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Op-Ed: 'Fast & Furious' report leaves Americans with crucial questions
by John Lott
Finally, the media is showing the staggering human cost of Operation Fast & Furious. But the news broadcast wasn't in English.
Sunday, Univision, the Spanish language television network, ran a program showing the faces and stories of dozens of people who have been killed in Mexico with guns the Obama administration supplied to Mexican drug gangs. One Mexican interviewed summed up the theme: "Americans aren't moved by pain beyond their border, only with their own."
Americans are now getting some partial answers about Operation Fast & Furious. The recent report by Justice Department's Inspector General identified Jason Weinstein as the highest-ranking DOJ employee to have been in a position to stop the program. He has now resigned from his post as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division.
It sure is about time.
This is 34 months after Operation Fast and Furious began supplying guns to Mexican drug gangs in October, 2009, and 22 months after one of those guns was involved in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Ironically, at the same time that people were poring over the new report, President Obama was denying that his administration had any responsibility for the program. On Univision Thursday, Obama claimed: "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."
Remember the strange set-up: the Obama administration was ordering gun dealers to sell guns to individuals the dealers feared were criminals. Despite desperate warnings from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (BATF) agents, the guns were not traced. To top it off, Mexican officials were never informed. The report clearly notes that the program started in October 2009.
With about 300 Mexicans also killed and other crimes committed with weapons supplied, it is not surprising that someone in the Obama administration had to be blamed. Yet, Inspector General's massive 512-page report still leaves crucial questions unanswered.
Most importantly, did knowledge of Fast & Furious reach the political appointees in the Department of Justice, and if so, when? The report mentions that Weinstein was briefed about the operation in weekly updates on March 4th and 11th, 2010 (p. 257), but the report neglects to ask whether information provided by Obama's political appointees is at all credible.
Among the puzzles never really investigated by the Inspector General includes briefings that Weinstein gave his boss, Lanny Breuer, in April 2010. Breuer is the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. On April 19, 2010, the report finds, Weinstein briefed Breuer about a related program, instituted during the previous Bush administration, Operation Wide Receiver (pp. 73-75). That program also "walked" guns to Mexico, though under that program there were at least some attempts to trace the guns. Also, Mexican authorities were informed about the program. Nevertheless, the program failed and the reason was technical: tracing guns simply didn't work.
The DOJ report further reveals that after the April briefing, Breuer agreed with Weinstein that Wide Receiver was an "obviously flawed" program and ordered Weinstein to communicate this conclusion to the BATF. Yet, the report never questions whether Weinstein told his boss that a similar and even much more flawed program was then being run by the Department of Justice.
If "Wide Receiver" failed in tracing the guns and was subsequently shutdown, why would the solution be to not even bother try tracing the firearms?
If Breuer knew about Fast & Furious, that creates problems for Attorney General Eric Holder because Breuer reports directly to him. Holder and Breuer are extremely close, having been partners for years at a Washington law firm, Covington & Burling.
Other than continually asserting "we found no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives” (e.g., pp. 298, 431, 441), the Inspector General's report never answers the question of why the federal government would insist that gun dealers sell guns to Mexican drug gangs when they knew that the guns weren't being traced. The report concludes: "we concluded that the conduct and supervision of the investigations was significantly flawed." But if the problems with the operation are so obvious to everyone, why was it ever set up? Something more is needed than simply saying the program was flawed.
To read the entire op-ed, click here.