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"Fast and Furious" scandal has Obama administration in full cover-up mode

Monday, September 12, 2011

The more we learn about the “Fast and Furious” scandal — in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) illegally facilitated the transfer of thousands of guns to violent drug cartels in Mexico — the more apparent it is that we are witnessing a large-scale cover-up of epic proportions.

In fact, it’s getting difficult to keep up with all of the shuffling of key agency personnel who were involved in the deadly scandal. Here is a brief run-down of what transpired over the past two weeks:

* BATFE director Kenneth Melson was reassigned by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department to a new senior advisor role at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

* Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona, resigned from his post.

* Thanks to the tenacious investigations being led by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), it is now apparent that the lead prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, Emory Hurley, initially sought to cover up the fact that at least two illegal “Fast and Furious” guns were found at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The Justice Department recently transferred Hurley out of its criminal division to its civil division.

* We now know that White House officials knew more about the deadly “Fast and Furious” operation than they previously disclosed. Three White House officials — Kevin O’Reilly, Dan Restrepo and Greg Gatjanis — all received back-channel communications about “Fast and Furious” from BATFE’s then-special agent in charge of Phoenix, Bill Newell. Newell, as you might recall, was recently reassigned to a new job at Justice Department headquarters.

The Obama administration’s continued stonewalling and seemingly orchestrated cover-up of the “Fast and Furious” scandal is only adding to the overall tragedy of this situation.

It’s tragic that this harebrained scheme cost people their lives, including a brave American Border Patrol agent. It’s also tragic that at the same time the Obama administration was purposefully arming Mexican drug lords, Obama, Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were blaming American gun owners and our Second Amendment rights for violent crime in Mexico.

But as White House officials continue to hide details related to this scandal, they are now doing serious damage to the rule of law upon which our republic was built.

The longer this drags on, the more lasting the damage will be — not only to our overall institution of government but also to the ability of future leaders to hold federal agencies accountable and protect the sanctity of our freedoms.

For this reason, it’s time for an independent prosecutor to be assigned to this case. Only then will we have any chance of learning the truth so we can fix the problem.

Chris W. Cox is the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.