Via our Townhall cousin Katie Pavlich, who makes an important distinction that’s occasionally been overlooked in all the Gunrunner/Fast and Furious coverage. Namely, they’re not the same program. Gunrunner is the ATF’s umbrella operation for selling guns to straw purchasers and then immediately busting them; F&F is the op that let those purchasers walk them across the border, where they ended up in the possession of cartels. It is true that Holder acknowledged the existence of Gunrunner in a 2009 speech in Mexico, but as Mike Riggs of Reason points out, there’s no evidence — yet — that Holder authorized or even knew about Fast and Furious. To the contrary:
DOJ Spokesperson Tracy Schmaler said in an email today that it was inaccurate to conflate the two programs.
“Holder said he became aware of the ATF agents concerns about certain tactics used in Fast and Furious earlier this year. That’s when he asked the IG to investigate those concerns,” she emailed today. “That’s different than knowing there are enforcement efforts along the SW border to stop illegal gun trafficking. The department has several agencies working on those efforts including ATF, FBI, DEA, Marshals.”…
There’s also the word of Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, who told [the House Oversight Committee] last week that Holder had no knowledge of Fast and Furious. The entire transcript from that hearing has not been released, but according to the Washington Post, “people familiar with [the hearing] said that [Melson] indicated that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did not know about [Fast and Furious], that it would be unusual for other Justice Department officials in Washington to know the details and that the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix was overseeing the program.”
Verrry curious that the DOJ would be so reluctant to let Melson testify before Congress, in that case, but then that’s part of the reason for a special prosecutor. Why the curious reluctance? Katie makes an interesting point too: In his April 2009 Mexico speech mentioning Gunrunner, Holder referred to a “major new effort” the ATF had launched the week before to “break the backs of the cartels.” Was that an obscure reference to Fast and Furious? From what I can tell, the program didn’t launch until the fall of 2009, but Katie claims it started in April, which means it could be the program Holder was referring to.
Sure would be nice to have someone get to the bottom of this without the stonewalling that Issa has encountered. Meanwhile, here’s the feds’ attempt to do damage control: Gun shops in four border states will now be required to report multiple purchases of certain types of rifles in a five-day span. The ATF screwed up in Fast and Furious, and so now lawful gun buyers have to be tracked more closely. Okay then.