Left-wing activists and officials within President Barack Obama’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ), attempted this week to reframe Operation Fast and Furious as a problem with America’s gun laws.
“Stricter U.S. gun measures are needed to stem the flow of guns to Mexico, where the weapons are fueling violence and leaving people ‘under siege’ with little hope of help from their government, activists said Thursday,” according to Chad Garland of Cronkite News. “In addition to tougher laws, they called for tougher enforcement by federal officials, who they say have been reluctant to act since the fallout from Operation Fast and Furious, the failed ‘gun-walking’ operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a leader of the ongoing congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, told Breitbart News on Friday that such an argument is ludicrous. “Restricting the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens will never serve as a deterrent for criminals intent on committing future crimes,” Gosar said in an email.
In Operation Fast and Furious, several “straw purchasers”–people who work for the Mexican drug cartels’ American-based weapons smugglers–bought guns in the U.S. which were then smuggled into Mexico. ATF agents, at the direction of supervisors within the agency, allowed this to happen and directed gun store owners to allow it to continue–a practice known as letting the guns “walk.”
As a result of Fast and Furious, Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and about 300 Mexican nationals have been murdered with the weapons the ATF allowed to “walk” into Mexico. Many of the weapons have still not been recovered years later. The congressional investigation that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has shown that ATF willingly allowed–and helped facilitate–cartel-affiliated smugglers in their efforts to purchase firearms in the United States and then traffic them into Mexico.
Despite having enough evidence and laws already on the books to arrest and prosecute those so-called “straw purchasers,” documents and congressional testimony shows that ATF agents were ordered to allow the straw purchases to continue without making arrests. Even Holder, who has since been held in both criminal and civil contempt of Congress on a bipartisan basis for his failure to comply with Issa’s subpoenas for more documents, has admitted that the tactics employed in Fast and Furious were wrong.
“That was a fundamentally flawed program, fundamentally flawed,” Holder said in a February 2012 budget hearing when responding to a question about Fast and Furious. “And, I think that I can agree with some of my harshest critics that there are legitimate issues that need to be explored with regard in which the way Fast and Furious was carried out.”
Holder still denies having known about the tactics at the time but will not share all the requested documents with Congress.
Garland quoted an official from ATF, Phoenix-based Special Agent Thomas Mangan: “By no means are we turning our back or turning a blind eye… Trying to stem that flood of guns and that iron river of guns… and trying to keep ahead of the techniques and tactics that these criminal organizations are using in obtaining guns is ever-evolving.”
Mangan’s comments were in a response to a forum that the far-left Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted at George Washington University (GWU) on Thursday. CAP’s Associate Director of Crime and Firearms Policy, Chelsea Parsons, reportedly said that part of the reason why things like Operation Fast and Furious happened and the reason why U.S. guns are found at Mexican crime scenes is because it is “easy and legal to buy [guns] without a background check.”
“Parsons called for universal background checks and tougher sanctions on straw purchasers to ‘make it worthwhile’ for law enforcement to prosecute the ‘little fish’ in gun-trafficking operations,” Garland explained. “She also pointed to the cartels’ creativity in evading customs inspections to smuggle guns into Mexico.”
In response to left-wing groups now trying to use Fast and Furious to promote gun control efforts, Gosar ripped CAP for not attempting to hold Holder accountable for his actions in Fast and Furious and the subsequent congressional investigation. “It sounds like the agenda of this forum, and the personal agenda of some of its organizers, was to talk about the need for stricter gun laws,” Gosar told Breitbart News. “Where has the Center for American Progress been in the fight to hold Attorney General Holder responsible for his role in Fast and Furious and the deaths of hundreds of Mexicans and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Terry?”
“These groups want to have it both ways; call for tougher penalties for gun crimes then turn a blind eye to the gun crimes committed under Holder’s watch,” Gosar added. “Justice is blind to the partisan agenda of these gun grabbing groups. The victims’ families deserve better.”
Garland also quoted a Jesuit priest from Mexico, Rev. Javier Avila, who serves as the president of the Commission of Solidarity and Defense of Human Rights in Chihuahua, Mexico. Avila said violence resulting from ATF’s gun walking and other cartel activity is brutal in Mexico. “You lose someone in a terrible way and nothing happens,” Avila said. “Young people massacred, mothers disappeared, children disappeared, husbands, wives disappeared.”
Gosar told Breitbart News that he wants “Rev. Avila and the people of Mexico to know our nation joins theirs to mourn the innocent lives lost through gun crimes. This is why it is so important we seek justice and accountability for those responsible for Fast and Furious,” he explained. “Our government armed the violent criminals responsible for these deaths and no one wants to take responsibility. This is why I continue to push for Attorney General Holder’s resignation.”
Gosar has a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for Holder to resign his position over Operation Fast and Furious. Holder remains in both criminal and civil contempt of Congress, but Holder’s subordinate, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen, refuses to prosecute Holder on the criminal contempt resolution. As a result, House Republicans, led by Issa’s committee, have fought against the Obama administration in court for the release of the documents it is continuing to withhold from Congress and the American people.
President Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents last year. Obama is asserting the lower of two executive privilege forms, deliberative process privilege rather than presidential communications privilege. If Obama asserted the higher form, it would have meant that either he or his senior White House staff was aware of the gun walking tactics employed in Operation Fast and Furious, something that both Obama and Holder have denied.
A federal judge recently allowed the House oversight committee’s lawsuit against the administration and the president’s claim of executive privilege to proceed, despite calls for dismissal from Holder’s DOJ. Traditionally, deliberative process executive privilege claims are considered invalid with even the suspicion of any government wrongdoing. In this case, the administration has admitted wrongdoing with regards to the tactics employed during Operation Fast and Furious and in how the Justice Department misled Congress with a false statement when first confronted about the scandal in early 2011.
The administration has since withdrawn that false statement and admitted it provided inaccurate information to Congress.
Sen. Grassley told this reporter last year that if the federal judge in the case does not overturn the privilege claim, it would be “the most sweeping abuse of executive privilege in the history of executive privilege.”
The Obama administration has also been reportedly holding up the publication of ATF Special Agent John Dodson’s tell-all book on Fast and Furious. Dodson was the original whistleblower who brought this scandal to the attention of Congress.