Attorney General Eric Holder might not have tried to equate the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious with the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver, as he tells Senator John Cornyn in testimony yesterday on the deadly scandal that has resulted in hundreds of murders, including at least one Border Patrol agent. His defenders in and out of Congress certainly have, however, seizing on the earlier limited operation as an argument that the Obama administration and Holder’s Department of Justice only followed precedent set by the previous administration. In a deft examination, however, Cornyn gets Holder to admit that Wide Receiver had critical differences from Fast and Furious, differences that went far beyond scope (via PJ Tatler):
It has become clear that for administration apologists, the favored approach for dealing with the “Project Gunwalker” fallout is to loudly shout “Bush did it too!” (as if that would somehow mitigate the atrocity of our government aiding in the murder two of federal law enforcement officers and hundreds of Mexican citizens). If this had not been obvious before yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, it certainly is now, with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) enthusiastically beating that drum.
In 75 seconds of pointed questioning of Attorney General Holder (see sidebar video), Senator John Cornyn has perhaps left the excuse makers scrambling for something better. In that time, he asked Holder if he knew that Operation Wide Receiver (the Bush-era operation) actually did involve an attempt to track the firearms, while Fast and Furious did not. Cornyn then asked Holder if he knew that Operation Wide Receiver was run in conjunction with the Mexican government–Fast and Furious was kept secret from not only Mexico, but from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) attaché to Mexico, Darren Gil. Gil, in fact, after discovering on his own what was going on, was basically pushed into retirement when he balked at the near act of war of “walking” guns into Mexico without the Mexican government’s knowledge or permission.
Did Holder really not try to equate the two? Andy McCarthy blows the whistle on Holder’s demurral:
The key to their strategy is conflating two very different programs: Operation Fast & Furious and a Bush era ATF initiative known as “Operation Wide Receiver.” In the questions from Judiciary Committee Democrats (principally, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer — there may have been others but, again, I didn’t see the entire hearing), it emerged that Wide Receiver began in 2006, when Alberto Gonzales was the Bush administration attorney general. Senator Schumer took pains to describe Wide Receiver as involving the “tracing” of firearms that crossed into Mexico. As we shall see, Wide Receiver’s notion of tracing was night-and-day different from the tracing involved in the reckless gun-walking approach employed by Fast & Furious. Obviously, however, Democrats hope that if they get enough help from their friends in the media, the public will miss the distinction.
Schumer made much of the happenstance that a briefing, said to have included information on Wide Receiver, was prepared for Michael Mukasey in late 2007, after he succeeded Gonzales as AG. (This is an amusing contradiction in the Democrats’ strategy: If a memo addressed to Holder in the middle of Fast & Furious emerges, you’re supposed to understand that, as attorney general, he is way too busy to read every memo; but if a memo is found to have been addressed to Mukasey or Gonzales years before Fast & Furious began, you should see them as the architects of gun-walking!)
Schumer pointed out that AG Mukasey had met with his counterpart, the Mexican attorney general, after the briefing, and that he had expressed a commitment to stanch the flow of guns to destinations south of the border. Schumer took these unremarkable facts, added the gloss that Wide Receiver involved gun tracing, and wildly theorized that it was very likely the subject of gun-walking came up in the Mukasey briefing — even though both Schumer and Holder conceded that they did not really know what was discussed at the briefing or even who was present at it (details you might figure Holder would be up on if it actually showed that this whole Fast & Furious fiasco was a Bush creation).
If that’s the strategy of the Democrats, then Cornyn blew it out of the water yesterday. But one has to ask why Senate Democrats want to discount responsibility for this atrocious operation and the incompetents or worse who ran it. Seems to me that this is one of the big stories in the scandal, and perhaps Republicans should be posing that question in Senate campaigns across the country next fall.