President Barack Obama, we want the truth. Release all documents pertaining to the Fast and Furious debacle that put weapons into the hands of criminals and Mexican drug traffickers.
Although the mainstream media have largely ignored the story for years, the scandal appears so unseemly that Forbe’s declared that it may become “President Obama’s Watergate” back in September of 2011.
If that seemed a stretch, today it sounds almost likely. On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding documents related to the gunrunning operation. As the committee was deciding to charge Holder, Obama invoked executive privilege in an effort to withhold Justice Department documents about Fast and Furious from Congressional investigators.
For those who haven’t followed the scandal, the allegation is this: The federal government told Arizona gun dealers in 2009 to sell guns illegally to suspected criminals. Agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were instructed to allow the illegally sold firearms to be taken by criminals across the border for sale to Mexican drug traffickers. Here’s how the oversight committee describes the suspected motive:
“The purpose was to wait and watch, in hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case,” a committee report states.
The ATF named the tactic “Operation Fast and Furious.”
The weapons fell into the hands of drug traffickers, as planned. Unfortunately, government agents failed to keep track of the criminals, the guns they sold, or the drug runners who bought them. Based on allegations, more than 1,600 guns, worth more than $1 million, were simply distributed to thugs in Mexico without a plan for containing them. Mayhem ensued. Unlike past covert sting operations in Mexico, this one involved no coordination with the Mexican government.
The guns are said to have fueled civil war in Mexico, resulting in the deaths of unknown numbers of Mexicans. The operation became public only after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a firefight by one of the government-sanctioned illegal guns. Terry’s death caused ATF whistle-blowers to come forward and Holder’s Department of Justice has been implicated in the debacle.
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House Speaker John Boehner, who has expressed near certainty of direct White House involvement, expects the full House of Representatives to confirm Holder’s contempt charge next week. If that happens, the House may refer the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution in federal court. But the Justice Department is almost certain to reject a request to prosecute its own executive, leaving House leadership the option of filing suit in federal court.
It is unlikely the House will get a contempt conviction against Holder, but it will likekly succeed in finally bringing Fast and Furious front and center. The whole thing is beginning to resemble Watergate only because of apparent elaborate efforts to cover up facts.
“Nixon’s guilt was in trying to pervert the course of justice by persuading the FBI to drop its investigation of the crime,” writes Tim Stanley, for The Telegraph in London. “Mistake number one, then, was to involve the White House in covering up the errors of a separate, autonomous political department. Mistake number two was that when Congress discovered that evidence about the scandal might be recorded on the White House bugging system, Nixon invoked executive privilege to protect the tapes. In both cases, it was the cover up that destroyed Tricky Dick — not the original crime.”
If Obama wants to retain a chance of re-election, he will come clean with the documentation Congress wants and will ask Holder to resign. Otherwise, he may get mired in his own version of a Watergate-like scandal that involves murder and mayhem and the death of a federal agent. The public is entitled to full disclosure.
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