Operation Fast and Furious
Like a broken record, Obama claims to need four more years to fix the economy because he inherited from George W. Bush the worst economy since the Great Depression. He tells us when he took office he found it was worse than he thought, but that rings hollow. After all, if he thought it was the worst since the Great Depression, how much worse could it have been? Regardless, we need to revisit the claim that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression. Is it really? I think Ronald Reagan would argue differently were he with us today.
According to historical data of the Federal Reserve Bank, when Obama took office, the Fed’s prime interest rate was only 3.25%. By contrast, just one month before Reagan took office from President Jimmy Carter, the prime rate hit an all-time high of 21.5%, dropping to “only” 20.5% the day he took office. The inflation rate Obama inherited was zero, whereas Reagan inherited an inflation rate of 13.5%. The economy under Jimmy Carter was so bad that a new term, “Misery Index”, was created (an economic measure derived by adding the inflation rate to the unemployment rate). The price of gold, a bellwether reflecting economic stability, hit an all-time high in the last year of Carter’s presidency, reaching $2328/ounce in 2011-inflation adjusted dollars. We could go on and on, but the point is that Ronald Reagan would have gladly traded the economy he inherited for the one Obama inherited. Granted, the economy Obama inherited was bad, but not the worst, and he asked us for it.
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.
Despite the Justice Department coming under fire for its seizure of AP phone records, which put the press in the middle of the Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers, Attorney General Eric Holder is planning another controversial move.
Holder, who is certainly no stranger to scandal due to the DOJ’s involvement in Operation Fast and Furious and his subsequent refusal to turnover documents related to the gun-running scheme, is planning to use “regulatory power to make smaller changes” to gun control laws:
In an interview with Attorney General Eric Holder, after discussing the IRS scandal of seizing AP phone records, NPR’s Carrie Johnson checked in with Holder on the issue of gun control. According to Johnson, Holder stated that although the White House lost the battle over expanding background checks for gun purchasers, the administration will be trying again later this year to push gun control in Congress and using their “regulatory power to make smaller changes in the meantime.” Confirming the administration’s unrelenting commitment to what many believe is an infringement of the Second Amendment, Holder declared that the goal is, “moving the needle in the way in which the American people want, which is to make guns less accessible to people that should not have them.”
A day after criticizing the IRS over the targeting of Tea Party groups, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, slammed President Barack Obama and the White House for not knowing about the scandals that have recently plagued the administration.
He showed that President Obama’s said that he’d heard about the IRS scandal through news reports, rather than hearing about it from officials in the agency. That, by the way, is odd since President Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that White House lawyers knew about the investigation into the allegations in April.
Stewart showed that this is actually a pattern when it comes to stories that reflect badly on President Obama and leadership failures, noting that the same line was given in response to Operation Fast and Furious. “You know,” said Stewart, “I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announcing it on television!”
Check out the segment below:
Not only is the Obama Administration dealing with the Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups, they now have another scandal emerging. The Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that the Justice Department (DOJ) had obtained phone records of journalists who work for the news organization:
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
The Obama Administration has been trying to crackdown on whistleblowers and leaks to the press, and it appears that this exactly what’s going on here. The DOJ is investigating a leak to the AP that stems from a story dealing with a terrorist plot in Yemen that the new organization ran last May.
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:
While it’s not as hilarious as Al Gore’s altitude theory, there is more speculation into why President Barack Obama may have been off his game during Wednesday evening’s debate. At the Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard reports that looming story on donor scandal may have been weighing heavily on Obama’s mind:
According to knowledgeable sources, a national magazine and a national web site are preparing a blockbuster donor scandal story.
Sources told Secrets that the Obama campaign has been trying to block the story. But a key source said it plans to publish the story Friday or, more likely, Monday.
According to the sources, a taxpayer watchdog group conducted a nine-month investigation into presidential and congressional fundraising and has uncovered thousands of cases of credit card solicitations and donations to Obama and Capitol Hill, allegedly from unsecure accounts, and many from overseas. That might be a violation of federal election laws.
The Obama campaign has received hundreds of millions in small dollar donations, many via credit card donations through their website. On Thursday, the campaign announced a record September donor haul of $150 million.
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.