Right Wing's ATF Attacks Undermined By Their Inability To Keep Basic Facts Straight

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Right-wing media are baselessly attacking the Obama administration by falsely conflating Project Gunrunner, a program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that was begun under President Bush, and Operation Fast and Furious, a controversial initiative undertaken by Phoenix's Gunrunner group in which agents knowingly allowed guns to be trafficked across the border to Mexico.

Fast And Furious Was A Project Gunrunner Operation Undertaken In Arizona

GOP Report: Operation Fast And Furious Is A Project Gunrunner Operation Undertaken By Phoenix ATF Office, U.S. Attorney's Office In Arizona. From a June 14, 2011, "joint staff report" prepared for House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):

In the fall of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed a risky new strategy to combat gun trafficking along the Southwest Border. The new strategy directed federal law enforcement to shift its focus away from seizing firearms from criminals as soon as possible -- and to focus instead on identifying members of trafficking networks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) implemented that strategy using a reckless investigative technique that street agents call "gunwalking." ATF's Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns. The purpose was to wait and watch, in the hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.

This shift in strategy was known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department. Through both the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona and "Main Justice," headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Department closely monitored and supervised the activities of the ATF. The Phoenix Field Division established a Gun Trafficking group, called Group VII, to focus on firearms trafficking. 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," and expanded dramatically.

[...]

ATF and DOJ leadership were interested in seeing where these guns would ultimately end up. They hoped to establish a connection between the local straw buyers in Arizona and the Mexico-based [drug-trafficking organizations]. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11, emphases added]

Project Gunrunner Is A National ATF Program Begun in 2005 To Reduce Gun Trafficking Along The U.S.-Mexico Border. From the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General's November 2010 review of ATF's Project Gunrunner:

To help combat firearms trafficking into Mexico, ATF began Project Gunrunner as a pilot project in Laredo, Texas, in 2005 and expanded it as a national initiative in 2006. Project Gunrunner is also part of the Department's broader Southwest Border Initiative, which seeks to reduce cross-border drug and firearms trafficking and the high level of violence associated with these activities on both sides of the border.

In June 2007, ATF published a strategy document, Southwest Border Initiative: Project Gunrunner (Gunrunner strategy), outlining four key components to Project Gunrunner: the expansion of gun tracing in Mexico, international coordination, domestic activities, and intelligence. In implementing Project Gunrunner, ATF has focused resources in its four Southwest border field divisions. In addition, ATF has made firearms trafficking to Mexico a top ATF priority nationwide. [DOJ IG report, Review of ATF's Project Gunrunner, 11/10]

Right-Wing Media Claim Holder Speech Shows He Must Have Known About Fast And Furious In April 2009 ...

Big Government: "Eric Holder Feigns Ignorance Of Operation 'Fast And Furious' Now, But He Bragged Of Overseeing Its Implementation In 2009." In a July 8 blog post headlined "Eric Holder Feigns Ignorance of Operation 'Fast and Furious' Now, But He Bragged of Overseeing Its Implementation in 2009," AWR Hawkins wrote:

In the middle of it is Attorney General Eric Holder, who now feigns a blissful ignorance about the whole mess: having nothing to say about its beginnings as Operation "Gunrunner" or its latest incarnation as "Fast and Furious."

For those who might not know, Operation "Gunrunner" was the plan to sell guns to "straw purchasers" with suspected ties to the Mexican cartel. Apparently, ATF was then banking on those purchasers to walk the guns across the border into Mexico. Operation "Fast and Furious" was the plan to follow those guns until they were in cartel hands and then make apprehensions. (For the record, I concur with those who believe this was all an attempt to flood the border with weapons in order to create a degree of chaos sufficient to convince us of the supposed-need for more gun control in America.)

Anyway, the problem with Holder's feigned ignorance is that he gave a speech in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on April 2, 2009, in which he boasted about Operation "Gunrunner" and told Mexican authorities of everything he was doing to insure its success. [BigGovernment.com, 7/8/11]

IBD Editorial: "Holder's 'I Know Nothing' Imitation Of TV's Sgt. Schultz Has Evaporated With The Discovery Of An April 2, 2009, Speech." In a July 8 editorial, Investor's Business Daily wrote: "Attorney General Eric Holder's 'I know nothing' imitation of TV's Sgt. Schultz has evaporated with the discovery of an April 2, 2009, speech to authorities in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in which he took Gunrunner credit for himself and the rest of the Obama administration." [Investor's Business Daily, 7/8/11]

Wash. Examiner's Hollingsworth: Holder's Congressional Testimony That He Only Recently Learned About Fast And Furious "Appears To Be Refuted By His Own Words." In a July 9 blog post, Washington Examiner local opinion editor Barbara Hollingsworth wrote:

On May 3, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa's committee that he only learned about the government's sale of weapons to Mexican drug cartels "in the last few weeks."

But Big Government found a 2009 speech by Holder on the Department of Justice's own website that proves the attorney general was well aware of Operation Gunrunner back in 2009:

[...]

But at the arms trafficking conference in Cuernavaca, Holder not only acknowledged the program, he bragged that he was in the process of expanding it:

[...]

So Holder's May 3rd denial appears to be refuted by his own words. [WashingtonExaminer.com, 7/9/11]

Fox Nation Highlighted Hollingsworth's Post. From FoxNation.com:

Fox Nation

[FoxNation.com, 7/11/11]

WorldNetDaily Suggests Holder's Speech, Testimony Are Inconsistent. From a July 10 WorldNetDaily article:

In subsequent testimony before Issa's commission this past week, Holder stated under oath that he only learned about the gunrunning project "in the last few weeks."

However, BigGovernment.com (link: http://biggovernment.com/tag/gunrunner/) found a 2009 speech by Holder on the Department of Justice's own website in which Holder boasts about "Project Gunrunner." [WND.com, 7/10/11]

... But Holder's Speech Referenced Only Project Gunrunner, And It Occurred Months Before Fast And Furious Began

In April 2009 Speech Right-Wing Media Are Referencing, Holder Highlighted Additional Resources Devoted To Project Gunrunner. From Holder's April 2, 2009 speech in Cuernavaca, Mexico:

Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion. DHS is making similar commitments, as Secretary Napolitano will detail. [Holder speech, 4/2/2009, via Justice.gov]

In Congressional Testimony, Holder Said He Had Only Recently Learned Of Operation Fast And Furious -- Not Project Gunrunner. From Holder's May 3 congressional testimony:

ISSA: When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called Fast and Furious? To the best of your knowledge, what date?

HOLDER: 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. [House Judiciary Committee, 5/3/11, via Nexis]

Operation Fast And Furious Was Not Initiated Until Fall 2009 -- Months After The Speech Right-Wing Media Are Citing. From the Issa-Grassley "joint staff report":

In the fall of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed a risky new strategy to combat gun trafficking along the Southwest Border. The new strategy directed federal law enforcement to shift its focus away from seizing firearms from criminals as soon as possible -- and to focus instead on identifying members of trafficking networks. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11, emphases added]

Right-Wing Media Claim Stimulus Funded Arizona-Based Fast And Furious ...

Doocy On Fast And Furious: "Where Did The Money Come From? Stimulus." From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

MOLLY LINE (guest co-host): And not only is taxpayer money being spent on this, of course, but we're learning that 43 weapons were found in a Phoenix bust so some of these weapons are still here on American soil. They didn't all go to Mexico with the plans to track them.

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Yeah, they stopped a car. Apparently it was full of crystal meth. They arrested five guys. There were about 50 guns; 43 were from the Fast and Furious program, and Molly kind of just touched on that. Where did the money come from? Stimulus. Apparently, $90 million went to help with the trouble down there. Ten Million transferred to ATF for Project Gunrunner. Stimulus money. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/8/11, emphasis added]

Limbaugh: "Stimulus Money Paid For Fast And Furious." From the July 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: You know Fast and Furious, the gunrunning thing? Justice.gov website, located on Page 96 of a report on this program. 2009, February, the Recovery Act signed into law, allocated $10 million to ATF for Project Gunrunner. That's -- stimulus money paid for this, is what has been discovered. Stimulus money paid for Fast and Furious. Ten million dollars was allocated in the stimulus bill to buy machine guns and revolvers and let Mexican drug lords take them across the border back to Mexico and use them. Stimulus money. That shovel-ready job stuff. You remember that. Right here it is. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/8/11]

IBD Editorial: "The ATF's Gun-Running Disaster Was Funded In The Stimulus Bill." From the July 8 IBD editorial:

Scandal: The ATF's gun-running disaster was funded in the stimulus bill. Think about all the criminal and drug cartel jobs saved or created. And our attorney general once bragged to a Mexican audience about implementing it.

This could be, no pun intended, the proverbial smoking gun in a growing administration scandal that deserves as much mainstream media attention as Iran-Contra or Watergate.

Right there in the stimulus bill that no one in Congress bothered to read is $10 million for Project Gunrunner (aka Operation Fast and Furious), which resulted in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and increased drug cartel violence. [Investor's Business Daily, 7/8/11]

Ace Of Spades: Stimulus Funds "Went To... Arming Mexican Gangsters Via Project Gunrunner?" Ace headlined a July 7 blog post, "$10 Million of Your 'Stimulus' Money Went to... Arming Mexican Gangsters Via Project Gunrunner?" [Ace of Spades, 7/7/11]

HotAir's Allahpundit: Stimulus "Produced Guns For Mexican Drug Cartels." In a July 7 blog post, Allahpundit wrote: "And to think, you guys say the stimulus didn't produce anything. It produced guns for Mexican drug cartels, didn't it? Says Ben Domenech, in a stroke of perfect black humor: 'Shovel ready.' " [HotAir.com, 7/7/11]

... But The Stimulus Funds Were Allocated To Project Gunrunner Offices Outside Of Arizona

Recovery Act Included $10,000,000 For Project Gunrunner. From H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the "stimulus"):

For an additional amount for "State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance", $40,000,000, for competitive grants to provide assistance and equipment to local law enforcement along the Southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat criminal narcotics activity stemming from the Southern border, of which $10,000,000 shall be transferred to 'Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Salaries and Expenses' for the ATF Project Gunrunner. [H.R. 1, accessed7/8/11, via GPO.gov]

ATF Plan For Management Of Recovery Act Funds Called For Establishing And Staffing Offices In CA, NM, TX, And Mexico -- Not Arizona. From DOJ's May 2009 ATF "Program-Specific Plan for Management of Recovery Act Funds":

FINANCIAL AWARDS - RECIPIENTS AND BENEFICIARIES

ATF's Recovery Act funding will be used to pay the salaries of the new positions created under Project Gunrunner, as well as other operational expenses, including the purchase of armored vehicles. Given that overall safety of U.S. citizens will increase due to the Recovery Act funding distributed through Project Gunrunner, the general public is expected to benefit. State and local law enforcement will also benefit indirectly by the increased presence of Federal agents.

PLANNED MILESTONES

The following table provides the planned completion dates for the significant activities associated with ATF's distribution of Recovery Act funds.

ATF 2009 chart

[DOJ report, ATF Program-Specific Plan for Management of Recovery Act Funds, 5/15/09]

DOJ IG Report Shows That ATF Used Recovery Act Funds To Pay ATF Personnel Outside Of Arizona. From a September 2009 DOJ IG interim report:

In FY 2009 and FY 2010, ATF plans to create new Gunrunner teams in five offices along the Southwest border and place additional agents in U.S. consulates in Mexico. According to the Program Plan, a document ATF submitted to Congress summarizing its planned activities and categories of expenditures using Recovery Act funding, by September 30, 2010, ATF will establish new Gunrunner teams in (1) McAllen, Texas; (2) El Centro, California; and (3) Las Cruces, New Mexico, including a satellite office in Roswell, New Mexico. In addition, four ATF agents will be located in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico, to provide Gunrunner support to the government of Mexico. ATF plans to staff these locations with a total of 37 employees by hiring new employees and relocating experienced personnel. Table 1 shows the type of personnel planned for each team using the Recovery Act funding, and Appendix II provides a description of the general duties for each of these job categories.

DOJ IG chart

[DOJ IG report, Interim Review of ATF's Project Gunrunner, September 2009, footnote omitted]

June 2010 DOJ Report Also Shows Recovery Act Funds Spent Outside Of Arizona. From DOJ's June 2010 update to the ATF "Program-Specific Plan for Management of Recovery Act Funds":

INTRODUCTION

The Department of Justice's (Department) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received $10 million of the Federal aid issued through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The Recovery Act provides additional funding for Project Gunrunner, an existing ATF program, which is aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico. The funding is to be used to establish three new field offices and one new satellite office along the southwest border, as well as two offices in U.S. Consulates in Mexico. An estimated 37 new employees will be recruited, hired, and trained to fill positions made available by the funding or to backfill vacancies created as a result of the transfer of more experienced employees to these new offices.

[...]

PLANNED MILESTONES

The following table provides the planned completion dates for the significant activities associated with ATF's distribution of Recovery Act funds.

ATF 2010 chart

[DOJ report, ATF Program-Specific Plan for Management of Recovery Act Funds, 6/1/10]

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