CNN has posted a fantastic column by Michael Hayden, the retired Air Force General who served as Director of the National Security Agency from 1999-2005 and Director of Central Intelligence from 2006-February 2009. CNN’s editor’s note adds that General Hayden is now serving as an adviser to the Romney campaign. General Hayden’s column places the Fast & Furious operation into — how shall we put it? — a larger context:
So I’ve been trying to resist temptation these past months as I watch Attorney General Eric Holder deal with public and congressional reaction to the “Fast and Furious” scheme, the failed attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seed and then track U.S. firearms to Mexican drug cartels.
Fast and Furious was a secretive, high-risk operation seemingly intended to deal with an intractable problem abroad. On those grounds, some may be tempted to equate it to a CIA covert action.
But even if some attributes are similar — tough problem, edgy solution, inherent complexity, great secrecy, high operational and political risk — it was definitely not a covert action since those are clearly defined in an executive order as the province of the Central Intelligence Agency
Beyond that, if it had been a true covert action, the attorney general would have had to give his opinion as to its lawfulness beforehand; the implementing agency would have been required to exhaustively articulate risk; the National Security Council would have had to judge it favorably; President Barack Obama would have had to authorize it; and the Congress would have had to have been briefed before its implementation.
And all concerned would have had the opportunity to reject a bad idea, whatever its rationale.
These routine safeguards not only protect agencies, their leaders and their officers from legal and political jeopardy, they also protect the government from serious missteps.
Now Holder, without such safeguards in place, must defend himself against some very tough accusations, including one by some skeptics that the operation was intended principally to discredit, and thereby justify further regulation of, firearms dealers.
This is where the schadenfreude comes in….
Please read the whole thing.