Fast and Furious Scandal: What Did Obama Know, and When Did He Know It?

John W. Lillpop

Who would ever imagine that the administration of the most liberal president in U.S. history would actually sell guns, including AK-47 assault rifles, to “straw purchasers,” with the intent of tracing the flow of said weapons into Mexico?

And who could possibly imagine that some of those same weapons would end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels and be used in murders including that of a border patrol agent?

Could this botched project titled, “Fast and Furious” be a part of Obama’s “under the radar” assault on the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution otherwise known as Project Gunrunner?

Is the Justice Department obstructing an investigation into the scandal?

Those intriguing questions are being pursued with vigor by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

As reported, in part, at the reference:

“The closed-door testimony of ATF’s acting director, saying that the Justice Department was obstructing a congressional investigation, has prompted an expansion of that ongoing probe into the controversial “Fast and Furious” weapons-smuggling operation.

“We’ll go wherever the investigation takes us,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a key inquisitor in probing the operation, during which guns, including AK-47 assault rifles, were “walked” into Mexico.
He said the weekend testimony of Kenneth E. Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, had corroborated information that “more agencies within the Justice Department may have been involved in allowing guns to fall into the hands of known straw purchasers.”

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday that the Melson testimony “raises new questions” about the scope of the program and certainly “justifies an expansion of the investigation.”

“After talking with the acting ATF director, I think we have a greater insight into what happened and what questions need to be asked to lead to some final answers as to who authorized this program and why,” said spokesman Frederick Hill, whose boss also has been a key player in the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile Thursday, Mexican police released a videotaped interview of Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, in which the recently captured No. 3 leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel said “all the weapons” the Zetas use were “bought in the United States” and that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons.”

Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa have been investigating accusations that Operation Fast and Furious, part of an anti-gun initiative known as “Project Gunrunner,” allowed thousands of weapons to be purchased by “straw buyers” in Arizona and Texas that later were “walked” unchecked to drug smugglers in Mexico.

At least three of those weapons, including two AK-47 assault rifles, later were found at the site of separate shootings that claimed the lives of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, who was killed by Rejon Aguilar’s Zetas, and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry.
The lawmakers also want to know what role other federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), played in the operation.

Last weekend, Mr. Melson said during two closed-door interviews that the senior leadership at the agency wanted to cooperate in the congressional probe but were stopped by Justice Department officials who took control of all briefing and document requests. Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa, in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., accused Justice of “muzzling” the director.

Mr. Melson confirmed information the committee has been investigating that some of the suspected gun traffickers targeted by ATF in the Fast and Furious probe may have been working with the FBI and DEA without ATF’s knowledge.

He also confirmed concerns expressed by several ATF agents during their recent testimony before Mr. Issa’s committee that while they witnessed the transfer of weapons from the straw buyers to others, they were not allowed to follow the guns further as they made their way to Mexico. He told the investigators he became aware of “this startling possibility” only after the killing of Mr. Terry and the indictments of the straw purchasers.

“We have very real indications from several sources 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,” Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa wrote in the letter to Mr. Holder. “The acting director said ATF was kept in the dark about certain activities of other agencies, including DEA and FBI.”

In the videotape, Rejon Aguilar told Mexican police that his gang – considered that country’s most violent – had armed itself with weapons “bought in the United States.”

Rep. Issa has already stated that he knows with certitude that Attorney General Eric Holder knew about Fast and Furious much earlier than Holder has admitted.

This is a huge scandal with enormous implications that could rival the Iran-Contra mess in gravity.

Thank goodness the American people had the good sense to install a GOP majority in the U.S. House last November.

If Nancy Pelosi was still House Speaker, we might never learn the answer to, “What did the president know and when did he know it?’

John W. Lillpop
San Jose, California
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