Ed Morrissey's Operation Wide Receiver Lie: “They Accounted For Those Guns”

During the June 13 broadcast of Cam & Company on NRA News, conservative blogger Ed Morrissey relied onblatant falsehoods to draw a distinction between the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious and its Bush-era analogue, Operation Wide Receiver.

Morrissey claimed that during Wide Receiver ATF “coordinated” with Mexican law enforcement officials and that firearms involved in the operation were “accounted for.” In reality, no such coordination occurred and many of firearms involved in Wide Receiver were lost after being allowed to “walk” across the U.S. border with Mexico.

Morrissey's claims came during an exchange with host Cam Edwards where the men mocked Attorney General Eric Holder's June 12 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

CAM EDWARDS, HOST: And again, you know Ed, what we got was, “I am cooperating, and I'm an awesome attorney general, why my goodness gracious I put a stop to these tactics in Fast and Furious. That's more than any other attorney general has ever done.”

ED MORRISSEY: And he tried to say, “Well, I'm sure that the attorney general that you think was more qualified than me, you know, he didn't bother to stop it when it was done under Operation Wide Receiver.” But what Eric Holder had to admit the last time he tried to make that statement was that there were some significant differences in Operation Wide Receiver. Which is one, they actually tracked the guns after they were released, and two, that was that Operation Wide Receiver was done in coordination with the Mexican government. There was law enforcement on both sides of the border tracking those guns. They accounted for those guns. And that's the reason why that operation didn't result in two dead American law enforcement officers and hundreds of dead Mexicans. I mean that's, that's I mean, there is a huge gulf between those two things.

Far from being “accounted for,” the vast majority of the 450 guns involved in Wide Receiver were never recovered by the United States. This may have been because the ATF agents involved in Wide Receiver did not actually coordinate with the Mexican authorities as Morrissey claimed.

A report issued on January 30 by the Minority Staff of the House Oversight Committee, indicates that ATF hoped to coordinate with Mexican law enforcement during Wide Receiver, but the idea was never executed in practice.

The evidence also indicates that, between March 2006 and mid-2007, ATF agents had contemporaneous knowledge of planned sales of firearms to known straw purchasers and repeatedly designed surveillance operations of these illegal firearms purchases without effectuating arrests. According to documents obtained by the Committee, agents avoided interdicting weapons despite having the legal authority to do so in order to build a bigger case. Despite repeated failed attempts to coordinate surveillance with Mexican law enforcement, the ATF agents continued to attempt these operations.

Talking Points Memo has also noted that claims about coordination with Mexican law enforcement during Wide Receiver are false.

One of the distinctions that Republicans have drawn between Operation Fast and Furious, the flawed investigation that allowed weapons to “walk” into Mexico during the Obama administration, and Operation Wide Receiver, which did the same during the Bush administration, is that authorities who took part in the earlier investigation were coordinating their efforts with Mexican authorities.

“The difference in the previous administration is there was coordination with the Mexican government,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said at a hearing in December. “They made a real effort under Wide Receiver to pass off a small amount of weapons and track them.”

But new documents DOJ disclosed to congressional investigators on Thursday appear to indicate that ATF officials didn't even consider looping Mexican authorities in on their operation until several months after the investigation began and ATF had already lost track of weapons that likely ended up in Mexico.

The selection of emails indicate that officials discussed the possibility of working with Mexican officials but only talk about it only in theory.

There are legitimate reasons to criticize the ATF tactic of allowing guns to “walk” across the U.S.-Mexico border. But it is hypocritical to rail against Holder -- who has testified that he banned the use of the gun walking tactic after learning of its existence -- while defending a Bush-era operation that employed the same flawed tactic.