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« Top Headline Comments 6-20-11 | Main | A Helpful Suggestion For Felipe Calderón »
June 20, 2011

WSJ: ATF Chief Likely To Be Ousted Over Gunwalker
The Wheels On the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round
[Bumped and Updated]

There's a report in the weekend Wall Street Journal suggesting that ATF head Kenneth Melson is about to take the fall for Operation Fast and Furious a/k/a Gunwalker.

The Justice Department is expected to oust the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to people familiar with the matter, amid a troubled federal antitrafficking operation that has grown into the agency's biggest scandal in nearly two decades.

Moves toward the replacement of Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director since April 2009, could begin next week, although the precise sequence of events remains to be decided, these people said.

Usual anonymous source caveats apply, but this burgeoning scandal is at about the stage where you'd expect the administration to sacrifice an underling in an attempt to limit the fallout. And this guy's just the "acting" head anyway, so no muss, no fuss.

It's a nice start, but according to the first report out of the House Oversight/Senate Judiciary Committee (pdf), "ATF led a strike force comprised of agents from ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)." Chances of a higher-up's head rolling are high in such a large-scale clusterfuck. My bet's on Napolitano.

I spent a little time reading through the linked report, and it is damning. Instapundit questions the timing, or more specifically, the timeline. And so do I.

Here's a brief recap of some relevant (IMO) events:

  • January 20, 2009: A hard-core, idealogical leftist becomes President. Gun control is right up there with high taxes and abortion-on-demand as a sacrament of the left, but the prospects for enacting gun control legislation look bleak due to a shift in public mood and the 2008 Heller decision along with a pesky lack of carnage from widespread adoption of shall-issue concealed carry laws and the 2004 expiration of the assault weapons ban.

  • March 26, 2009: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims on a flight to Mexico City that 90% of the firearms used by drug cartels in Mexico come from the U.S. After layers of rigorous fact-checking, the MBM repeated the claim. For example, USA Today:
    On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visit Mexico to discuss ways to stop the smuggling of American weapons, which Mexico says account for 90% of confiscated arms here. The meeting is part of an urgent American effort to aid Mexico as it fights a bloody war against drug cartels.
  • April 2009: The 90% claim is almost immediately debunked

    And lest some liberal scream Faux News!!11!, the 90% stat has been so widely debunked that even the liberal can't spin it.*

  • Fall 2009: Operation Fast and Furious begins.

  • November 2010: The body of kidnapped Mexican attorney Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez is discovered in a shallow grave. It is now reported that he was killed with guns allowed to be smuggled under Operation Fast and Furious.

  • December 14, 2010: Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is shot with an AK-47 allowed to be smuggled to Mexico under this operation. He died the following day.
The central question is, just what in the hell was the administration trying to accomplish here? Was this operation simply a colossally bad idea in pursuit of really stemming the (dramatically overstated) flow of guns to Mexico, or was it part of a larger agenda?

From that USA Today article:

Mexican President Felipe Calderón says little will change as long as the United States continues to make gun purchases so easy. His government is pressuring the Obama administration to tighten rules on sales, rather than just the cross-border transport of weapons.

"It is necessary to reduce the sale of weapons, particularly of high-powered weapons, in the United States," Calderón said Monday.

If you were a cynical person like me, you'd think that, since the whole plan under Fast and Furious can be paraphrased as "letting guns get smuggled to Mexico so they can be traced back to the U.S. after being used in crimes", maybe the administration has an ulterior motive. And maybe that motive was pretty well expressed by President Calderón.

It is certain from the testimony in the House Oversight Report that agents involved in the operation weren't troubled by the fact that their operation might have the effect of increasing violence in Mexico. Even if that violence spilled across to our side of the border.

Q. If you are going to make an omelette you have got to scramble some eggs. Do you remember the context of that?

A. Yes, sir. It was – there was a prevailing attitude amongst the group and outside of the group in the ATF chain of command, and that was the attitude. . . . I had heard that . . . sentiment from Special Agent [E] Special Agent [L], and Special Agent Voth. And the time referenced in the interview was, I want to say, in May as the GRIT team or gunrunner initiative team was coming out. I was having a conversation with Special Agent [L] about the case in which the conversation ended with me asking her are you prepared to go to a border agent’s funeral over this or a Cochise County deputy’s over this, because that’s going to happen. And the sentiment that was given back to me by both her, the group supervisor, was that . . . if you are going to make an omelette, you need to scramble some eggs.

~ Testimony of ATF Special Agent John Dodson

Whether Operation Fast and Furious was just a bad idea or a cynical ploy to push the left's gun control agenda, we need to get to the bottom of it. Throwing the head of the ATF under the bus is a nice gesture and all, but it's wholly inadequate.

* Addendum: The headline number has now been reduced to 70%. I presume this includes the OF&F guns, so who knows what it will fall to now that the U.S. government is (likely?) out of the smuggling business. The new number was contained in a report issued last week by 3 notoriously anti-gun Senators:

The report, issued by Democrat Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles Schumer of New York and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, recommended background checks for sales at gun shows, a ban on the import of nonsporting weapons and the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in force in the United States until 2004.

Calderon endorsed calls for reinstating the ban on domestic sales of assault rifles, saying its expiration in 2004 may have played a role in the increase of drug violence in Mexico.

"You can clearly see how the violence began to grow in 2005, and of course it has gone on an upward spiral in the last six years," Calderon said.

Nope. No reason to suspect a bigger agenda at work here.

digg this
posted by Andy at 10:08 AM

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