While most Americans' attention was focused on yesterday's election, the U.S. Department of Justice turned over 64,280 pages of documents related to Operation Fast and Furious (also known as Project Gunwalker) that were previously withheld from Congress. President Obama had previously asserted Executive Privilege back in June 2012 on behalf of Attorney General Eric Holder in an attempt to block the production of those documents.
"The sheer volume of last night’s document production—which consists entirely of documents that the Justice Department itself acknowledges are not covered by Executive Privilege—shows that the President and the Attorney General attempted to extend the scope of the Executive Privilege well beyond its historical boundaries to avoid disclosing documents that embarrass or otherwise implicate senior Obama Administration officials," the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said in a statement.
"In effect, last night’s production is an admission that the Justice Department never had legitimate grounds to withhold these documents in the first place. Approximately two-thirds of the universe of documents that the Justice Department withheld from Congress has now been shown to be well outside the scope of Executive Privilege."
|Eric H. Holder, Jr.|
“When Eric Holder wants to know why he was the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt of Congress, he can read the judge’s order that compelled the production of 64,280 pages that he and President Obama illegitimately and illegally withheld from Congress," said Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. "Since these pages still do not represent the entire universe of the documents the House of Representatives is seeking related to the Justice Department’s cover-up of the botched gun-walking scandal that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent, our court case will continue. I am deeply concerned that some redactions to these documents may still be inappropriate and contrary to the judge’s order in the case. This production is nonetheless a victory for the legislative branch, a victory for transparency, and a victory for efforts to check Executive Branch power. As the production is extensive and may contain sensitive information, our investigative staff will be carefully examining the documents turned over last night.”
The Project Gunwalker story first appeared on CleanUpATF.org where it was alleged that the Obama administration, through the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, actually facilitated large scale weapons purchases in the United States in 2009-10 for the express purpose of sending those weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to be able to later trace the weapons back to U.S. gun dealers and manufacturers.
The 2009-2010 A.T.F. "walked" guns coincided with a staggering increase in the death toll of drug related gun violence in Mexico in 2010 and 2011. One of the A.T.F. walked guns was allegedly used to kill U.S. Border Patrol Officer Brian A. Terry in a shootout with drug smugglers in December 2010.
In January 2011, journalists David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh picked up the Gunwalker story from CleanUpATF.org. They began to investigate and report their findings as well as precipitate a Senate Judiciary Committee inquiry into the matter led by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA). Codrea and Vanderboegh have zealously attempted to publicize the issue ever since. Their hard work finally paid off when Fox News started to report the story and CBS began a full length investigation.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., the A.T.F. and Justice Department were accused of stonewalling the Senate investigation into the matter. As a result, congressional staffers flew down to Arizona to conduct an investigation of their own.
While the purported U.S. Justice Department strategy was to trace the arms shipped across the border and then break up the cartels, gun rights advocates see a more sinister strategy where the Obama administration intentionally sent guns from the U.S. to Mexico so that Obama could then turn around and say that stiffer U.S. gun control laws are necessary to reduce the gun violence in Mexico.
In March 2009, the New York Times quoted Hillary Clinton during her visit to Mexico where she stated:
"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade...Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.”
Secretary of State Clinton's remarks were later followed by President Obama's claim that 90% of guns recovered from Mexico originated from the U.S. Obama's 90% statistic drew criticism from media outlets such as Fox News and PolitiFact in April 2009 that his claims were not true and unsubstantiated.
So did the Obama administration hatch a plan to create evidence by using the A.T.F. to enable U.S. gun shipments to Mexico beginning in November 2009 in order to back up Obama's 90% claim made just seven months earlier? It is quite possible that Americans will find out that answer as the Senate investigation proceeds.