Janet Napolitano appeared on Capitol Hill to answer questions about “Operation Fast and Furious,” the ATF “gun-walking” scheme that allowed guns to flow across the border into Mexico in an attempt to pin drug-cartel warlords with weapons trafficking charges. The operation literally blew up in the ATF’s face when the cartel used the weapons to kill American agents. Not only did Napolitano not know about the ATF operation, she claims, she still doesn’t know today whether the allegation that the two agents were only allowed beanbag guns to protect themselves is true or not:
“Did you sign off on this operation, and if so, when?” Grassley asked.
“No,” said Napolitano, “this is within the Justice Department.”
Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration Agent Jaime Zapata were gunned down in separate incidents involving suspected Mexican drug cartel members. Two AK-47 assault-type variant rifles that ATF had recorded as having let “walk” nearly a year before were found at the murder scene of Terry. The details of the origin of the weapon used in Zapata’s murder are not clear.
When asked, Napolitano told Grassley that nobody has expressed concerns with her about ATF purposely allowing gun traffickers to purchase weapons to transport to Mexican drug cartels. She also told Grassley she’s never discussed such a strategy in general with anyone.
“I was not so informed,” Napolitano said.
On a related topic, Grassley asked Napolitano if it was true that two members of the border tactical team that Brian Terry was on were carrying only beanbag guns and no regular weapons.
“I don’t know if that’s true,” answered Napolitano, noting the matter is under investigation.
The ATF falls within the Department of Justice, as Napolitano says. However, the whistleblowers that exposed this operation also claim that the ATF coordinated the effort with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which falls under Napolitano’s authority at Homeland Security. That kind of coordination would take a rather high level of cooperation, which would call into question just how much control and oversight Napolitano exercises at DHS.
The testimony on the issue of weapons selection is another red flag in this area as well. The policy of choosing lethal and/or non-lethal weapons was already known to Napolitano. One might think that several weeks after the murders of the two agents, Napolitano would have been curious enough to determine whether the agents had lethal weapons for their defense at the time of the murder, if for no other reason than to make sure the rest of her agents are prepared for gunfights. The DoJ may be handling the investigation, but the question of proper preparation for border agents belongs to DHS, and its life-or-death nature should at least provoke her curiosity.
This administration is setting records for absent leadership, and in this case, the failure could well be deadly.
Update: It’s not the only fumble Napolitano committed on the Hill this week, either:
“If I might, senator, we have invited bipartisan leadership of the Congress to come down to the southwest border to see all of the activities that, at a bipartisan level, have been supported across this border,” Napolitano began, in response to Cornyn’s question.
Cornyn, not particularly pleased with the suggestion that he, a Texan, or Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizonan, should have to visit the border to know what was going on down there, interrupted.
“Madam, you don’t need to invite a Texan, an Arizonan to come to the border,” Cornyn said.
Here’s the video: