Paul wrote here that he doesn’t buy the theory, advanced by Bill Whittle and others, that the real purpose of the Fast and Furious program was to lend support to the assertion that the weapons used by drug gangs in Mexico come overwhelmingly when gun shops in the American Southwest, so as to advance the political cause of gun control in the U.S. Paul’s arguments were cogent as always, but I find that theory more plausible than Paul does.
First, though, some caveats: there is no hard evidence, at this point, that Fast and Furious was intended to spur the cause of gun control. Indeed, because the Obama administration has so far successfully stonewalled the Congressional committees that are investigating the scandal, we don’t know who conceived, initiated or approved the program. It is arguably premature to argue about motive when we don’t yet know whose motive we are talking about.
Further, the charge is a serious one that should not be entertained lightly. If the Obama administration really did promote violence in Mexico on purpose, with the foreseeable consequence that hundreds of people were murdered, in order to advance its domestic political agenda, it would be a scandal unparalleled in our modern history. Governments do stupid things, as Paul says, and the Obama administration now characterizes Fast and Furious as stupid. But if the theory advanced by Whittle and others is correct, Fast and Furious wasn’t just dumb, it was criminal. We certainly should be slow to draw such an explosive conclusion.
All of that said, I think the suggestion that Fast and Furious was politically motivated is rather plausible, for two reasons. First, no one has offered an alternative explanation for the program that makes any sense. The administration has suggested that it was trying to make cases against higher-ups in the drug cartels. But how could that possibly have worked? Under Fast and Furious, straw purchasers were allowed to cross the border unimpeded. At that point, if not before, no effort was made to track either the purchasers or the guns. The Obama administration kept the program secret from the Mexican government. So how could any cases against drug kingpins possibly have been made? The guns were lost, and the only way they would be found is if they showed up at a crime scene. But at that point, DOJ had no link between the gun and anyone other than the original straw purchaser–and, of course, the gun shop that sold it at ATF’s request.
This is why the ATF whistleblowers who eventually brought the program to light thought it was not just misguided, but crazy: they could see no possible law enforcement justification for letting thousands of guns walk into the hands of drug gangs. And when the program came to light, the administration responded by initiating prosecutions to try to show that it had not been without value; but those prosecutions were not of higher-ups, but of straw purchasers who could have been arrested at any time during the preceding months.
The second reason I find the political hypothesis plausible is that when news reports about Fast and Furious began to surface, the administration at all levels promptly lied about it. If the program had a legitimate purpose, albeit one that was not achieved, one would think that the administration would explain what that purpose was and why it believed the program made sense. But instead, administration spokesmen lied about the essential nature of the program, implying that they knew there was no publicly-acceptable justification for what actually happened.
Thus, when a reporter from the Arizona Republic asked Bill Newell, who ran Fast and Furious for ATF in Phoenix, whether the Bureau had ever allowed guns to “walk,” Newell replied, “Hell no!” In fact, gunwalking was the entire point and essence of Fast and Furious, and DOJ’s internal emails continually use the term “gunwalking” to describe Fast and Furious. Similarly, when ATF whistleblowers had gotten the attention of Senate and House committees, and the Department of Justice responded to a letter from Senator Charles Grassley on February 4, 2011, DOJ completely misrepresented what Fast and Furious was all about:
At the outset, the allegation described in your January 27 letter–that ATF “sanctioned” or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico–is false. ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.
Ten months later, DOJ admitted that these statements were false.
So, to sum up, if Fast and Furious had a legitimate purpose, why didn’t the administration defend that legitimate purpose truthfully, rather than lie about the essential nature of the program?
Again, I want to emphasize that at this point, we can only speculate about how and why Fast and Furious came into being. Until the Obama administration is more forthcoming with information–something that likely will never happen–we may never be able to get past speculation. In the meantime, the best source to learn more about the scandal is Katie Pavlich’s Fast and Furious.
I read Fast and Furious last night in preparation for an interview early this morning on Wisconsin Public Radio. The interview, by substitute host Rob Ferrett, was intelligently conducted and I thought brought out a lot of good information. We took a couple of calls, too, one from a guy who had heard the Democratic Party line. It was an entertaining 19 minutes; you can listen to it right here if you are so inclined: