MMfA's Response to 'Fast and Furious' Plays Fast and Loose with Facts

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Fast & Furious Department of Justice Scandal

The Department of Justice reportedly referred a journalist to this story by Media Matters for America, "Fast And Fallacious: Pavlich's Book On ATF Operation Filled With Falsehoods." The "research," presumably written by Matthew Gertz (M.G.), claims Katie Pavlich’s book, Fast & Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-Up, is filled with false claims.

MMfA argues Ms. Pavlich played up the importance of Holder’s briefings, citing Mr. Holder's testimony that none of the memos say anything about "unacceptable tactics employed b ATF"--only "short summaries of matters that the agencies deem of interest that week."

But look at Appendix 20 on page 187. That’s only one. It’s a heavily blacked-out memo to Mr. Holder and it states, “Investigation: OCDETF Operation FAST AND THE FURIOUS.” If it's possible to provide a "short summary" of Fast and Furious without mentioning gunwalking, I would challenge the DOJ and MMfA to do so. If not, Mr. Holder very likely lied when he said none of the memos contained anything about unacceptable tactics (unless for some reason they discussed the Hollywood movie of the same name).

Then MMfA asserts Ms. Pavlich is wrong about Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer admitting he knew gunwalking was happening in Fast and Furious. MMfA uncritically reprints Mr. Breuer's assertion that he only knew of gunwalking tactics in Operation Wide Receiver, carried out under George W. Bush's administration. 

However, CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed Breuer authorized a wire tap in Operation Fast and Furious. Wiretapping in federal investigations is used as a last resort, and the agents requesting one have to prove that every other tactic was tried and failed before the request. That means the wire tap affidavit Mr. Breuer signed contained information about the "unacceptable tactics employed by ATF" of Fast and Furious.

Furthermore, Mr. Breuer’s statement expresses regret that he didn’t let leadership know that the tactics used in Fast & Furious, once publicized, were similar to Wide Receiver. Are we to believe that Mr. Breuer, who found the tactics in Wide Receiver so grave he scheduled "a meeting with ATF's Acting Director and Deputy Director to bring these issues to their attention," did not "draw a connection" between the two cases when the only thing similar between them was allowing guns to walk into Mexico?

Next, Media Matters claims Ms. Pavlich misleads the readers on briefings on the operation given to then-Lieutenant Gary Grindler. Yet Appendices 11 and 12 completely contradict this claim and support Ms. Pavlich’s. Appendix 11, page 178, is a document from the ATF Monthly Meeting held on March 12, 2010. Number Four on this list is PHOENIX CASE – UPDATE ON A SIGNIFICANT FIREARMS TRAFFICKING CASE. Appendix 12 shows Grindler’s handwritten notes, and what do we see? He wrote OPERATION THE FAST AND FURIOUS.

To reiterate: MMfA states Grindler wasn’t briefed about Operation Fast and Furious, even though Ms. Pavlich provides a document with his handwritten notes on Operation Fast and Furious. And again, one cannot accurately describe the operation without mentioning gunwalking.

Another claim by Ms. Pavlich taken to task is that Mr. Breuer "carefully reviewed" every word of a February 4, 2011 letter to Congress written by Deputy Assistant Attorney General (DAAG) Jason Weinstein. MMfA claims he didn’t and even used Senator Grassley’s words against her, citing a December 2011 press release, which they assert "says it is 'unclear' if Breuer read the letter."

Here is a crucial difference between their citation and the actual press release: Senator Grassley's memo states of Mr. Breuer, "he is unclear if he read it [emphasis added]." Reporting someone's denial (rather, obfuscation: "I can't say for sure" is not a denial) is nothing close to confirmation of its truthfulness. The press release also states that Mr. Breuer confirmed that DAAG Weinstein read the letter and "participated in its drafting." 

Mr. Breuer's statement admits that he received multiple drafts of the letter in question and forwarded them to his personal email address. Media Matters takes this information and immediately concludes Mr. Breuer's non-denial denial is airtight; he didn't read the letter which he forwarded to his personal email multiple times because he said he can't be sure whether or not he did.

MMfA neither proves nor disproves Ms. Pavlich’s point that former ATF Chief Kenneth Melson told Congress there was a smoking gun report detailing who approved the wiretaps and tactics for Fast and Furious. MMfA plays a semantic game about what the words "smoking gun" in Melson's testimony refer to, but the full context of his quote makes clear that he found the evidence of malfeasance after reviewing "all the ROIs [Reports of Investigation] that pertained to [one defendant] in particular." Thus, his report, which is still being withheld, would naturally identify the individual to whom these investigations pertained.

Ms. Pavlich did not falsely claim the ATF agents in charge of Fast & Furious were promoted, as Media Matters alleges. They were, in fact, promoted. Bill Newell was the special agent in charge of the field office for Arizona and New Mexico, and then he became the special assistant to the assistant director of the agency’s Office of Management in Washington. David Voth was an on-the-ground team supervisor, and then he was moved to Washington because he was promoted to branch chief of the ATF’s tobacco division.

Those are better positions than their previous positions. They were promoted. The ATF can spin it all they want, but they were promoted.

Then, MMfA says Ms. Pavlich’s claim about the liberal media calling F&F a "conspiracy theory" is false. For full disclosure, I helped Pavlich out in this section. As you all know, I regularly call out the media for their non-coverage of the story.

Media Matters contests that the label "conspiracy theory" was given to the assertion that Fast and Furious was an attempt to curb Second Amendment rights. Gertz also deflects by saying several comments Pavlich quotes refer to a supposedly unrelated speech by NRA President Wayne LaPierre at CPAC Florida in 2011--a speech where LaPierre cites Fast and Furious as evidence of his "conspiracy" that Obama wanted gun control issues kept quiet until his reelection.

Still, denying that Fast and Furious was designed to chip away at the Second Amendment flies in the face of established fact. I don’t know how many times I've shared with MMfA researchers a December 7 article by CBS's Sharyl Attkisson, which features documents proving this operation was intended to make the case for stricter gun laws. No matter how many times I show them this, they still don’t acknowledge it.

MMfA's next point, that Pavlich said Holder insisted the Virginia Tech & Columbine massacres were evidence enough that the Second Amendment should be read as a collective, not an individual right, falls apart under scrutiny, as well. They agree that Mr. Holder did reference the incidents, but “the thrust of its argument was that the Supreme Court should construe the 2nd Amendment as a collective right.” 

However, not only once but twice does Mr. Holder directly reference incidents of gun violence as the primary reason for his appeal for a particular decision by the court:

With gun violence continuing to plague the United States, this Court should adhere to the position it staked out nearly 70 years ago in Miller and construe the Second Amendment to protect a right to keep and bear arms only to the extent the exercise of such a right is related to the “preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”  307 U.S. at 178.

...

At a time when the Nation continues to feel the terrible effects of gun violence, this Court should adhere to its view in Miller that the scope of the Second Amendment is limited to furthering the institution of the well-regulated militia and in all events should adopt a standard that gives legislatures flexibility to enact firearms laws designed to protect their citizens. [emphasis added]

And the weakness of this "defense" is rather evident. Pavlich's larger point is that Holder does not believe the Second Amendment protects personal gun ownership. Quibbling about which reason for this belief is dominant is inconsequential.

In virtually every instance where Media Matters "debunks" Pavlich's book, the publication relies on limited context, semantic games, and uncritical acceptance of incredible claims by the alleged perpetrators of Operation Fast and Furious. In other words, it's business as usual for the tax-exempt partisan organization. For the Department of Justice to use this "research" to deflect pressure in the ongoing Fast and Furious investigation speaks to how flimsy a case Eric Holder and his counterparts have in their defense.


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