Washington Post: Congress Has A Right To Investigate Fast And Furious
Well, this is a bit of a shocker. The Editorial Board comes out in favor of Congress
Perhaps it’s true, as the White House has argued, that Mr. Issa’s investigation has degenerated into a partisan fishing expedition. And perhaps yielding to that would discourage candor in the councils of this and future administrations, as the Obama administration, echoing a standard plea of its predecessors, asserts.
But Congress’s authority to gather information is broad – as broad as its sweeping powers to legislate, spend public money and hold executive officials accountable through impeachment. No doubt a lot of congressional investigations are partisan fishing expeditions. For better or worse, that comes with the democratic territory. Absent very strong countervailing considerations – stronger than some of those the administration has asserted in this case – Congress is generally entitled to disclosure.
The editorial also mentions earlier that we would not have gotten to this point if “an assistant attorney general had not responded to a February 2011 inquiry from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) by mistakenly denying that there ever was an Operation Fast and Furious” which was then exposed by whistleblowers. Nor would we have been at this point had the DOJ cooperated with Congress from the get-go. If they had provided the documents requested, instead of only around 8% which saw huge numbers of redactions. Nor if AG Eric Holder had been forthcoming and open instead of obtuse and stonewalling, telling Congress fibs.
Then we get to Eugene Robinson, who gets many facts wrong in the article, describes the inquiry as a “fishing expedition,” and calls this “politically motivated”, then gets a few more facts wrong
Congress has not only the right but also the duty to investigate how such a bad idea as gun-walking was conceived and executed over five years – and to make sure nothing of the sort happens again. The problem is that Issa isn’t interested in the truth. He just wants to score political points.
Issa’s focus isn’t on the operation itself. It’s on what Holder and Justice Department officials did or did not say last year when questions were first raised.
He gets the first part right, that Congress does have a duty. The rest he gets wrong: Issa was attempting to find out what went wrong with F&F, why the guns were allowed to walk without being tracked at all, why ATF agents were specifically told to neither stop the guns at the border nor track them after, why the government of Mexico was not informed of the operation like with the earlier Operation Wide Receiver, and who authorized this operation, at which point he was stonewalled and misled.
What should Congress be investigating? The obvious first step is learning how officials in two administrations convinced themselves it was sensible to stand back and watch as powerful weapons passed into the hands of Mexican drug smugglers.
Eugene just reversed himself, because that is what Issa is attempting to do, and getting little cooperation from the DOJ and the AG. And, let’s be clear: both were stupid. But, Wide Receiver involved around 500 weapons, the Mexican authorities knew about it, and there were methods in place to track the guns. Unfortunately, the cartels found ways of defeating those methods, and as soon as they started to lose the guns, the ATF shut the program down. Furthermore, this was limited to the ATF only, rather than an alphabet soup of federal agencies. Nor is there any evidence that this program was authorized at higher levels, nor that top people in the DOJ knew about it.
Fast and Furious, however, was kept going even after they lost the guns, which involved about 2,000 weapons. Nor was it shut down when Mexican citizens were being killed with the guns. It wasn’t until Border Agent Brian Terry was murdered and two F&F weapons were found was it shut down. And, one has to wonder, if the AG has been open and forthright, why would people with the Obama administration scream at Sharyl Attkinson for investigating? We know that Holder was provided with documents much earlier about the operation than he originally claimed. If he failed to read documents on a program that walked guns into another country without tracking them, which could violate international arms trafficking agreements, he should resign due to incompetence.
Obviously, Eugene thinks Issa should investigate something else
If Issa really wants to save U.S. and Mexican lives, he should convene hearings on banning the sale of high-powered weapons. I think Holder would be happy to testify.
I’m not totally bought in on the theory that F&F was meant to create a situation to make passing restrictive gun laws here in the US easier, but, it wouldn’t be shocking if it were true.