The Real Story of Fast and Furious

When George Bush was in the White House, liberals had a fantasy president named Jed Bartlett on The West Wing. We realized it was fiction. With Barack Obama in the White House, conservatives have a fantasy president named Barack Hussein Obama (with a different biography than the real Obama) and alternative history playing out in real time in the conservative media.

Conservatives do not realize they are reading fiction. Stories are spread to excite conservatives which generally have little relationship to the reality. For a long time Fast and Furious has dominated the conservative media, with everyone else ignoring the story. Now that Darrell Issa is abusing his power in Congress to launch a witch hunt, reporters are starting to look at the actual facts. Katherine Eban has a report in Forbes. Here is a portion of her article:

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It’s a story that starts with a grudge, specifically Dodson’s anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration, which, for its part, has capitulated in an apparent effort to avoid a rhetorical battle over gun control in the run-up to the presidential election. (A Justice Department spokesperson denies this and asserts that the department is not drawing conclusions until the inspector general’s report is submitted.)

“Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false,” says Linda Wallace, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit who was assigned to the Fast and Furious team (and recently retired from the IRS). A self-described gun-rights supporter, Wallace has not been criticized by Issa’s committee.

The ATF’s accusers seem untroubled by evidence that the policy they have pilloried didn’t actually exist. “It gets back to something basic for me,” says Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). “Terry was murdered, and guns from this operation were found at his murder site.” A spokesman for Issa denies that politics has played a role in the congressman’s actions and says “multiple individuals across the Justice Department’s component agencies share responsibility for the failure that occurred in Operation Fast and Furious.” Issa’s spokesman asserts that even if ATF agents followed prosecutors’ directives, “the practice is nonetheless gun walking.” Attorneys for Dodson declined to comment on the record.

For its part, the ATF would not answer specific questions, citing ongoing investigations. But a spokesperson for the agency provided a written statement noting that the “ATF did not exercise proper oversight, planning or judgment in executing this case. We at ATF have accepted responsibility and have taken appropriate and decisive action to insure that these errors in oversight and judgment never occur again.” The statement asserted that the “ATF has clarified its firearms transfer policy to focus on interdiction or early intervention to prevent the criminal acquisition, trafficking and misuse of firearms,” and it cited changes in coordination and oversight at the ATF.

Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal. But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

Further in the story:

It was nearly impossible in Arizona to bring a case against a straw purchaser. The federal prosecutors there did not consider the purchase of a huge volume of guns, or their handoff to a third party,  sufficient evidence to seize them. A buyer who certified that the guns were for himself, then handed them off minutes later, hadn’t necessarily lied and was free to change his mind. Even if a suspect bought 10 guns that were recovered days later at a Mexican crime scene, this didn’t mean the initial purchase had been illegal. To these prosecutors, the pattern proved little. Instead, agents needed to link specific evidence of intent to commit a crime to each gun they wanted to seize.

None of the ATF agents doubted that the Fast and Furious guns were being purchased to commit crimes in Mexico. But that was nearly impossible to prove to prosecutors’ satisfaction. And agents could not seize guns or arrest suspects after being directed not to do so by a prosecutor. (Agents can be sued if they seize a weapon against prosecutors’ advice. In this case, the agents had a particularly strong obligation to follow the prosecutors’ direction given that Fast and Furious had received a special designation under the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. That designation meant more resources for the case, but it also provided that prosecutors take the lead role.)

There is far more in this lengthy report, concluding with:

Issa’s claim that the ATF is using the Fast and Furious scandal to limit gun rights seems, to put it charitably, far-fetched. Meanwhile, Issa and other lawmakers say they want ATF to stanch the deadly tide of guns, widely implicated in the killing of 47,000 Mexicans in the drug-war violence of the past five years. But the public bludgeoning of the ATF has had the opposite effect. From 2010, when Congress began investigating, to 2011, gun seizures by Group VII and the ATF’s three other groups in Phoenix dropped by more than 90%.

What is reported here sounds quite a bit different from what is being discussed on Fox. We’ve seen this many times before.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    JUDI says:

    The Real Story of Fast and Furious – http://t.co/3puDztMB NOT the GOP version…

  2. 2
    Lije says:

    The Real Story of Fast and Furious – http://t.co/3puDztMB NOT the GOP version…

  3. 3
    John Sonntag says:

    The Real Story of Fast and Furious – http://t.co/2iSUsMP3 http://t.co/2iSUsMP3

  4. 4
    Neo says:

    Essentially, Fortune is saying that the “whistleblower” was lying, but it’s like Fortune is stuck in a time warp …

    <i><a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://www.scribd.com/nationaljournal/d/98293331-Rep-Issa-Letter-to-Obama-Re-Executive-Privilege”>Internally</a>,   over the course of the next eight months, the Justice Department   identified 140,000 pages of documents and communications responsive to   the Committee’s subpoena.  Yet,the Department handed over only 7,600 of   these pages.  Through a series of accommodations and in recognition of   certain Executive Branch and law enforcement prerogatives, the  Committee  prioritized key documents the Department needed to produce to  avoid  contempt proceedings.  <b>These key documents would help  the Committee  understand how and why the Justice Department moved from  denying  whistleblower allegations to understanding they were true</b>;  the  identities of officials who attempted to retaliate against   whistleblowers; the reactions of senior Department officials when   confronted with evidence of gunwalking during Fast and Furious,including whether they were surprised or already aware of the use of this   reckless tactic, and; whether senior Department officials are being held   to the same standard as lower-level employees who have been blamed for Fast and Furious by their politically-appointed bosses in Washington.</i>

    Fortune sounds exactly like the DOJ position prior to withdrawing their Feb ’11 letter to Issa last November.

  5. 5
    Democrat4Life4Ever says:

    The REAL story of FAST & FURIOUS because #GOPLies & #NotTheSmartPeopleBelieve http://t.co/aUzH3kEq #tcot #p2

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