- Last Updated: 12:39 AM, August 1, 2012
- Posted: 10:18 PM, July 31, 2012
Yesterday’s report on the Fast and Furious fiasco was just the first shoe. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose House Oversight Committee has been spearheading the investigation, promises two more.
Shoe No. 1 blames five employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for the botched “gunwalking” operation, which sent some 2,000 guns to the Mexican drug cartels — guns later used to kill hundreds of Mexicans and at least two Americans.
Shoes No. 2 and 3 will chart the progress of the “inherently reckless” operation from its inception in Arizona all the way to the Justice Department — and perhaps even the White House.
Run out of Phoenix by the ATF and supervised by the US Attorney’s Office in Arizona, Fast and Furious deliberately (if inexplicably) let high-powered weapons “walk” from gun shops across the border and into the hands of Mexico’s murderous cartels, ostensibly in an effort to track gun-smuggling rings.
The program came to light when Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed near Tucson in a December 2010 shootout with Mexican gangsters, and F&F weapons were found at the scene.
Writing with Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee (which is also investigating F&F), Issa yesterday said, “Part two will look at the devastating failure of supervision and leadership by officials at Justice Department headquarters . . . Part three willaddress the unprecedented obstruction ofthe investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the attorney general himself.”
That would be Eric Holder, now laboring under a contempt of Congress citation for stonewalling Issa’s committee.
The exhaustive, 200-page report names five major ATF fall guys, including then-Acting Director Ken Melson and the Phoenix special agent in charge, William Newell, whose brainchild the program was said to be.
The latter comes in for special criticism as “an agent with a history of sanctioning the dangerous investigative technique known as gunwalking. Newell had been reprimanded before by ATF management for pushing the envelope with discredited tactics.”
F&F eventually morphed into a multijurisdictional, prosecutor-driven Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force — in other words, a top priority for Justice.
So the ATF employees are the little fish, bureaucrats who didn’t put a stop to the “risky tactics” when they had the chance, and who were misled by “flawed advice from the US Attorney’s Office as an excuse to allow the transfer of weapons to take place.”
Because, as the report makes clear, the buck won’t stop with the little fish.
One crucial element of the Holder stonewall, the report notes — calling it a “blank page” — is the extent of the culpability of the US Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, headed at the time by Democratic golden boy Dennis Burke.
But what does clearly emerge is that once government officials knew the whole cockamamie op had gone south, they set out on a damage-control operation focusing on “press implications instead of accountability.” Fast and Furious collapsed with no meaningful arrests “up the chain” of the arms-trafficking network, including the chief suspect who “was stopped and interviewed at the border, but was still allowed to cross into Mexico.”
But then, nearly everything about Fast and Furious has been unbelievable — from its inception, to the spectacle of a sitting AG being cited for contempt and a president abruptly claiming last-minute executive privilege in order to protect his appointee from congressional scrutiny.
“The Anatomy of a Failed Operation,” Issa and Grassley call their report, and so it is. But the real question is how much higher up the failure went — and what, if anything, will be done about it.Follow @NYPostOpinion