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Fast and Spurious

This week’s partisan keystone cop passion play captured the nation’s
attention Wednesday when Republicans on the House Oversight and Government
Reform Committee, led by Congressman Darryl Issa, voted 23 to 17 along party
lines to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over
subpoenaed documents related to the Fast and
gun walking operation.

This panel investigation was originally triggered in part by the killing of border patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2011 where weapons at the scene were traced to Operation Fast and Furious, part of the larger Project Gunrunner operations, the 2006 brainchild of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Before this latest flap in this situation grows even longer legs and begins to walk, let’s review a little background.

In 2006, when George W. Bush was president, federal law enforcement officials in all their brilliance, decided to allow thousands of semi-automatic AK-variant assault weapons and other powerful firearms purchased in the United States to “walk” across the Mexican border, where, in theory, the weapons could be traced to drug lords who could be apprehended along with the “straw buyers” who buy and supply guns to the notorious Mexican drug cartels.

To put this whole scheme into play, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran a series of “gunwalking” sting operations ]between 2006 and 2011.  Labeled “Project Gunrunner”, the overall project was intended to somehow stem the flow of firearms into Mexico by intercepting weapons purchasers and gun traffickers within the United States. The technique was called “gunwalking”.  It was an approach used by the ATF to allow thousands of guns to be bought by suspected arms traffickers (“gunrunners”) working through straw purchasers on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.

Ostensibly, the goal of allowing these purchases was to continue to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels, in theory, leading to their arrests and the dismantling of the cartels. It is no surprise that most of the weapons promptly disappeared.

Operation Fast and Furious, by far the largest “gunwalking” sting operation of the larger Project Gunrunner, has led to the sale of over 2,000 firearms, of which only 700 have been recovered.
Although several straw purchasers have been arrested and indicted, none of the
targeted high-level cartel figures has been arrested.   The tragic result is that drug cartels have now become well armed while no drug lords have been arrested.

Needless to say, our relations with Mexico have been seriously damaged.  Mexican Senator Arturo Escobar stated, “We can no longer tolerate what is occurring. There must be condemnation from the state.” The Mexican Senate has officially condemned the actions of the ATF.

But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) still went back to the “gun-walking” technique again the following year — and used it once more in 2009, after President Obama had taken office, in the tragic fiasco known as “Operation Fast and Furious.”

Issa has often referred to the death of Brian Terry, the Border Patrol agent who was
killed in December 2010. According to Issa, this investigation, triggered in part by Terry’s death, would identify the government’s responsibility for this tragedy. In testimony before the committee, ATF agent John Dodson, critical of the operation, testified saying, “I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.”  Agreed.


Mr. Holder has openly and on record acknowledged that Fast and Furious was a mistake. He has turned over more than 7,600 documents relating to this tragic and failed operation affecting human lives and the relations of several countries including the United States, Mexico, and several others throughout the Caribbean, and South America.  He has personally testified on Capitol Hill about the matter no less than nine occasions.  And yet Issa is not satisfied with the obvious.


It’s not a “cover up” involving straw buyers that Issa is actually investigating, but a straw issue, filling the role of “straw piñata” for what’s really the “contempt” in this
situation.  In reality, it’s a contempt or Mr. Holder’s investigation of voter suppression in Florida and Arizona’s S.B. 1070 immigration statute that has stirred up the hornet’s nest on the right that has motivated Issa and his 23 colleagues voting to invoke the contempt charge.  Issa is wasting time investigating what Mr. Holder might be covering up from an operation that he has already surrendered documentation for, which he has identified as a mistaken enterprise and which he has promptly ended.
Since character seems to be an underlying theme here, perhaps we should put the Chairman’s character above board and on the table.  By some accounts, Daryl “Don Draper” Issa has reportedly not always adhered to the persona of strict moral ethics he likes to portray.  According to Jillian Barclay, Issa “has a checkered past, with multiple arrests for auto theft and weapons charges, was also suspected of arson for a fire that destroyed one of the buildings he owned.”  So this is who we may have leading the investigation that has just issued a contempt charge against
Attorney General Holder when he has already produced documentation for an
operation he has ended and openly called a failure?

It wouldn’t take much of a leap of faith to link at least part of this investigation to the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre’s  paranoid conspiracy theories about 2nd Amendment rights.   Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association has
joined this “walking” parade and characterized it as a devious plot by the Justice Department to eventually confiscate all guns and maybe even abolish the 2nd Amendment (although that wouldn’t be a bad idea).  LaPierre recently stated to Ginny Simone, NRA News Host, ”Well,my thoughts are that this was an attack on the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. That that’s what Fast and Furious really was about.”

The Fast and Furious weapons were just a small part of a much larger problem. Mexican officials have complained for years that lax U.S. gun laws have aggravated drug-related violence along the shared border. The profound harm inflicted by cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine smuggled north of the border is in effect facilitated directly by the guns smuggled south that are in turn facilitated by
the NRA’s advocacy of maintaining the “laxness” of those very laws.

If Issa really wants to save U.S. and Mexican lives, he should convene hearings on banning the sale of high-powered weapons.  LaPierre should be the lead witness.  LaPierre should be interrogated at length about exactly where in his twisted mind the halting of Fast and Furious and the official classification of it as a failure, it can be an assault on the Second Amendment.   Through his gun advocacy and resulting facilitation, almost 100,000  people in America alone are shot in murders, assaults,
suicides, accidents, or by police intervention annually.  How, Mr. LaPierre, do you plead in your egregious facilitation of this genocide?

Adding to the parade of lunacy is Mike Vanderboegh, a 57-year-old former militiaman from Alabama, who dedicated great efforts in his blog urging people who opposed the historic health-care reform legislation to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices nationwide. One of those offices attacked was that of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at a rally in a Tucson supermarket.

So, is this whole spurious panel investigation actually one of a pursuit of truth or a political hit job?   And how much cue-card-fuel has La Pierre’s conspiracy-with-a-motive given this spurious witch hunt directly to Issa?
This much is certain: When all is said and done, the most important thing is that according to the Justice Department all gun walking operations have now been stopped.  But don’t expect Chairman Don Draper to acknowledge the obvious.

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Thomas P. Davis

Thomas P. Davis

I'm a freelance writer based in New Jersey. I've been writing about public issues for 10 years.