|Obama Administration: Leak Vital Military Secrets, but Conceal Relevant “Fast & Furious” Documents|
|BY TIMOTHY H. LEE |
THURSDAY, JUNE 21 2012
“Our son lost his life protecting this nation, and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious.” ~Josephine Terry and Kent Terry, Sr.
The question is simple: What is the Obama Administration so desperate to hide?
The White House, after all, asserts that it was uninvolved with Operation Fast and Furious.
But if that’s true, then why has it suddenly decided to claim executive privilege, which the Supreme Court reserves for communications between “high” officials such as the President or senior aides? And why didn’t the White House assert the privilege months ago if its claim was justified, rather than at this late hour?
By way of background, Operation Fast and Furious was a 2009 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) scheme to allow Mexican drug criminals access to approximately 2,000 weapons. The federal government forced domestic firearms dealers to sell guns to people they believed were agents of Mexican drug cartels, but refused to trace them. Its plan, bizarre in retrospect, was that the firearms could subsequently be tracked to high-level cartel leaders.
According to CBS News, however, the motives were even more sinister. Documents it obtained reveal that ATF agents “discussed using their covert operation ‘Fast and Furious’ to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales”:
“ATF officials didn’t intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called ‘Demand Letter 3’. That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or ‘long guns.’ Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.”
By December 2010, however, the operation had gone terribly awry. In addition to logistical failures, two weapons from the operation were ultimately involved in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Justifiably, Congress commenced an investigation into how such a reckless and disastrous operation could have been allowed to occur. In February 2011, the Justice Department denied that the operation even existed, but ten months later was forced to admit that was false. In fact, internal emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee revealed that Justice officials knew all along of the operation, even as it was being denied.
Importantly, Attorney General Eric Holder had claimed that those emails were irrelevant to the matter, and had refused to produce them. Holder also claimed that former Bush era Attorney General Michael Mukasey knew about Operation Fast and Furious, but was later forced to retract that accusation.
Congress ultimately sought 140,000 relevant documents in its investigation, but Holder has produced just 7,600. To put that in perspective, the Justice Department has produced over 80,000 of those documents to its own Inspector General. Moreover, Congress isn’t seeking every Department of Justice document relating to the entire disastrous Fast and Furious operation. Rather, the documents in question are generally limited to dates after the 2009-2010 operation had terminated, and center on whether a coverup occurred to stifle a Congressional investigation as well as which officials were aware of the operation. In other words, the documents do not relate to some vital national security interest deliberations involving the President, which is the typical justification for a claim of executive privilege.
After more than one year of stonewalling by Eric Holder, the House Oversight Committee finally voted to hold him in contempt this week.
Now, compare the White House’s ultra-secretive behavior on Operation Fast and Furious with its nonchalant disclosure of sensitive military secrets.
Upon taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration immediately began releasing classified interrogation techniques that allowed foreign terrorists to understand how to resist if captured. And in recent weeks alone, the Administration has liberally leaked details about the Osama bin Laden raid, the cooperation of a Pakistani physician who was immediately imprisoned, the identity of Navy SEALs, our drone operations, the joint U.S./Israeli computer virus used to corrupt Iranian nuclear operations and Obama’s “kill list.”
Recognizing its untenable position, the Obama Administration then retreated to its habitual “Bush did it” alibi. But even assuming that comparison for purposes of argument, didn’t Obama rest his entire campaign for the presidency on the promise that he would bring “Hope” and “Change” to American politics? In 2007, in fact, he unequivocally told CNN that, “There’s been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege, every time that there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place, and the Administration would be best served by coming clean on this, there doesn’t seem to be any national security issues involved.”
Obama added, “The American people deserve to know what was going on there.”
Indeed we do. As November approaches, American voters deserve to know why this Administration carelessly leaks sensitive military secrets, but fiercely conceals potentially embarrassing documents relevant to a coverup investigation.