Eric Holder must explain 'Fast & Furious'--Michael Walsh - NYPOST.com
Don't look now, but the real action in Washington this week isn't the parti san wrangling over the debt ceiling but something -- literally -- even more incendiary: Operation Fast and Furious, which seems about to explode right in the face of Attorney General Eric Holder -- and maybe other administration officials, too.
Also known as Project Gunrunner, the Arizona-based operation was supposed to be a sting, under which the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is part of the Justice Department, allowed "straw purchasers" to transfer weapons from gun shops in Arizona to Mexican drug cartels to trace and halt crossborder arms-trafficking.
That's the official version, anyway -- but it's crumbling, fast.
The ATF's acting director, Kenneth Melson, has been singing like a canary to congressional investigators as he pushes back against administration pressure for him to resign and take the fall for something that, at the very least, had to include the US Attorney's Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and possibly the Homeland Security Department.
In a letter to Holder released yesterday, Rep. Daryl Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley accused the Justice Department of blocking their investigation into the burgeoning scandal (which has resulted in the deaths of at least two American agents and countless Mexican civilians), muzzling the ATF and involving other federal agencies, including the FBI and the DEA, in funding the crackpot scheme.
"The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities," they wrote.
"It is one thing to argue that the ends justify the means in an attempt to defend a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns. Yet it is a much more serious matter to conceal from Congress the possible involvement of other agencies in identifying and maybe even working with the same criminals that Operation Fast and Furious was trying to identify."
That's the key to this mess -- and the reason that Operation Fast and Furious might turn out to be the biggest Washington scandal since Iran-Contra.
As Issa and Grassley note in their letter, had the other agencies shared information -- theoretically the goal of the post-9/11 revamp of the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies -- "then ATF might have known that gun trafficking 'higher-ups' had already been identified."
So if the identities of the Mexican criminals were known to the feds, what was the point of Project Gunrunner -- and why is Holder so desperately trying to stonewall by withholding hundreds of documents from Congress?
Law-abiding gun owners and dealers think they already know. With the Obama administration wedded to the fiction that 90 percent of the guns Mexican cartels use originate here -- they don't -- many suspect that "Fast and Furious" was a backdoor attempt to smear domestic gun aficionados as part of its stealth efforts on gun control by executive fiat.
"I just want you to know that we're working on it," Obama was quoted as saying to gun-control advocate Sarah Brady in March. "We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."
Unfortunately for the administration, this one's out in the open now.
Melson testified behind closed doors on July 4, but the country needs to hear him speak -- loudly and publicly. "Let me be clear," Issa wrote to Melson in April, "we are not conducting a concurrent investigation with the Department of Justice, but rather an independent investigation of the Department of Justice."
Exactly. Because this one's not just a domestic issue. A Mexican senator, Rene Arce Islas, told Fox News that he believes whoever is responsible for the monumental, lethal cock-up should be tried not only in America but in Mexico, too.
That's not going to happen, of course. Even if any prominent American officials are implicated, there is zero chance they'd have to face Mexican justice.
But Issa's charge that Holder & Co. are obstructing a congressional investigation is serious. Not even the Justice Department is above the law.
The best way to disinfect the putrid mess that is Operation Fast and Furious is to expose it to sunlight. Let's hear what the attorney general and others have to say in open hearings.
Because somebody's got some "splainin' " to do -- fast, before the American people get furious.