Does Fast and Furious Put Impeachment on The Table?

September 29, 2011 - 5:36 AM
"The story is one of not covert activity alone," intoned Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, "but of covert foreign policy .... It is a tale of working outside the system and of utilizing irregular channels and private parties accountable to no one, on matters of national security, while ignoring the Congress and even the traditional agencies of executive foreign policy making. The story is both sad and sordid."

Sen. Inouye was speaking not of the biggest scandal of the Obama administration, but of the biggest scandal of the Reagan administration -- the Iran-Contra scandal. In that scandal, the United States sold weapons to parties in Iran in an attempt to free Lebanese-held hostages, then funneled the weapons cash to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. The outcome of that scandal: indictments against the secretary of defense, the national security advisor, the assistant secretary of state, the chief of covert ops at the CIA and several others.

That scandal pales by comparison to the so-called Fast and Furious scandal now bubbling in Washington, D.C. In fall 2009, Eric Holder and the Department of Justice decided on a strategy supposedly designed to combat gun trafficking on the Mexican border. They didn't want the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seize illegal firearms anymore; instead, they wanted them to give firearms to members of the Mexican cartels.

According to the Congressional report, "ATFs Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns .... This shift in strategy was known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department." One goal was to identify "straw purchasers" -- legal gun purchasers who hand off those guns to illegal owners. Instead of arresting the straw purchasers and their contacts, however, ATF was to allow the guns to continue to flow to the Mexican drug cartels. "ATF and DOJ leadership were interested in seeing where these guns would ultimately end up," the report states. "ATF would only see these guns again after they turned up at a crime scene."

That's exactly what happened. The entire operation ended with only 20 indictments of straw purchasers -- indictments that could have happened immediately upon transfer of the weapons, stopping the flow. In fact, the straw purchasers, at issue, were known to be straw purchasers from the get-go.

The indictments only took place at all because U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered using the weapons authorized for free flow by ATF and DOJ. Terry wasn't the only person killed because of Fast and Furious -- the weapons OK'd by the DOJ and ATF were used in three murders, four kidnappings and an attempted murder in Mexico. They've been identified at 11 other crime scenes in the United States.

So what was the real goal of the DOJ and ATF? It certainly wasn't to shut down access to arms for the cartels -- the ATF was agreeing to such access. It wasn't to stop straw purchasers -- the ATF was signing off on the straw purchasers. It wasn't to track the movements of the cartel -- there was no way to do that. It was, very simply, to establish for political reasons that American guns were being used in crimes by foreign cartels.

This was the Reichstag fire of the Second Amendment. By authorizing the passage of weapons to America's enemies, President Obama and his administration clearly wanted to set up a narrative that America's lax gun laws were killing American troops and law enforcement officers. They wanted their misuse of law enforcement authority to create the impetus for a crackdown on gun sales in the United States.

How high does this go? Apparently, all the way to the top. The attorney general of the state of Arizona, a Democrat operative, has already resigned in an attempt to avoid the consequences of participating in this fiasco. Middle management at DOJ and ATF has already been thrown under the bus. The acting director of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, has already been defenestrated.

For his part, Obama has denied that Attorney General Eric Holder green-lit the operation, stating, "My attorney general has made clear he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico." This is less than credible -- how could the head of the DOJ not know about an operation of this magnitude handled by the DOJ? And how could President Obama not know? And why, if the DOJ is uninvolved, do they want a copy of Melson's confidential interview with Congressional staff?

If this scandal runs all the way up the chain of command -- and by all indicators, it could -- it is certainly an impeachable offense. This is a high crime, not a misdemeanor. Pushing an operation designed to undercut American freedoms that ends with the death of Americans is not only illegal, it is unconscionable. And unlike Iran-Contra, it wasn't done for the right reasons.