On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoenaed the Department of Justice. “Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” committee chairman Darrell E. Issa said. “The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.”
In fact, the committee’s legal assault on the stone wall surrounding the Justice Department’s collusion with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is only a waypoint in an epic, ongoing battle to uncover a scandal that involves nearly a dozen federal agencies.
The mainstream media continues to paint “Operation Fast and Furious” as the Obama administration wants it portrayed: a botched sting perpetrated with unintended consequences.
Thanks to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s allegedly “misleading” testimony to the committee about his knowledge of Fast and Furious and the subpoena that puts him in congressional cross hairs, the media mantra continues: What did he know and when did he know it?
It’s the “it” that continues to elude attention.
For one thing, the ATF didn’t “lose” some 2,000 firearms to Mexican gun smugglers. The bureau intentionally allowed firearms to “walk” from U.S. gun stores to members of the Sinaloa drug cartel. For another, Fast and Furious is only one spoke in an entire wheel of extralegal intrigue. For example:
Mr. Issa’s subpoena demands all Justice Department documents “referring or relating to the murder of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, including any correspondence outlining the details of Zapata’s mission at the time he was murdered.”
Zapata’s assassination didn’t receive nearly the publicity afforded U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry - despite the fact that both men died at the hands of drug thugs wielding ATF-enabled weapons. But Zapata’s case is the more potentially revealing of the two.
In February, cartel members stopped Zapata’s car as he drove from Monterrey to Mexico City. Thanks to his partner, Victor Avila (who survived the attack), we know Zapata’s last words: “We’re Americans. We’re diplomats.”
Zapata was not a diplomat but he was on some sort of diplomatic mission. According to both Mexican and American authorities, Zapata’s killers belonged to the Los Zetas drug cartel. Given accusations that the U.S. government has been supporting the Zetas’ deadly enemy - the Sinaloa cartel, recipients of Fast and Furious firearms - Zapata’s death could be directly related to America’s covert policy to choose sides in the “war on drugs.”
It’s highly unlikely the attorney general will fully honor Mr. Issa’s request for the details surrounding Zapata’s murder. Zapata’s death is the proverbial loose thread. If Mr. Holder releases the intelligence, Mr. Issa could use it to unravel a wide range of illegal activities. Truth be told, there are at least half a dozen other black bag jobs that Mr. Holder’s Justice Department would dearly like to keep under wraps.
There’s the FBI’s manipulation of the instant background check system to allow ATF-monitored felons to purchase firearms from U.S. gun stores. There’s Operation Castaway, another gun smuggling operation run out of Tampa, Fla. There’s the U.S. attorney’s office’s decision to overrule the ATF and release from custody a man who made machine guns and grenades. The man returned to Mexico.
There’s U.S.-government-sponsored arms and ammunition (including grenades) sales to the Mexican military and police - knowing full well that weapons seep to the drug cartels. There are the Mexican military raids against Zetas cartel members launched from U.S. soil.
There’s the sworn testimony of a captured cartel boss languishing in a Chicago prison. Vicente Zambada-Niebla says the U.S. government turned a blind eye to his narcoterrorist organization’s drug smuggling as part of America’s fight against Los Zetas.
According to sworn testimony, the Gunwalker scandal involves an entire alphabet soup of federal agencies: the ATF, FBI, DOJ (Department of Justice), DHS (Department of Homeland Security), ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and IRS (Internal Revenue Service), not to mention the State Department and White House.
In short, like Watergate, the Gunwalker scandal is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It’s just getting started.
If Mr. Issa follows the firearms, the Obama administration will have one last defense against a fatal firestorm of bad publicity and, lest we forget, criminal prosecution. National security. We did what we did (and we can’t tell you what we did) to protect America from her enemies.
In fact, the ATF and its enablers armed vicious criminals who shot an American citizen on American soil. Mr. Holder will say Agent Terry’s death was an accident, part of the pursuit of the greater good. But Mr. Holder won’t say that to Terry’s or Zapata’s family. Even if he did, it wouldn’t be true.
Robert Farago is managing editor of TheTruthAboutGuns.com.