Some of the firearms straw-purchased in Arizona for Mexican drug cartels, and allowed to “walk” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Operation Fast and Furious, may have been paid for with taxpayer money, by paid informants of the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI, according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Rep. Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, informed Attorney General Eric Holder in a July 5 letter that evidence gathered by Congress’ investigation of Fast and Furious indicates that “some of the gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants,” and 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.”
The letter to Holder follows a meeting between acting BATFE director Kenneth Melson and congressional staff on July 4, to explain what he knew about Fast and Furious and when he knew it. According to Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley, Melson said that BATFE had been kept in the dark about the other agencies’ activities related to the botched program, and that he promptly reported the agencies’ possible involvement to the acting Inspector General and acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole once it became known to him.
Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley also faulted the Justice Department for what appears to be a pattern of suppressing the testimony of officials who might be able to name names of those who knew about or approved the decisions that led to the BATFE losing track of thousands of straw-purchased firearms.
But the DOJ isn’t budging. Mr. Melson testified on personal time, with his personal lawyer present, as other department officials are within their rights to do. But Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said “discussions about whether and how to provide any such sensitive law enforcement information have been ongoing” and that the department is hesitating while it decides “whether such material appropriately should be provided and, if so, how to best protect ongoing investigations.”
Meanwhile, ABC-15 TV in Phoenix reports that 43 firearms recovered during a traffic stop of individuals now accused of conspiring to possess and distribute “a detectable amount of methamphetamine” were among the guns that Fast and Furious allowed to “walk.” Those firearms will never reach the cartels, but the vast majority of “walked” guns still remain at large.
Yet while most have now focused on the right issues—bad judgment and bad leadership by the BATFE and DOJ during the operation, and cover-ups after it ended—anti-gun groups and their media allies are increasingly trying to divert attention and promote their usual anti-gun agendas.
For example, an outrageous June 26 editorial in the Washington Post suggested that NRA and its members are actually responsible for the "Fast and Furious" disaster, due to our support of legislation that restricts the government from intruding on gun owners' privacy. To read the response by NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox, please click here.