As much as the media have tried shielding the Obama administration from responsibility for corruption and malfeasance, the combined weight of the fallout from the Solyndra fiasco and the Operation Fast and Furious scandal have begun taking a serious toll on the administration. I will address Solyndra, the so called green energy company that received federal loans of more than a half a billion dollars, and then went bankrupt, in an upcoming report. That is starting to look like the tip of an iceberg of a political payoff scandal. But with subpoenas having been issued on October 13th in the Fast and Furious scandal to Attorney General Eric Holder and a total of 16 Justice Department officials, a variant of the famous Watergate question is being asked: “What did Eric Holder and President Obama know, and when did they know it?”
The usual truism is that many politicians make the mistake of not coming completely clean when allegations of wrongdoing surface. The cover-up, it is said, is often worse than the underlying crime or ethical violation. This has often been cited as the mistake made by people including Richard Nixon (Watergate break-in), Bill Clinton (Lewinsky, not to mention Filegate and Travelgate), John Edwards (love child and cheating on his cancer-stricken wife), and more recently, Anthony Weiner. There is a long list.
But in some cases, the crime, or lapse in judgment, is definitely worse than the cover-up. That appears to be the case in the simmering scandal engulfing the Obama administration that the mainstream media have tried their best to ignore for many months—the above mentioned Operation Fast and Furious.
In a recent column, I laid out the basic outline of the story, and how a very few in the mainstream media were finally getting interested in it. It involves the Obama Justice Department and was carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). It involves, among other things, at least 2,000 weapons, about 1,000 of which ended up in Mexico, and a Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, who was murdered with weapons found near the scene of the crime in Rio Rico, Arizona on December 14, 2010. Four suspects were arrested, who were linked to a Mexican drug smuggling operation. The weapons were among 57 linked to Fast and Furious which have been tied to at least 11 violent crimes in the U.S., including the Terry murder. The Justice Department, while largely stonewalling, has admitted this much to Congress, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. In addition, at least 200 people have been killed or wounded in Mexico with weapons linked to the operation. On February 15th of this year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jaime Zapata was shot to death in Mexico, another apparent victim.
The Bush administration had introduced Project Gunrunner in 2005 in an effort to reduce drug and firearms trafficking and the associated violence on both sides of the border with Mexico. Operation Fast and Furious began in September of 2009 and continued into early this year. What is known is that the federal government purposefully allowed gun smugglers, some with criminal records, to purchase guns at federally licensed firearms dealers in Arizona. In some cases the guns were taken across the Mexican border with the knowledge of U.S. government officials and delivered to major Mexican drug cartels.
According to CNS News, “The reported purpose of the operation was to track and uncover the entirety of the smuggling operations so they could be completely shut down. However, two rifles sold to a smuggler in the course of Operation Fast and Furious in January 2010 ended up at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.”
The Murder of Agent Brian Terry
The murder of Agent Terry apparently was the last straw for some. A number of agents were sickened by what they knew was going on. CNS News also put together a timeline of known events regarding Fast and Furious. In the timeline it talks about “a January 8, 2010 briefing paper from the ATF Phoenix Field Division Group VII” that says: ‘This investigation has currently identified more than 20 individual connected straw purchasers.’ It further says: ‘To date (September 2009 – present) this group has purchased in excess of 650 firearms (mainly AK-47 variants) for which they have paid cash totaling more than $350,000.’
“October 2009: The ATF’s Phoenix Field Division establishes a gun trafficking group called Group VII, which initially began using the strategy of ‘gunwalking,’ or allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns, according to a report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the staff of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“‘The purpose was to wait and watch, in hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case,’ the report says. It goes on to say: ‘Group VII initially began using the new gunwalking tactics in one of its investigations to further the Department’s strategy. The case was soon renamed ‘Operation Fast and Furious.’”
“Jan. 5, 2010: ATF agents met with Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Emory Hurley, the lead prosecutor in the matter, according to the briefing paper. The briefing paper says: ‘a determination was made that there was minimal evidence at this time to support any type of prosecution; therefore, additional firearms purchases should be monitored and additional evidence continued to be gathered.’
“Further, US Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke was briefed on this day. [Burke had been Sec. of Homeland Security’ Janet Napolitano’s chief of staff] Burke “concurs with the assessment of his line prosecutors and fully supports the continuation of the investigation,” the briefing paper says. The paper goes on to say that then head of the ATF Phoenix Field Division, Special Agent in Charge William Newell, “has repeatedly met with the US A[ttorney] Burke regarding the on-going status of this investigation and both are in full agreement with the current investigative strategy.”
“Jan. 8, 2010: The aforementioned briefing paper from the ATF Phoenix Field Division sheds further light on the operation:
—The paper makes clear: ‘Currently our strategy is to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place, albeit at a much slower pace, in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators who would continue to operate and illegally traffic firearms to Mexican DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations].’
—The ATF worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Phoenix Ariz.
—The ultimate goal is to secure [REDACTED] to identify and prosecute all co-conspirators of the DTO to include the 20 individual straw purchasers, the facilitators of the distribution cell centered here in Phoenix, the transportation cells taking firearms South, and ultimately to develop and provide prosecutable information to our Mexican law enforcement counterparts for actions.”
CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson later revealed that “ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell—who led Fast and Furious—and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O’Reilly” were in close contact. “Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone. Such detailed, direct communications between a local ATF manager in Phoenix and a White House national security staffer has raised interest among Congressional investigators looking into Fast and Furious. Newell has said he and O’Reilly are longtime friends.”
“The email exchanges span a little over a month last summer. [The emails were exchanged between late July and early September of 2010] They discuss ATF’s gun trafficking efforts along the border including the controversial Fast and Furious case, though not by name. The emails to and from O’Reilly indicate more than just a passing interest in the Phoenix office’s gun trafficking cases. They do not mention specific tactics such as ‘letting guns walk.’
“A lawyer for the White House wrote Congressional investigators: ‘none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to ‘walk.’”
“Among the documents produced: an email in which ATF’s Newell sent the White House’s O’Reilly an ‘arrow chart reflecting the ultimate destination of firearms we intercepted and/or where the guns ended up.’ The chart shows arrows leading from Arizona to destinations all over Mexico.”
Attkisson reported in March 2011 on ATF agent John Dodson, a courageous whistleblower who had seen enough of letting these weapons move freely across the border. He had seen the consequences. You can see him tell part of his story to Attkisson in a March 2011 report on CBS:
In my article on Fast and Furious I credited some of those in the media who had been reporting on the story as information became known. They included Michelle Malkin, Andy McCarthy of National Review Online, Andrew Breitbart, Pajamas Media, American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, the Heritage Foundation. I then received several emails identifying others who had been the earliest to expose the details and the outline of this growing scandal. I heard from Dave Workman, Senior Editor of Gun Week, who wrote that the two men who uncovered the scandal last December were “National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea and independent blog journalist Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street Irregulars. They broke this story, nobody else.” Workman has also contributed to the development of the story. Others include Mike Whipple of USActionnews.com and Bob Owens writing in Pajamas Media.
Sharyl Attkisson Steps Up Again
Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News has stood out as the one reporter in the mainstream media to take on this story, without fear or favor. She has stood strong in the past, and we have noted that as well. More than a decade ago, Attkisson was virtually alone when she began, during the Clinton administration, reporting on lax security at America’s leading nuclear weapons facility, Los Alamos. She stayed on that story for more than five years, and in doing so provided a great service to this country. She is doing so again on this story, and is paying a price. Recently Attkisson went on the Laura Ingraham radio show and “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News to describe how she was yelled and screamed at by officials both at the White House and DOJ for her pursuit of this story. She said she was yelled at by Tracy Schmaler at Justice and screamed at by Eric Schultz at the White House. She said she was told that she’s the only reporter who is not being “reasonable.” It is an outrage and other journalists should express that outrage.
Fox News has been all over the story. Sean Hannity had a one-hour special back in July devoted to this emerging scandal. William Lajeunesse of Fox News has also done some excellent reporting on this. CNN eventually carried some good stories on Fast and Furious, by Anderson Cooper and John King. But in general, the mainstream media have ignored the story and have gone to great lengths to be sure that it doesn’t implicate President Obama, much less Eric Holder, for anything other than being out of the loop.
The story got much larger when it was revealed that the federal government apparently purchased weapons and sold them directly to criminals in Mexico. As Michael Walsh of the New York Post wrote, “the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives apparently ordered one of its own agents to purchase firearms with taxpayer money, and sell them directly to a Mexican drug cartel. Let that sink in: After months of pretending that ‘Fast and Furious’ was a botched surveillance operation of illegal gun-running spearheaded by the ATF and the US Attorney’s office in Phoenix, it turns out that the government itself was selling guns to the bad guys.”
This revelation, along with the possibility that Holder may have perjured himself, could prove to be the game changer, and force the Obama administration to turn this over to an independent counsel. In May, Holder appeared before Congress. When asked when he first heard about Fast and Furious, Holder responded, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”
But recently released documents reveal that Holder received memos referring to the program in July, 2010. One such memo said, “Operation Fast and Furious” involved a “firearms trafficking ring.”
Holder later said that he had misunderstood the question.
Another key figure is Kenneth Melson, who was the Acting Director of ATF. Melson got a lawyer and voluntarily decided to meet with Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, on July 4th of this year. He said he was told by Justice Department officials to not respond to such requests from Congress. But he did it anyway. The next month he was transferred out of ATF and brought into the DOJ as an “advisor.”
After being challenged by Issa for his answer, Holder fired off a letter to Congress claiming that he had never read the memos, and that it was the responsibility of his staff to brief him on what they considered important.
Holder then went on to say that the reason the ATF was unable to prevent the weapons from being sold to the cartels was a lack of gun control and registration.
Issa responded to Holder, saying that “the American people have a right to know more, knowing that these guns were deliberately intended to end up in the hands of the drug cartels without any kind of traceability, except if you find a gun in the scene of the crime. That is the reason that it is felony and stupid—and I use the word ‘felony’ deliberately—program.”
He wrote that “Mexico’s Attorney General Marisela Morales, who stated that more than 200 Mexican citizens have been killed with Fast and Furious weapons, referred to the Obama administration plot as ‘an attack on Mexicans’ security.’”
Issa let Holder have it:
“Mr. Attorney General, you have made numerous statements about Fast and Furious that have eventually been proven to be untrue. Your lack of trustworthiness while speaking about Fast and Furious has called into question your overall credibility as Attorney General. The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over. The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”
“Operation Fast and Furious was the Department’s most significant gun trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives—destroying the Mexican cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border. On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.”
Also, a group of ten Arizona sheriffs (5 Republican, 5 Democrat) have called for a special counsel to investigate the gunwalking operations, as has House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith.
The outcome of this scandal will have huge repercussions for years to come.
Dear Fellow Media Watchdogs:
One of the joys of this job is receiving letters and emails from people who read the AIM Reports, or my columns, and want to say something to me. It might be to curse me, or to thank me, or to tell me what I’ve left out.
When I wrote about Fast and Furious recently, I got all of the above. It’s a complicated story. This is an attempt to simplify the story, from a website called Sipsey Street Irregulars:
There are five key accusations against ATF and DOJ made by ATF whistleblowers and other sources within FedGov:
1. That they instructed U.S. gun dealers to proceed with questionable and illegal sales of firearms to suspected gunrunners.
2. That they allowed or even assisted in those guns crossing the U.S. border into Mexico to ‘boost the numbers’ of American civilian market firearms seized in Mexico and thereby provide the justification for more firearm restrictions on American citizens and more power and money for ATF.
3. That they intentionally kept Mexican authorities in the dark about the operation, even over objections of their own agents.
4. That weapons that the ATF let ‘walk’ to Mexico were involved in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE agent Jaime Zapata, as well as at least hundreds of Mexican citizens.
5. That at least since the death of Brian Terry on 14 December, the Obama administration is engaged in a full-press cover-up of the facts behind what has come to be known as the ‘Gunwalker Scandal.’
In addition, disgruntled ATF employees have launched a website called CleanUpATF.org “to promote restoration of integrity, accountability and responsibility to ATF’s leadership, and regain the trust of the American taxpayer.” Check it out.
And from a Navy veteran came this: “The myth that legal guns sales in the U.S. are responsible for Mexican drug cartel violence took another serious blow last week when an ATF official testified in Congress that only eight percent of weapons recovered in Mexico came through licensed U.S. gun dealers.
“This figure is far lower than the 90 percent claim made previously as an appeal to reinstate ineffective gun laws that expired in 2004. The claim…officially became myth during congressional testimony…when Bill McMahon, deputy assistant director of BATFE, revealed the eight percent figure, how it was calculated, and where the 90 percent myth arose from.” I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this story.
For Accuracy in Media
“Occupy Wall Street” to Push for Global Tax
By Cliff Kincaid
Jumping on the anti-Wall Street media bandwagon, Josh Boak of Politico says Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio’s measure to tax Wall Street has “newfound momentum.” The Soros-funded Think Progress blog quickly jumped on the report, saying the plan is being seriously considered on the Hill. There is only one problem: DeFazio hasn’t introduced any such bill in the current Congress.
Despite the hype from Politico, the issue is a real one. And the threat is not only a “Wall Street financial transactions tax” that could affect ordinary investors but a global tax to finance various international agencies and causes.
It’s just a “tiny tax,” say proponents, that has the support of billionaire Bill Gates and can generate $100 billion a year. A global tax on financial transactions could generate at least $700 billion a year from the U.S. and other “rich” countries.
One of the groups pushing the tax is National Nurses United, whose Massachusetts affiliate is already putting its political muscle behind radical Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. Her speech to the Massachusetts Nurses Association convention was given in front of posters saying, “RNs say Heal America. Tax Wall Street.”
Warren just made big news by raising more money than some presidential candidates did in the last quarter.
Taking Obama’s class warfare rhetoric to a new level, Warren recently said, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody! You built a factory out there? Good for you! But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You, uh, were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because of the work the rest of us did.”
At this point, the Capitol Hill “Tax Wall Street” measure has yet to be introduced. Backers are apparently waiting for the “Occupy Wall Street” protests to build, with further help from the media.
“The Oregon Democrat has teamed up with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to introduce the measure—a sequel to their 2009 bill—before the November G-20 meeting in Cannes, France,” says Boak.
Boak says the DeFazio-Harkin proposal “fizzled two years ago” in the last Congress. The term “fizzled” is an understatement. The House version, H.R. 4191, only had 25 co-sponsors. The DeFazio bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committees on Rules, and the Budget Committee. But no action was taken on it.
Harkin’s Senate version, S. 2927, fared even worse. He had only three co-sponsors: Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). It was referred to the Committee on Finance, which took no action.
A photo caption for the Politico story refers to Harkin being a sponsor of the bill which “probably” will be offered before the G-20 meeting in November.
So a bill that already had “momentum” may or not be introduced soon. What is going on here?
The Boak story has all the earmarks of a plant by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a Marxist group pushing the tax. IPS held a seminar on the topic at the recent Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington, D.C. It was announced there that a nurses union would be staging a “D.C. action” on November 3 during the G-20 summit being held in France.
Indeed, this is the next phase of “Occupy Wall Street”—a carefully orchestrated attempt to make it seem like people all around the world are clamoring for a tax on Wall Street. Here, National Nurses United (NNU) is leading the charge and will hold its “major action” in front of the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. on November 3.
The nurses will wear their nurses’ garb and hold signs proclaiming, “Heal America. Tax Wall Street.” NNU has created a “Protest in the USA” website to help organize the demonstrations.
The “momentum” for the not-yet-introduced proposal is the result of a far-left network that wants to use the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests to push and pass the tax, which could go global.
The effort cannot be dismissed. On the international level, a group called “Make Finance Work for the People and the Planet” boasts 1,000 signatures of economists on a petition for the “Robin Hood tax.”
The IPS released a report last year promoting the tax, noting how it could help pay for U.S. “global commitments around poverty, health and climate.” The report states, “If the U.S. is going to fulfill its commitments to the world’s poorest, it needs to contribute an additional $80 billion in revenues per year.”
A “global day of action” for the tax was already held on June 22 but received little attention here. Sympathetic media coverage of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests is sure to generate significant press attention for the November 3 protests.
The media are determined to create a “progressive” version of the Tea Party, even if the bill to tax Wall Street hasn’t been introduced yet. The actual introduction of the measure will be big news on the evening news programs.
After this is accomplished, critics of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement will no longer be able to say that the protesters have no concrete demands. Obama, at the G-20 event, will undoubtedly then “consider” the proposal, even perhaps say some more kind words about the protesters.
We saw this before. In my December 14, 2009, column, “The Secret Plan to Pass a Global Tax,” I noted that there was a push for the DeFazio-Harkin plan at that time.
The difference now is that the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, assisted by Van Jones, Soros-funded progressives and labor unions, are mounting a major effort to get the measure passed and they have the support of the major media.
Even if they lose the battle in Congress, Obama will have revitalized his base.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Keller Calls The New York Times “Socially Liberal”
By Don Irvine
Former New York Times executive editor turned Op-Ed columnist Bill Keller sat down last week with Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, for a wide ranging interview  on the state of journalism and said the Times was “socially liberal.”
Keller, who resigned as the executive editor in June but has remained with the paper as a senior writer and Op-Ed columnist, recalled a 2004 column  by then-Public Editor Daniel Okrent in which he asked the question of whether the Times was a liberal paper and proceeded to answer it by simply saying “of course it is.”
In that column Okrent found liberalism in almost every facet of the Times, from the Sunday Styles section with its gay wedding announcements to the opinion page where he said that a ”balanced opinion page” is an oxymoron.
Keller referred to Okrent’s column as one that was seared into his memory and it clearly still bothers him even today, especially when Okrent said that creationists should not expect to find comfort in the paper’s Science Times section.
Keller: I wonder what his science advisor—? No, let’s save that subject for another time. You know, we are liberal in the sense that we are open-minded, sort of tolerant, urban, you know our weddings page includes and did even before New York had a gay marriage law, included gay unions, so we’re liberal in that sense of the word. I guess socially liberal.
Smith then asked Keller if the Times is biased in favor of Democrats or liberals.
Keller: Aside from the liberal values—sort of social values thing that I talked about—no, I don’t think it does. It’s a different question whether individual reporters—I mean, there are—there are surveys that show that people who work in journalism tend to be predominantly liberal in their views of the world. But, you know, and I—I know there’s a school of thought this is, you know, nobody’s objective, you should just sort of declare your biases upfront and be upfront about it. You know there is a—a real discipline that I believe in. It’s—not to sound too high-falutin’—but it’s not that different from the discipline that a judge has. You know, I know that every judge sitting on the bench has some strong opinions that probably enter into his feelings about defendants and prosecutors and defense lawyers. And judges know that their job is to interpret the law. Maybe they don’t do it perfectly all the time, maybe their biases creep in, but there is a discipline, there is an expectation that you’re—as a judge, you’re supposed to set your personal biases aside—
So the paper may be “socially liberal,” in Keller’s words, but because he expects reporters to set their biases aside the Times therefore isn’t biased in favor of Democrats or liberals.
If you believe that I have a nice piece of land in the desert that I can sell you.
Jill Abramson, who succeeded Keller as executive editor, has steered clear of the liberal label, socially or otherwise, and told The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz in September that “Journalists in the newsroom play it straight.”
That would be the ideal standard for any newspaper in the country—not just the Times—but the fact of the matter is that it isn’t the standard practiced very often, if at all, at the Gray Lady.
Jay Carney: Don’t listen to what the President says, figure out what he means
By Don Irvine
Last Thursday during his jobs-bill speech President Obama mentioned a Boston area teacher who has been laid off three times in the last four years as an example of someone who could benefit from the passage of his American Jobs Act.
Here’s what the President said, courtesy of CBS Boston:
“I had a chance to meet a young man named Robert Baroz. He’s an English teacher in Boston who came to the White House a few weeks ago. He’s got two decades of teaching experience. He’s got a Master’s Degree. He’s got an outstanding track record of helping his students make huge gains in reading and writing,” the President said.
“In the last few years, he’s received three pink slips because of budget cuts. Why wouldn’t we want to pass a bill that puts somebody like Robert back in the classroom teaching our kids?”
It sounds good, but there was one tiny problem with what Obama said. Baroz is currently teaching. In other words, he isn’t unemployed as the President said.
When asked about this on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney responded that the President was only talking about people like Baroz and not necessarily Baroz specifically, and that it should be taken in the “spirit” of what he meant.
Reporter: The Boston Herald has a story this morning saying the President never met this gentleman. He was at the White House, but they never met and the gentleman has a job.
Carney: The President — as you know, he was in a group of people that were — I think he was this close to the President as you are to me. And the President knows his story…I mean, it’s just indisputable — as we found out again this morning — that all around the country, teachers are being laid off. The President has a plan to solve, okay, or to address that problem.
Carney was telling reporters not to bother paying attention to what the President actually said, since it was clearly a bad example of the point he was trying to make, but instead they should try and figure out what he meant to say. And if they can’t figure it out just ask him and he will explain it to them.
It’s just wonderful to see all this transparency from the Obama administration.