Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fast and Furious - the inherent contradiction

I've been perusing a bit of the right wing blogosphere.  Their take on the Eban expose of the Fast and Furious scandal is interesting, if neither fact based nor logical.

The premise of the Fast and Furious scandal is that ATF agents observed straw purchases of firearms, often in large quantities, that were quickly turned over to people who were not legal purchasers, as private transactions which are not subject to FFL checks.

These firearms then were trafficked over the border to a drug cartel.

The glitch in the right wingnut crazy conspiracy theory is that arrests should have been made.

The documentation is that those arrests were forbidden by the prosecutors, because of lax gun laws that made such transactions to drug cartels effectively legal.  Without prosecutorial approval, arrests could not take place. PERIOD.

This does not make the ATF responsible for the sale and transfer of those firearms.  This just proves they witnessed and documented that such transactions occur daily, whether they are monitored or not.

I was surprised to see that some gun nuts believe that this was some sort of sting operation, that there was some form of encouragement by the ATF to cause these straw purchases to occur.  That is not the case.  In those who claim to 'fact check', I have yet to see anyone debunk that 1. prosecutor approval is necessary for an ATF arrest; and 2. that there were no such arrest approvals received by the ATF from prosecutors.

Rather it is clear that these prosecutors in states like Arizona with NRA sponsored lax gun laws routinely DO NOT PROSECUTE STRAW PURCHASES -- not through arrests by the ATF, or DEA, or local police, or state law enforcement.

I have yet to see where anyone of the pro-gunner gun zombies can explain how useful it would be to make an arrest without prosecution, or at least reasonable expectation of prosecution.  And I have yet to see where anyone can demonstrate that such prosecution in these states like Arizona occur, EVER.

IF you cannot provide that documentation, which has not been sought by the Issa investigation, you cannot fault the ATF for failing to make arrests.  As to the hysteria that Eric Holder did not produce documentation as requested, in fact he produced a considerable amount.  It was a relatively small subset of subpoenaed documents that were in question, and Holder made an effort to find ways to provide those, or at least most of those, to Congress IF - big IF - security for the information could be negotiated.

Ordinarily I would be reluctant to take the side of anyone resisting a congressional investigation, but I believe that Issa, along with a few other notable members of congress, like Congressman Peter King, who have on a variety of topics, not just this one, turned congressional investigation into cheap political theater, and witch hunts on the order of the late, debased Senator Joe McCarthy.  The McCarthy House Unamerican Activities hearings are among the darkest, most despotic and tyrannical of our history.  The recent hearings on everything from Islam in America to the ridiculous and nasty contraception hearings that resulted in the Fluke scandal that so appropriately damaged Rush Limbaugh are not proper, honest hearings, and I agree with Holder that these are not members of Congress who have demonstrated that they operate in the scope of ethics that a Congressional hearing should encompass.

So long as the right persists in being post-truth liars and deniers, so long as they engage and propagate conspiracy theories and fact averse disconnects from objective reality, there is a legitimate concern that these investigations are not legitimate investigations, they are attempts to smear people.  A genuine investigation is based on a fair and thorough investigation that does not have a predetermined outcome.  That cannot be said of any investigation so far conducted by Daryl Issa.

Maintaining an electronic data base to verify numbers on guns trafficked across the border, instead of having to go through the much more time consuming and less effective, less efficient paper records, is NOT about gun control of legal weapons, and is a ridiculous claim of gun grabbing policies.  It is simply an attempt to use the same computerized investigation techniques used in every other aspect of law enforcement.  To try to spin this into something it is not, before seeing where a legitimate investigation would lead, is a perfect example of the outcome of an investigation being pre-determined BEFORE seeing evidence.  A pre-determined outcome is a witch hunt.

And yet, when the Democrats unanimously support something like the Brian A. Terry Memorial Act, and the President SIGNS it, they get no credit for it.  I would question why it is the President's job to popularize this.  Where was Issa?  He was the legislative sponsor for this.  Why didn't he publicize it instead of grandstanding fact-averse statements to the media?  Clearly Issa can get the attention of the media when it suits his purpose to do so.  One has to ask, why is Issa so uninterested in sharing the limelight on his legislation with democrats -- is it because it doesn't suit the agenda of his puppet masters, the NRA and other right wing special interests? From the excellent web site resource, govtrack.us:

H.R. 2668: Brian A. Terry Memorial Act

112th Congress, 2011–2012
To designate the station of the United States Border Patrol located at 2136 South Naco Highway in Bisbee, Arizona, as the "Brian A. Terry Border Patrol Station".
Jul 27, 2011
Rep. Darrell Issa [R-CA49]
Signed by the President
Bill titles and summaries are written by the sponsor. H.R. stands for House bill.


  1. The news that Darryl Issa is a lying sack of shit is in the same category as dog bites man.

    I'm currently sitting at Dulles in Washington, waiting to board a flight to Denver. Gotta go.

  2. Dog gone: “I was surprised to see that some gun nuts believe that this was some sort of sting operation, that there was some form of encouragement by the ATF to cause these straw purchases to occur. That is not the case.”

    No, no, no, you got that wrong. This operation allowed sales to occur that would not have otherwise. That was the fundamental beginnings of the operation. Answer me this, what do you think Operation Fast and Furious did? They don’t need a special operation to investigate leads into possible straw purchases- that is called “doing their job”. Why did Holder say that "the use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable, and it must never happen again." What was he talking about if it wasn’t the creation of sales to known straw purchasers? Are you contending that there was no wrongdoing by the ATF? You seem to be alone in that.

    1. TS wrote:

      This operation allowed sales to occur that would not have otherwise.

      NO, I did NOT get that wrong. Issa's claims of that got it wrong, and your claims of that are wrong.

      That was not the case in Minneapolis, and it is NOT the case in Arizona with Fast and Furious.

      Show me where there is any factual information that these were purchases that would otherwise result in arrests.

      Show me the prosecutions of straw purchases like these in Arizona.

      That is the essence of the Eban expose -- that your claim was incorrect.

      There WERE problems within Fast and Furious, in terms of the surveillance, in terms of lack of funding, personnel and equipment and internal lack of cooperation, and other problems.

      But there does not appear to be factual support for what YOU are claiming. And that is based among other things on the Inspector General's investigations - who does NOT need subpoenas to look at anything they want, since they are internal, operating much like the way that an internal affairs department operates in a police department.

      I haven't looked at Holder's testimony, in the larger context of the hearings. But it wouldn't be the first time I've seen testimony mis-reported, or it could even be mistaken testimony.

      But clearly the crux of the issue DOES seem very substantially to be that the ATF cannot arrest without prosecutorial support and that no matter how egregious, there wasn't that approval --- and not that there was a lack of willingness on the part of ATF to arrest people.

      Issa relied on the testimony of one dubious supposedly whistle-blowing ex-ATF person for those claims you're making TS. The problem is that other ATF, IRS, and cooperating agents from other agencies involved, as well as the internal documents, and the Inspector General's investigations, and the prior effort along similar lines in Minnesota that had to be discontinued because of problems involving some of the same people, just don't back up what that guy claimed about those arrests.

      And that is my point. I don't claim there were no problems with the ATF. But I do claim those problems were NOT about allowing purchases that would not have occurred otherwise -- THAT was not the problem, despite Issa's early and inadequately supported claims to the contrary.

      If Issa -- who btw, has a bad pattern of making false claims about what he is uncovering in congressional hearings, and then not being able to substantiate them -- were the ONLY investigation, and he had credible evidence, I'd agree with you. But there is more credible evidence, both in quantity and quality, and other investigations than Issa's which say Issa's claims are wrong -- AND which make a very clear case that Issa was not out to investigate this, but to try to smear Holder and Obama.

      Add in Issa making NRA claims about a conspiracy to use this for gun legislation where none exists, and you have the Issa trifecta of ginned up scandal where none exists.

      Do a google search, or whatever search engine you like, of straw purchase prosecutions BY ANYBODY in AZ. Find me any other straw purchase prosecutions that shows ANY agency, local, state or federal was prosecuting straw purchases. Then look at all the evidence OTHER than ATF that shows this is a huge problem that is occurring with or without any activity by the ATF, EXACTLY as Eban claims.

      It doesn't take a congressional hearing to see where the problem with these gun sales is occurring. It is not a problem from the law enforcement side, it IS a problem from the side of too-lax laws and no prosecution.

      We have here a dispute of fact, not of interpretation -- and the great thing about that is that facts are something we can confirm.

    2. TS, I have spent three years this month on a series of posts on Penigma writing about the investigation and eventual prosecution of the second largest affinity scam in Minnesota, prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office.

      Prior to the breaking news about the scam being revealed in July of 2009, the FBI had done a very good investigation of the scam, using a whistle-blower who went under cover with a wire to record what was going on. The guy they used was amazing -- and some years later was in fact one of the witnesses against the swindlers which convicted them.

      But he did his investigation for the FBI back in - and I'm pulling this from memory - I believe 2006 of 2007 -- and the scam was allowed to continue because the DoJ did NOT authorize arrests, until July 2009. Many of those who were victimzed believed that there should have been arrests far earlier. Part of why there were not involved the politicizatoin of the Bush DoJ, and the unwillingness of the Bush DoJ to prosecute finanacial industry crimes because they were 'business friendly', no matter how egregious the crime.

      They really DID look the other way, substantially.

      When Obama was elected, he did the opposite; in conjunction with Holder, they not only authorized going after these bad guys, the set up a special, VERY effective, financial crimes task force that looked into everything from the fraud and affinisty scam swindles to some wholesale large scale mortgage fraud by financial institutions. Minneapolis and Detroit were particular hot spots for the latter. They DID shut down the swindle, although two of the convicted co-conspirators had moved on to not one, but two new versions of the original scam by that point.

      And those people ALL were under investigation but not arrested for an additiona one to three years.

      Now in the case of the Obama task force in MN, the same task force was investigating and prosecuting SUCCESSFULLY another ponzi scheme, which was the largest ever in our state. (The case with which I became familiar, and about which we wrote some 14 posts so far, an 'affinity scam' was only number 2 in size in the history of the state of MN.) The point is -- the task force was conducting the two largest financial crime investigations and prosecutions EVER for their jurisdiction AND going after massive OTHER financial fraud, with that limited task force that used a newly efficient combination and cooperation of agencies to good effect. But it was still an operation that was maxing out its resources.

    3. At the same time, the right, in order to obstruct Obama, has done everything in their power to not fund those people doing the good work of investigation and prosecution, to make the laws more lenient for the bad guys - notably reducing the time allowed for victims of these swindles to pursue and file criminal charges, in the Republican MN legislature, along entirely party lines, under thd guise of being more 'business friendly', but really being more criminal friendly and more victim unfriendly.

      And the right has obstructed approval of both judges and agency heads that would have tremendously helped these agents and attorneys to do their jobs.

      Issa is squarely in the lead of those right wingers who are obstructing justice and fair and reasonable prosecution of ANY crimes, but particularly of those relating to firearms sales of any kind, because he is an NRA stooge, bought and paid for.

      Arrests by any agency - and Fast and Furious, like the financial crimes task force -- was a multi-agency operation, not just ATF, all require prosecuting attorney approval. It is NOT just the straw purchase crimes.

      UNLIKE Bush, so far as I can tell, Obama did NOT substantially purge the DoJ and try to make it political; he did a good job of making it purely professional.

      But when you look at someone who appears to be an Arizona prosecutor from that Bush era Fast and Furious that DOESN'T get the same examination as Holder's operation, but was as unsuccessful in stopping straw purchases, and the Eban expose shows that same prosecutor who REFUSED to prosecute the most OBVIOUS straw purchases during the week then helping the FFL who did the sales on the weekend, behind the counter -- how smelly is that for the prosecution side of this?

      Yeah there were mistakes -- I'd call providing any information on an ongoing investigation to that prosecutor who worked behind the FFL's counter on weekends a mistake, for example.

      Yet you do not hear word one from Issa, because he is a corrupt bought and paid for by the NRA scum bag, not a hero.

      Laci worked for the D.C. DoJ on gun crime some years back; he can address this even better than I can; but I can emphatically confirm that what Eban wrote makes sense, and tracks facts, from what I already know covering DoJ investigations and prosecutions.

      To form that task force for the multi-agency operation of Fast and Furious there had to be - HAD TO BE - some expectation of prosecution. I want to know more about what that expectation was, and what happened with it.

      Other states where there is NOT lax gun laws DO prosecute, but little or far less of those straw purchase prosecutions happen in lax gun law states.

      There is a clear causal correlation to those lax gun laws and the flourishing of straw purchases to criminals and for gun show sales that end up in the hands of criminals as well. It doesn't take rocket science to identify the problem.

  3. Dog gone: “Show me where there is any factual information that these were purchases that would otherwise result in arrests.”

    I didn’t say “arrests”. They would have been non-sales. The starting point of this operation was to make the sales go through and try to get arrests. What do you think the point of the operation was? What was Fast and Furious then? You gave me a lot of words in response, but never answered that. What was the wrongdoing by the ATF? Was there any wrongdoing in your mind? And what does Arizona’s laws have to do with a US attorney prosecuting a federal case?

    1. Show me ANY credible evidence that these would not be sales that occur all the time; there is in fact NO evidence that these were sales that would not otherwise occur.

      What evidence do you have that these straw purchases would not have occurred, if the determination was that these were ALL legal sales?

      That is CRAP, and YOU should recognize that -- any sale that is legal is going to be acceptable to a FFL or other seller. There is ample evidence that EXACTLY these kinds of sales take place on a frequent, regular basis.

      Do your homework, for heaven's sake, when you argue a point here.

    2. What was Fast and Furious then? You “did your homework”, so why don’t you tell us what the operation is? Why you are describing is normal day to day responsibilities of the ATF. Why then did they need a special operation to start doing their job? Explain this quote from Holder: "the use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable, and it must never happen again." This is from Eban’s article. Holder admits fault from the agency. They retracted their statement that guns were never allowed to walk. There are some basic truths in this story that you seem unwilling to accept. I think it stems from your belief that all gun dealers are evil and would never refuse a sale.

    3. TS, can YOU find any instances of straw purchases being prosecuted by anyone in AZ?

      Can you NOT find all the many, many, many OTHER sources which indicate straw purchases ARE a problem in AZ -- that they occur DAILY?

      So, yes the ATF tried to put together a task force to try to stop them--------and that task force was consistently prevented from acting by PROSECUTORS.

      I haven't gotten around to looking yet, but I'd bet that the U.S. Attorney in the AZ jurisdiction is probably a holdover from the Bush administration; the southwest states offices were heavily politicized -- if you don't know what that means, it means that cases were prosecuted using the DoJ as political hatchet squads, not because of their merits. It also meant that good cases were NOT prosecuted because it did not suit the right wing politics -- that includes guns as a kind of crime getting favoritist political free passes where clearly illegal.

      If you read thoroughly, the ATF admits it HAD to let guns walk, not that they ever wanted to do so, because of the prosecutors.



      Unless you can pass that hurdle, I don't have to prove anything else. Or unless you can prove that the ATF did not have to get permission from prosecutors to make an arrest -- and I KNOW you can't get over or around that either.

      Fault is not incompetence, fault is not deliberately encouraging transactions that would not otherwise have occurred. Fault is errors, which can occur due to lack of staffing, lack of equipment, lack of supervision, but mostly appears to be a few cases of lack of follow through -- in the larger context of mostly very good follow through.

      You got proof of something other than right wing talking points that don't hold up - bring them. Otherwise YOU go do some homework to find out anything here relating to prosecution and arrests that is incorrect.

    4. Ok,


      That took 10 seconds.

      Dog gone: “So, yes the ATF tried to put together a task force to try to stop them..”

      But what was the special operation? That is something that Eban doesn’t touch on. What was the root of the operation? Why was it started? Whose idea was it? She leaves out a big piece of the puzzle regarding the early concerns of the Lone Wolf FFL (and other dealers), and how the ATF encouraged these sales to go through. Why does she not report on these things after spending 6 months investigating it?

      You keep shifting blame from the ATF to the prosecutors. I agree with you that they are also to blame, but how does that dispute the controversy? They are both part of the DOJ! It is feeding the conspiracy theory that it came from way up (maybe even Holder). I have no doubt there were ATF field agents on the ground who were trying to stop this every chance they could (that is where the whistle blowers came from). If the grandest of conspiracy theories is true, the DOJ used the ATF to push for dealers to continue to make suspect sales, and used the US Attorney’s office to not prosecute the cases and say “oh, it is because gun laws are too weak, there is nothing we can do.” How is what you are saying alleviating the conspiracy theorists?

    5. Dog gone: “If you read thoroughly, the ATF admits it HAD to let guns walk, not that they ever wanted to do so, because of the prosecutors.”

      Holder said “misguided tactic”. How does the word “tactic” apply to your statement? What is “tactical” about your explanation- which is that the ATF was investigating suspected straw purchasers and the prosecutors said there wasn’t enough probable cause to make an arrest? That does not sound like a tactic to me.

    6. TS, it is a failed tactic to establish a task force to accomplish something without the back up of ensuring there is prosecution and approval - what part of this is difficult.

      As to the issue of state laws -- it pertains because not all of the so-called walked guns were sold by FFL.
      Also the hope was that they could get a state law prosecution for straw purchases where the fed prosecutors dropped the ball - that didn't work out, another 'failed tactic'.

      It is also evident that there were internal investigations going on to verify facts at the time that Holder gave his answers, which can reasonably be explained as trying to give answers that would cover any outcome of those investigations, rather than they were truly definitive ansswers.

      You found one example of a straw purchase prosecution; how many investigative articles did you find in contrast about the rampant, blatant and open instances of straw purchases in comparison? This is an exception that proves the rule.

      You still have failed to show that the ATF did ANYTHING WHATSOEVER to encourage a sale that would not have otherwise occurred as well. WHERE is your proof? Every indication of verifiable information, including internal emails, says the opposite.

      Here is a blog post from a former ATF agent in that area from 2009 that makes the point brilliantly about the problems the task force encountered.


      You are down to taking the unsubstantiated word of a disgruntled and apparently complicit on at least one occasion agent who admittedly let guns walk by going on vacation for days without reporting a straw purchase massive gun purchase, as he was required to do, versus the testimony of agents from multiple agencies, some of them very pro-gun, who back up the ATF version that there is no scandal here, other than a lack of prosecution.

    7. Dog gone: “You found one example of a straw purchase prosecution; how many investigative articles did you find in contrast about the rampant, blatant and open instances of straw purchases in comparison? This is an exception that proves the rule.”

      Ha- and you were so cocky when you told me to find “ANY” instance. Remember this?: “Do a google search, or whatever search engine you like, of straw purchase prosecutions BY ANYBODY in AZ. Find me any other straw purchase prosecutions that shows ANY agency, local, state or federal was prosecuting straw purchases.

      Dog gone: “it is a failed tactic to establish a task force to accomplish something without the back up of ensuring there is prosecution and approval - what part of this is difficult.”

      Umm, so you are saying the “failed tactic” was starting an operation (which you still haven’t said how this operation differs from their normal duties) without first asking the prosecutor if they will prosecute a case that they haven’t developed yet. Is that what you are saying? Yes, that part is difficult for me.

    8. OK, TS for all the MAIG sting operations where you see an illegal sale being made--how many of those have resulted in prosecutions?

      Furthermore, TS, prove that any of the F&F gun sales were actually considered illegal by the AZ prosecutors or the ATF. The PURCHASES were not illegal--it's what happened afterward.

      To take it even further, TS, there is a "knowledge" requirement in the law which has to be overcome.

    9. Laci: “OK, TS for all the MAIG sting operations where you see an illegal sale being made--how many of those have resulted in prosecutions?”

      Good question, but let’s start with this one: how many did they try to prosecute? Has MAG ever brought these videos to law enforcement? As far as I know, that answer is no. That has been a complaint of gun rights people, that they have evidence of illegal activity on film and instead of going to the police or ATF, they go to the press and demand more laws.

      Laci: “The PURCHASES were not illegal--it's what happened afterward.”

      No, it is more like what happens afterward is what is needed to prove it was illegal, but it was illegal as soon as the lied on the 4473 form. I am not disputing that convictions are difficult (as any criminal conviction should be), but probable cause to make arrests is a much lower standard, and it is hard to dispute that the US Attorneys had plenty of probable cause in many of these F&F cases. That is part of the bungle, and deserves a thorough investigation. Maybe they were ordered by their bosses not to pursue these? That would explain why they turned away such obvious cases.

      But for all the talk from both of you about how hard it is to stop trafficking, why on earth would they start a program designed to allow guns to be sold to suspected traffickers with the intent to stop them later, when you are saying it is basically impossible to stop them later? These were known suspects making purchases from cooperating dealers- they could have just stopped it at the point of sale. “Don’t sell to Mr. Avalia!”