Was the FBI complicit in Fast & Furious debacle?

Thus far, the questions about Operation Fast and Furious have focused on the ATF’s botched handling of gun sales and interdiction, and to those in the Department of Justice who may have known about the debacle and failed to stop it.  Fox News’ William LaJeunesse and Laura Prabucki now have an exclusive report on a potential expansion of the scandal into the FBI — and efforts by the Obama administration to stonewall Congress about it:

In the latest chapter of the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, federal officials are refusing to explain how two suspects obtained more than 360 weapons despite criminal records that should have prevented them from buying even one gun.

Under current federal law, people with felony convictions are not permitted to buy weapons, and those with felony arrests are typically flagged while the FBI conducts a thorough background check.

However, according to court records reviewed by Fox News, two of the 20 defendants indicted in the Fast and Furious investigation have felony convictions and criminal backgrounds that experts say, at the very least, should have delayed them buying a single firearm. Instead, the duo bought dozens of guns on multiple occasions while federal officials watched on closed-circuit cameras.

Congressional and law-enforcement sources say the situation suggests the FBI, which operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, knowingly allowed the purchases to go forward after consulting with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which initiated Operation Fast and Furious. Under the failed anti-gun trafficking program, straw buyers — those who legally purchase guns and illegally sell them to a third party — were allowed to buy guns, many of which were sold to Mexican drug cartel members.

If true, this development is important for two reasons.  First, it shows that Operation Fast and Furious wasn’t really about stopping gun trafficking by straw buyers.  The NICBCS would have stopped sales to Jacob Wayne Chambers and Sean Christopher Stewart in Phoenix under normal circumstances.  Chambers had been arrested for felony burglary the year before buying weapons through ATF’s intervention, and Stewart had a previous record and a warrant out for his arrest when he successfully bought 290 weapons.  Since the purpose of OF&F was ostensibly to see where the system broke down as well as how weapons trafficking occurred over the border, an FBI flag on the two buyers would have shown that the system worked to prevent those sales at all.

Second, if the FBI did allow those sales to pass because of OF&F, that strongly suggests that the real responsibility for this deadly debacle wasn’t in the ATF at all, but in the Department of Justice.  Coordination between the two agencies can obviously occur without explicit DoJ involvement, but authorizing sales of weapons to felons doesn’t sound like something the FBI would do without orders from above.  The other possibility is that both agencies went rogue, which still would point back to the DoJ for responsibility in governing the law-enforcement agencies under their authority.

Congress needs to get answers soon, but as LaJeunesse and Prabucki report, the Obama administration isn’t supplying any.  That in itself suggests answers to the above questions, none of which are confidence-builders in the DoJ.  Under Eric Holder, this is looking not just like the most politicized DoJ in American history, but possibly the most incompetent as well.