In an interview for Spanish channel Univision (Sept. 20, 2012), President Obama stated:
“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker wasted no time in giving the president’s statement three out of four Pinocchios. “Clearly, ATF didn’t develop the practice of gun walking under the current administration. But Obama specifically referred to ‘theFast and Furious program,’ which unquestionably started during his term as president. That operation was not ‘begun under the previous administration.’
“Perhaps the president made a mistake, and he really meant to talk about gun-walking in general instead of a particular gun-walking operation. But he could also be trying to wash his hands of any accountability for a program that launched on his watch and allowed 2,000 powerful firearms to end up on U.S. and Mexican streets.
“Either way,” the Fact Checker concludes, “we can’t let politicians get away with this sort of egregious factual mistake. Otherwise they’ll start making them on purpose.”
So, who is responsible for the lack of communication aboutOperation Fast and Furious; who is being held accountable and did Attorney General Holder knowingly withhold information from the Judiciary Committee?
I return to CBS journalist Sharyl Attkisson’s February, 2013report.
“The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Lanny Breuer, is the highest-ranking official who admits knowing that ATF had used the tactic of gunwalking early on. Breuer’s deputy wrote him in April 2010 that in Wide Receiver, a case started under the Bush Administration. ‘ATF let a bunch of guns walk,’ and said it could be ’embarrassing’ to ATF.
“When those documents were made public on Oct. 31, 2011, Breuer issued a statement saying he didn’t alert others in Justice Department leadership about the gunwalking, that he ‘regrets’ not having done so, and that he likewise regretted not alerting leaders about the similarities between Wide Receiver, started in 2006, and Fast and Furious, started in 2009, at a time when the Justice Department’s public position was that no gunwalking had ever occurred.”
What did Attorney General Holder know and when did he know it?
Attkisson says that “Holder has consistently denied knowing anything about gunwalking within his agency when it was occurring. ATF is a division of Holder’s Justice Department. He asked the Justice Department Inspector General to investigate in late February 2011.”
To answer the question of Holder’s involvement, I went to the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIC) report entitled, A Review of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious and Related Matters. It took some time reading and digesting the 500+ page report, but here are highlights from Chapter 7, a summary of their findings:
“Our investigation made clear that the failures within ATF, which included a long term strategy in Operation Fast and Furious that was fully supported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, were systemic and not due to the acts of only a few individuals, (Page 441).”
Regarding the issue of whether Holder knew of the operation and withheld information to Congress, OIC writes:
“We determined that Attorney General Holder did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011 and was not aware of allegations of ‘gun walking’ in the investigation until February. We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed the Attorney General about Operation Wide Receiver or Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011. We concluded that the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the Acting Deputy Attorney General, and the leadership of the Criminal Division failed to alert the Attorney General to significant information about or flaws in those investigations.
“Although the Office of the Attorney General received various weekly reports from components in the Department that mentioned Operation Fast and Furious, we found that Attorney General Holder did not personally review these reports at the time that his office received them and that his staff did not highlight them for his review. Moreover, we determined that these reports did not refer to agents’ failure to interdict firearms or include information that otherwise provided notice of the improper strategy and tactics that ATF agents were using in the investigation (Page 466).”
Regarding DOJ’s February 4 response to Sen. Grassley’s allegations, the retraction of the letter and subsequent delay in correcting the information OIC “found, that Attorney General Holder had no involvement in drafting or reviewing the February 4 letter that he decided to withdraw in December 2011 after concluding that it contained inaccuracies. Although Holder received directly from Sen. Grassley the January 27 and 31 letters containing allegations that ATF had sanctioned the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers, we determined that Holder had no part in the fact-gathering, editing, or approval process that led to the Department’s issuance of an inaccurate response on February 4, (Page 470).”
As for Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, OIC writes, “Breuer told us that he did not learn about ‘gun walking’ allegations in Operation Fast and Furious until public revelations in 2011. However… in April 2010 Breuer learned about Operation Wide Receiver and that ATF had allowed guns to ‘walk’ in that case. Breuer told us that upon learning this information, he told Deputy Assistant Attorney General Weinstein to talk to ATF leadership to make sure that they understood that the Criminal Division planned to move forward with the case, but that the investigation had used ‘obviously flawed’ techniques.
“Given the significance of this issue and the fact that ATF reports to the Deputy Attorney General, we believe Breuer should have promptly informed the Deputy Attorney General or the Attorney General about the matter in April 2010. Breuer failed to do so, (Page 454).”
Regarding President Obama’s knowledge of Fast and Furious, CBS journalist Sharyl Attkisson writes, “In documents turned over by the White House to date, there is no evidence the President or others at the White House had knowledge of gunwalking.”
Further, on Sunday, June 24, 2012, NBC News reported that Darrel Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee investigating the Fast and Furious issue, was asked on Fox News Sunday if he had any evidence of a White House cover-up in the matter.
Issa responded, “No, we don’t.”
Finally, much has been discussed, blogged, dissected, and spun about this issue, and I have no doubt more will continue to be added to the considerable number of links I found in my original Google search. In searching for the truth, however, we should remember the wisdom of John Adams:
“Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”