to be true.
A similar sting operation was, In fact, conducted by the ATF, during the Bush years; known as “Wide Receiver,” this operation involved far fewer weapons and was conducted with the knowledge and co-operation of the Mexican authorities – Fast and Furious was a different operation, conducted without notifying the Mexican government or law enforcement agencies. At the scene of Brian Terry’s death, two long guns – described as “assault-style” rifles – were recovered and later traced to operation Fast and Furious. Eric Holder lied under oath when he told a congressional hearing that he had no prior knowledge of Fast and Furious. In reality, internal DoJ documents revealed that Holder had known about the operation far earlier than he had stated.
Wide Receiver was also unsuccessful because of the ATF’s inability to track the weapons. Although the impact of Wide Receiver was not as tragic as Fast and Furious, the implications are the same; the federal government of the United States was deliberately circumventing US firearms laws – or allowing others to do so. As now, criminal charges should have been brought against the US Attorney General, who, as head of the Justice Department, must have known and was ultimately responsible. Nobody should get to decide what is and is not legal, based on a political preference.
“Essentially,” says Dobson, “the United States government is involved in cartel-building.” His claims are supported by a former member of the ruthless Sinaloa Cartel, Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla. Awaiting trial on federal drug charges, Zambada-Niebla claims that the DEA, another DoJ agency, granted him immunity from prosecution in exchange for information and described an environment of collusion between the DEA and the Sinaloa Cartel.
Like Benghazi, Operation Fast and Furious is an episode, the Obama Administration wishes, would be forgotten. Justice Department involvement goes far deeper than a small group of ATF agents in Arizona. Three DoJ agencies have now been drawn into the gun-running debacle. Speculation attributes several different agendas to Fast and Furious, including conspiring with the Sinaloa Cartel to bring down its rivals and creating justification to introduce sweeping gun-control measures in the US. Whatever the true agenda behind the ill-fated operation, the mere idea that the Attorney General was in no way involved with the decision-making in this operation becomes increasingly implausible.
Editorial by Graham J Noble