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June 22, 2011 10:10 AM Issa plays ‘Fast and Furious’ with the facts

By Steve Benen

Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is furious about an ATF anti-gun-trafficking operation called “Fast and Furious,” launched last year. As Issa sees it, officials showed “felony-stupid bad judgment” in pursuing the policy, and never should have allowed the operation to proceed.

Issa, however, has a fairly dramatic problem to overcome: he was fine with “Fast and Furious” last year.

A chief Republican critic of a controversial U.S. anti-gun-trafficking operation was briefed on ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program last year and did not express any opposition, sources familiar with the classified briefing said Tuesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who has repeatedly called for top Justice Department officials to be held accountable for the now-defunct operation, was given highly specific information about it at an April 2010 briefing, the sources said. Members of his staff also attended the session, which Issa and two other Republican congressmen had requested. […]

At the briefing last year, bureau officials laid out for Issa and other members of Congress from both parties details of several ATF investigations, including Fast and Furious, the sources said. For that program, the briefing covered how many guns had been bought by “straw purchasers,” the types of guns and how much money had been spent, said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the briefing was not public.

“All of the things [Issa] has been screaming about, he was briefed on,” said one source familiar with the session.

Oops.

To be sure, this isn’t a defense of the operation itself, which targeted Mexican gun traffickers, but has been linked to the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and the illegal export of guns into Mexico. ATF took a risk that appears to have failed.

The point, though, is that Issa thinks he has the credibility to complain incessantly about this. He doesn’t. Issa and his staff received a detailed briefing about the program, and had an opportunity to raise questions or objections. He declined.

Issa now wants officials to be “held accountable” for their “felony-stupid bad judgment.” Perhaps he should start by looking in the mirror.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on June 22, 2011 10:19 AM:

    Issa - 'fast and furious?'

    I'll give you the 'furious,' but that boy ain't none too quick.

    But, since voters have the memory of Mayflies, unless it involves dick pic's from Democratic Congressmen, he'll get away with this - again.

    Just like the ones bitching about Libya today were the first in line to goose-step behind Little Boots into Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • stevio on June 22, 2011 10:27 AM:

    I am going to be saying this a lot but Issa is no different than McConnell and the rest. They hate Obama and want him to fail. At everything. Anything to clog up the process and make it look like his administration is incompetent.

    Until Obama puts a face on this strategy he'll be doomed to face it's results. His unemployment in 2012

  • jpeckjr on June 22, 2011 10:31 AM:

    From what I've heard about the "Fast and Furious" program in the media, primarily NPR, it seemed like a good idea at the time to everyone. Turned out to be a very, very bad idea that was very, very badly implemented. It happens in every human endeavor -- government, business, education, personal life.

    "Don't you think it would be a great idea to make $300,000 mortgages to people with no jobs?" Sounded like a good idea at the time to someone.

    A Congressional investigation of "Fast and Furious" is fully warranted. Someone in the course of the hearings, probably a Democrat, will acknowledge they didn't see it coming.

    I mean no respect to Rep. Issa in making this comment.

  • T2 on June 22, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Issa is probably as familiar with felonies as anyone in Congress.

  • TeldarPaper on June 22, 2011 10:48 AM:

    If Republicans and Democrats agreed with this inane and idiotic operation, then any investigation will go nowhere.

    Which is a shame because any operation that knowingly allows gun runners to break U.S. laws to purchase firearms illegally, then take said weapons across the border - all under the implicit aegis of the ATF - is criminal.

    How many persons were killed using those weapons? At least one Border Patrol agent was. Maybe Issa and Holder and every other bureaucrat and legislator involved with this operation can personally apologize to that agent's family.

  • Jamie on June 22, 2011 10:52 AM:

    well, accountability at last, that's going to empty out most of DC

  • cardsfan on June 22, 2011 11:58 AM:

    From what I've heard about the "Fast and Furious" program in the media, primarily NPR, it seemed like a good idea at the time to everyone. Turned out to be a very, very bad idea that was very, very badly implemented. It happens in every human endeavor -- government, business, education, personal life.

    "Don't you think it would be a great idea to make $300,000 mortgages to people with no jobs?" Sounded like a good idea at the time to someone.

    A Congressional investigation of "Fast and Furious" is fully warranted. Someone in the course of the hearings, probably a Democrat, will acknowledge they didn't see it coming.

    I mean no respect to Rep. Issa in making this comment.

    I was thinking along the same lines. Not to defend Rep. Issa, but I don't think Steve is being particularly fair here.

    It is not unreasonable at all to think that the briefing answered any question Rep. Issa may have had, and the briefers may have done a convincing job persuading him that they were fully capable of handling the operation. But now that it turns out that the ATF badly bungled the whole thing, he's pissed.

    I can totally understand that.

  • Texas Aggie on June 22, 2011 12:04 PM:

    I have no problem with people who were in the know and could have objected being held responsible. I realize it's shared responsibility, but each one is wholly responsible and should suffer the consequences of really bad judgment. Don't you agree, Mr. Issa?

    Captcha is a pain.

  • WuzYoungOnceToo on June 23, 2011 1:04 PM:

    The devil is always in the details, and the author and previous commentators are missing some incredibly obvious ones:

    1) The WaPo story - co-written by a proven plagiarist - cites only an "anonymous source" who allegedly was "familiar with the briefing". Not a terribly solid, wouldn't you say?

    2) This anonymous source is cited as claiming only that "For that program [Fast and Furious], the briefing covered how many guns had been bought by “straw purchasers,’’ the types of guns and how much money had been spent". Absolutely no mention is made of the fact that BATFE was making NO effort to track the guns, and was intentionally allowing them to to be smuggled into Mexico without informing either the Mexican government nor even BATFE's own agents working in that country. THAT is part of the operation that is at issue and is under investigation, not simply that strawpurchases were being observed.

    3) Both Pres. Obama and AG Holder have claimed that they knew nothing at all about the "gunwalking" aspect of Fast and Furious. And yet, WaPo (and apparently the author of this piece) would have us believe that ATF was briefing members of Congress on things that it was keeping secret from it's own bosses.

    P.T. Barnum was certainly right.

  • MissBeaHaven on July 17, 2011 2:42 AM:

    If Issa was so in the "know" why doesn't he have the facts of who knew what when? Why won't Holder hand over documents requested without them being redacted? Especially since Issa already knows? Why isn't Obama super angry that two of his agents were murdered with these guns? He's so non angry, in fact, that he's not demanding to get to the bottom of this and not ordering Holder himself to turn over documents. That "story" about Issa was being concocted and peddled by none other than the White House after Issa started getting too close to the truth. They were peddling this story so hard to the media one weekend that nobody wanted to touch it because they knew what a sham this story was. The facts don't add up. If it's not about gun control, then why are people like Cummings and Obama now pushing gun control? Trying not to let a good crisis go to waste? Thank goodness for Agents willing to blow the whistle. Even David Ogden said Obama ordered the operation. Check it out on video on YouTube. Obama was a director of The Joyce Foundation for 8 years and under him they gave over a billion dollars in grants to anti gun groups. Ayres, Soros and Emmanuel were there too. Obama wants to sign the U.N. Small Arms Treaty in 2012. You don't think he has an agenda with guns? And now we have operation Castaway in Tampa where we ran guns with stimulus money into Honduras and gave weapons to one of the most violent gangs in the world. Jaime Zapata was murdered with a weapon walked out of Houston. How many other ATF sections were running guns and to where? This is treasonous and I'm glad Leahy is involved now too! Leahy is angry and demanding answers along with 31 other democratic congressmen. I don't care what party you are affiliated with. You should be angry too. There are well over 1400 weapons still missing from just the Arizona section seven and all of the weapons are not in Mexico. Plenty are here in the U.S. And in the hands of violent criminals. You are at risk as are all American's! Read the facts, not the baloney that partisan reports feed you.

  • Emma on July 23, 2011 7:57 AM:

    It doesn't occur to any one that while there may indeed have been a briefing, the part about letting them just walk over the border with all the weapons may not have been discussed. No where have I read or heard that Issa was told that after the guns were sold, agents would just have to stand there and let them leave. Sure! There was a briefing. But what did and more importantly, did NOT get discussed?

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