surrounding the secretive Operation Fast and Furious continues to grow and reach higher and higher to the top of President Obama's Department of Justice. This entire disaster is a glaring example of how many of our premiere crime-fighting (and terrorist-stopping) agencies--the DOJ, FBI, DEA, ATF--are still not sharing intelligence or communicating effectively, placing internal politics above national security interests. Operation Fast and Furious, a secret part of Project Gunrunner administered by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was an illegal gun trafficking sting started in 2009 in which ATF officials released at least 2,000 guns into Mexico with the intention of tracking these guns down in order to indict cartels in the ongoing Mexican Drug War. Apparently overlooking the fact that giving guns to these ruthless murderers was a bad idea, we quickly lost track of many of the guns; only 600 are known to have been recovered by the US and Mexican governments. These weapons that we gave to the cartels have been used in at least 150 shootings, and were used in the murder of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
After Terry was killed, Congress opened an investigation into this covert operation, with Congressman Darrel Issa (R-CA) holding hearings
last month. The investigation has so far discovered, thanks to whistleblowers, that ATF knowingly allowed over 2,000 guns to be sold illegally, that ATF leadership forbade its agents from arresting these individuals, and that ATF agents who raised objections to the program were threatened with job retaliation if they spoke out. Indeed, one of the whistleblowers, Vince Cefalu, has been given termination papers
. Cefalu had been complaining about what he thought were illegal ATF wiretaps for years, and, though he had a spotless service record for over 18 years, received his first unsatisfactory evaluation when he complained about the wiretaps in 2005. After taking part in uncovering this ill-conceived gunrunning operation, his job has been terminated by the ATF.
Testifying before the Judiciary Committee some time ago, Attorney General Eric Holder declared that he knew absolutely nothing about the existence of this program. Acting ATF Director Ken Melson said that he did not know of its existence until after Brian Terry was murdered, and it has increasingly looked like the Administration was setting up Melson to take the fall for this scandal. However, on July 4th, Melson appeared before Congressional investigators
with his own private lawyer (rather than a government one) and said that the Department of Justice was actively trying to cover up Fast and Furious and make people stay silent about the operation, and said that it was the DOJ that ordered ATF officials to remain silent-- that it was the DOJ calling the shots in the operation. If this is true, Congressman Issa asserts
, then it is very likely that General Holder knew of the operation's existence at least in the weeks before Congress opened its investigation, meaning that Holder lied to Congress. Members of Congress are also complaining that the Justice Department is actively attempting to obstruct its investigation.
Congress should continue to press its investigation into this issue. This illegal and ill-conceived operation has armed thugs as they murder both Mexican and American governments officials and innocent Mexicans caught in the crosshairs. If Eric Holder knew of the operation beforehand, and if he lied to Congress about his knowledge, then he needs to be held accountable. Hopefully the whistleblowers are protected as well. Shameful scandal, this.