I’ve decided to start a new feature here at United Liberty, one that would run on a monthly basis. I’m calling it “7 on the 7th.” It will be a list of 7 agencies, on the 7th of the month, that we should get rid of. The purpose is to showcase just how many government agencie that exist, which most Americans just don’t realize. While they may think the government does too much stuff, I doubt that many know just what the government really does. Most don’t know about the ridiculous organizations that are prt of our government, and I can say because I don’t know.
So this will be informative not just for you, dear reader, but also for yours truly. What sort of stupid things can we uncover? Feel free to submit your suggestions for next month’s feature in the comments (but please, don’t be silly and tell me we must get rid of the Department of Defense; we’re moderate, sensible libertarians here, not barking-at-the-moon anarcho-capitalists.) Hopefully, if enough on the web read this feature, we may be able to spark a genuine discussion about the role of government and what it should actually be doing, so when some politician says we need more money to fund essential services, we can tell him (or her) that nothing he (or she) is demanding funding for is actually essential.
Now, on to the inaugural list. For this one I’ve decided to go for the low-hanging fruit, to get them out of the way and remove temptations for future entries. I don’t really expect to surprise anyone with these, but that just goes to show you how many folks think a lot of what our government does is rubbish.
1 - Department of Homeland Security
By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Operation Fast and Furious, which actually is not an effort to catch illegal drag racers. Instead, it’s an operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) where it’s been alleged that BATFE agents let tons of firearms flow south of the border by people they knew to be buying for the Mexican drug cartels. One of these guns was reportedly used to kill US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
The gun rights community, predictably, is up in arms (pun unintended) about it. Some are going so far as to claim it is all part of an effort to push forward increased gun regulations here. Yesterday, President Obama claimed executive priviledge regarding documents that Congress and subpenoaed. They had ordered them eight months ago.
Now, first let me address the conspiracy theory regarding using Fast and Furious being a way to push forward regulations here. I might have had something to do with that one. Months ago, on a blog that is no longer up on the net, I wrote that if I were inclined towards conspiracy theories, I would believe such a thing. After all, the use of American guns by drug cartels was cited by both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as reasons why we needed tougher gun regulations in the US. This was while Fast and Furious was going on and sending a proverbial buttload of guns down to Mexico…guns that BATFE knew about and did nothing to prevent.
Of course, a report from CBS News from December, 2011 looks like I might have been on to something:
Throughout this Fast & Furious mess, nearly everyone has paid attention to just Darrell Issa and Eric Holder squaring off in a Congress committee room. But there’s another thing that should be focused on, that being the agency at the heart of this disgrace. But I surely cannot have been the only person to ask this question:
Why do we even have ATF around anymore?
Well, maybe I have. Bear with me as I try to answer it.
Let’s read their mission statement:
A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.
A “unique” agency? How can unique can that be?
“protects our communities from violent criminals” – Doesn’t every law enforcement agency do that?
“criminal organizations” – Sounds more like an FBI job or something for the gang squad of a local PD
“the illegal use and trafficking of firearms” – Okay, I can sorta see this one
“the illegal use and storage of explosives” – This one too, sort of, but I would think that other agencies could also handle explosions quite readily
“acts of arson and bombings” – Two words: fire department. Okay, four more: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Operation Gunrunner, also known as Operation Fast & Furious, has been a bit of an embarrassment to the BATFE to say the least. The operation, which knowingly permitted illegal straw purchases to go through, knowing that the guns would be send south of the boarder to Mexican drug gangs, hasn’t gone as sunny as planners had hoped. Now, the spotlight in turning onto Attorney General Eric Holder and his Justice Department.
The ATF’s acting director, Kenneth Melson, has been singing like a canary to congressional investigators as he pushes back against administration pressure for him to resign and take the fall for something that, at the very least, had to include the US Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and possibly the Homeland Security Department.
In a letter to Holder released yesterday, Rep. Daryl Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley accused the Justice Department of blocking their investigation into the burgeoning scandal (which has resulted in the deaths of at least two American agents and countless Mexican civilians), muzzling the ATF and involving other federal agencies, including the FBI and the DEA, in funding the crackpot scheme.
“The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities,” they wrote.
Sometimes, I just shake my head at the ignorance. I mean, it must require a certain willful stupidity to put your head in the sand and believe that government can make all the bad men stop.
Right now, the left is trying to figure out how to destroy our freedoms in an effort to curb future terrorist acts like the Boston Marathon bombing. Now, the irony of how they bucked at the right’s efforts after 9/11 isn’t exactly lost on me. However, that’s something to chuckle about later…after we stop this kneejerk reaction and undo the Right’s kneejerk reactions from the last decade.
Over at ThinkProgress.org, they’re already wringing their hands at the idea of restricting various kinds of powder such as black powder, smokeless powder, and whatever the hell it is they put in fireworks:
NBC’s David Gregory may be in a bit of trouble for having a 30 round AR-15 magazine on his show, Meet the Press, recently. The issue is that the show is filmed in Washington, DC, and 30 round magazines are illegal in the District of Columbia. It’s been widely reported that Gregory sought permission from DC law enforcement to use the prop, and was told no.
Now, it appears that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is saying that they told the anti-gun journalist that it was fine to use the magazine.
The ATF official told CNN on Thursday that a reporter with NBC News - not Gregory - called ATF last Friday to inquire whether it would be legal to have ammunition or an empty magazine on the set of the Sunday show, which is broadcast from Washington.
The ATF official said he reached out to officers with the MPD to ask if that was permissible.
“What was relayed back to me - which turned out to be a miscommunication - is ammunition was not legal unless (in the possession of an officer), but a magazine was not a problem,” said the official, who passed along the information to NBC.
The detail about empty magazines being legal in Washington was apparently inaccurate. Possessing a large-capacity ammunition device, such as a magazine, is illegal in the District of Columbia if the device holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Of course, BATFE allegedly relayed the information to Gregory’s people and the host used the magazine. The official also told CNN that he did not give Gregory permission, only relayed the information as he understood it.
Last month, Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report that acknowledged the short-comings of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Operation Fast and Furious, assigning responsibility to more than a dozen officials. The report, however, left many questions unanswered — including, as Jim Geraghty explained, how Attorney General Eric Holder was seemingly unaware of an operation in which ATF agents knowingly allowed thousands of weapons cross the border and wind up in the hands of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels.
With Holder uncooperative during congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious — and later shielded by President Obama — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, let it be known at the time that the report was not a definitive account of the scandal, vowing to continue digging.
Issa has followed through on that promise. According to a new report, issued jointly with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Issa slammed the management at the DOJ for not shutting down Operation Fast and Furious as it grew increasingly out of control, costing the lives of innocent people:
House Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), have tried to dig deep into the sordid mess of Operation Fast and Furious, only to be meet with hostility from Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department.
The scheme led by the ATF, in which agents knowingly allowed some 2,000 guns to cross the border and into the hands of some of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels, resulted in the deaths of more than 200 innocent people, including Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. When Issa and other tried to get answers, they were stonewalled and lied to by Holder. President Barack Obama invoked “executive privilege” to keep documents related to the scandal out of the hands of investigators, despite Americans’ desire for transparency.
But a new report released yesterday sheds at least some light on the scandal and those who will ultimately bear responsibility for it:
The Justice Department’s inspector general recommended on Wednesday that 14 current federal officials face disciplinary reviews over the botched gun-trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious.
The storm may have gotten a little quiet since the House of Representatives voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, but it may be getting loud again soon thanks to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Hill reports that Sen. Grassley has sent a request to the Justice Department demanding more information on Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF gunwalking scheme that allowed firearms and munitions to cross the border with Mexico and into the hands of violent drug cartels:
On Tuesday, Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Holder questioning who within the Justice Department knew of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum reportedly circulated one day prior to the DOJ denying allegations of sanctioned “gunwalking” to lawmakers.
“I believe the Department should have been abundantly aware of allegations of gunwalking as there was more than one ATF agent providing information to Department components before the February 4, 2011, letter was sent to Congress,” he wrote.
Grassley alleges that his investigators contacted an ATF special agent on Feb. 2, 2011, who confirmed information provided by other ATF whistleblowers. The next day, that agent produced a memo documenting this discussion, which reportedly traveled through ATF’s chain of command.
The American Future Fund, a prominent GOP-leaning PAC that has committed millions for ads in the current election cycle, is looking to capitalize on the recent headache for Attorney General Eric Holder, who is facing a pending contempt vote in the House.
Now infamous, Operation Fast and Furious allowed ATF agents to knowingly allow straw purchasers to walk guns across the Mexico border in the midst of a violent war between drug cartels. Sadly, some of the weapons were used in the murders of dozens of innocent people. Since coming to light, the Obama Administration has been less than cooperative in providing information about the operation to Congress.
The new ad starts off with the mention of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in January 2010. AFF notes that weapons linked to the operation were linked at the scene of his murder. The ad points out that President Obama has denied knowledge of the operation and inconsistancies in Holder’s own testimony on the operation.