Remember Operation Fast and Furious? The program, run out of the U.S. Department of Justice, funneled thousands of firearms to members of Mexico’s drug cartels, and only came to public attention after one of those guns was used to murder Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December of 2010. For months Attorney General Eric Holder asserted that the DOJ did not knowingly let firearms pass unimpeded into the hands of some of Mexico’s most notorious criminals before reluctantly conceding that yes, in fact, the department had done the inexcusable.
Still, Holder refused to discuss what had taken so long for the agency to reveal the truth, and when Congress subpoenaed DOJ communications to get the answers, the Obama administration stonewalled lawmakers. For years the fight played out in court, until Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected the administration’s claims of executive privilege. In a document dump last Friday night, the Justice Department reluctantly handed over most (but not all) of the documents subpoenaed by Congress.
Investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be poring over the thousands of documents for weeks to come, but committee chair Jason Chaffetz has already released several damning emails showing the clear intent of the DOJ to avoid responsibility for the awful operation that armed Mexico’s deadly cartels.
One email from the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs shows how the agency tried to deflect attention from the scandal by using the NRA as a punching bag. After the gun owners group sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee urging the body to hold hearings on ATF’s gun trafficking, DOJ official Ron Weich told his superiors, “The NRA’s now-public involvement in this may be useful in convincing reporters that this is part of the overall effort to discredit the ATF.”
Rather than being concerned about a government program that armed drug cartels, Weich appeared far more interested in spinning the story, using the NRA’s letter to “convince reporters” that there was nothing to the scandal, and that this was just another attempt to discredit the agency. In reality, the NRA was right to be concerned, and the DOJ response shows that the biggest priority for the administration was to look for the best spin about the scandal, not getting to the bottom of how this operation was ever approved in the first place.
This email is just one of many already released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that document the DOJ’s twisted priorities regarding Operation Fast and Furious. But as the committee notes, the most recent document dump amounts to more than 20,000 pages of previously withheld communications. Chances are we’ll see even more damning evidence of the administration’s disregard for truth and transparency in the days and weeks to come.