Obama’s need for “Executive Privilege”

“What did the President know and when did he know it?” -former senator Howard Baker about Richard Nixon during the Watergate hearings

 By Douglas J. Hagmann

20 June 2012: It is interesting that it was exactly forty years ago this week that five “burglars” were caught inside the Watergate complex, setting off one of the most notorious presidential scandals in U.S. history. The events of June 17, 1972 resulted in the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon just over two years later. During that two years, the press was aggressive in its coverage and investigation, while the White House denied any involvement with, connection to, or knowledge of the incident.

During the two years following the arrests of the men caught inside the Watergate complex and until the White House could no longer suppress evidence behind the claims of “executive privilege,” the press and congressional investigators were relentless in determining “what Nixon knew and when he knew it.” How times have changed.

Not very fast, and no fury

Unless you’ve been trapped in a cave or your television has been stuck on MSNBC, chances are good that you are aware of a growing scandal known as Operation Fast & Furious. Chances are equally good that you don’t know all of the intricate details of Fast & Furious, as it has been the practice of this administration and many in leadership positions to confuse the public, convolute the facts, and downplay the murderous scandal that leads directly to the highest levels of this administration.For example, Chris Matthews of MSNBC has stated that anyone wanting Operation Fast & Furious investigated is “another strain of the crazy far right.”  Rachel Maddow, however,  believes that the coverage of Fast & Furious is “the insane paranoid message from the NRA.” Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is even less articulate, calling any investigation into Fast & Furious “f***ing crazy.” (As noted by Katie Pavlich, author of “Fast & Furious, Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and it’s Shameless Cover-Up”).

Meanwhile and unlike the Watergate era, all but a few in power and the media have been proactive in their quest for answers, except for Washington based CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. Add the disinformation deliberately published on the internet, one is likely to be left confused, uncertain of those involved and the timelines, and the actual components of this mother of all scandals.

Background: “Project Gunrunner”

Operation Fast & Furious is the name of an aggressive anti-gun initiative launched and conducted by the United States Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, an agency under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice. It officially began in early 2009 as an extension of a program known as Project Gunrunner, an operation that was started under the Bush administration in 2005 as part of the Southwest Border Initiative (SBI).  The pilot program for Project Gunrunner began in Laredo, Texas. The objectives were to conduct surveillance, identify and stop the flow of weapons and ammunition from the U.S. illegally entering Mexico and eventually making their way to the drug cartels.

In April of 2006, the program was expanded to a national level as a weapons interdiction program under the BATFE, formerly known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).  Project Gunrunner also involved the use of an Internet based weapon tracking system known as eTrace, a program that would permit participating law enforcement agencies to track the origin of confiscated or questionable guns, through their serial numbers, to their point of origin.

On April 10, 2008, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey briefed the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on the status of the project. At that time, Mukasey stated that the “ATF has approximately 148 special agents…and 56 industry operation investigators (IOI) responsible for conducting regulatory inspections.” Mukasey also stated that the ATF “is also expanding its presence at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) which serves as the central repository and “clearinghouse” for all weapons related intelligence collected and developed by ATF’s field personnel and attaches in Mexico as well as by all other Federal, State and local law enforcement entities involved in narcotics interdiction and investigation along the U.S./Mexico border.”

At the end of the Bush administration, Project Gunrunner was responsible for approximately 650 criminal cases being filed against about 1400 defendants, involving about 12,000 firearms.

It is relevant to point out here that “Project Gunwalker” is not the name of any legitimate operation, but a satirical moniker attached to Project Gunrunner.

Operation Fast & Furious

Under the Obama administration, “Operation Fast and Furious” was launched in early 2009. By extension of Project Gunrunner, the BATFE commissioned gun shops along the southern U.S. border to sell weapons to known criminal suspects. Ostensibly, this operation was for interdiction purposes, but the agents involved were directly ordered not to interdict the weapons. What resulted was a mass amount of weapons that actually and genuinely originated in the U.S., with the knowledge and approval of the BATFE, being permitted to “walk” unmolested across the southern border (hence the satirical name “gunwalker”).

From early 2009 through December 2010, this process was repeated over and over in the southern U.S. despite the objections of numerous BATFE agents and gun shop owners. During this time, several agents began to notify congress and became “whistleblowers” about the stand-down orders.

Late on the night of December 14, 2010, the inevitable happened. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down in Rio Rico, Arizona by an AK-47 that was “walked” across the U.S. Mexican border with the knowledge and allowance of the BATFE. Two weapons that were allowed to “walk” across the border were found at the murder scene.

The guns found at the scene were traced to a purchase made on January 16, 2010 from a U.S. gun shop with the full knowledge and authority of the U.S. government by a Mexican national identified as Jaime Avila. On January 16, 2010, Jaime Avila bought 52 firearms, and paid for the guns in cash. ATF agents watched, but were ordered not to stop Avila from making the purchase or crossing back into Mexico.

In addition to Agent Terry, Immigration Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, 32, was also killed by a weapon allowed to “walk” into Mexico. Agent Zapata and his partner, Victor Availa, were driving a government SUV with diplomatic plates on a Mexico highway, returning from a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City when they were ambushed. Agent Availa was badly injured but survived. It should be noted that neither agent was armed, as Mexican law prohibits U.S. agents from carrying weapons in Mexico.

With the tragic death of agents Terry and Zapata, questions began to be raised about Operation Fast & Furious, but it was evident that no one from the Obama administration wanted to talk. Attorney General Eric Holder, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Barack Hussein Obama claimed that they had absolutely no knowledge of Operation Fast & Furious or that any weapons were being permitted to be sold and “released.”

Fatalities increase

If the goal of Operation Fast & Furious was to interdict weapons and stop the cross border violence, and that objective is certainly in question, it was a dismal failure from the beginning. In December 2009, there were 849 people murdered. Every month thereafter, the numbers grew: 937 in January, 2010; 988 in February, 2010, and 1200 in March of that year. In total, 15,273 people were murdered in drug cartel related activity.

Despite this obvious increase in fatalities, no one from our government put a halt to the gun shipments to Mexico. Why?

The real objective behind Fast & Furious?

After taking office, Barack Hussein Obama began a coordinated effort with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to control the purchases and ownership of guns in the United States. To justify the implementation of tougher gun control laws and in a direct assault on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, this administration cited a statement made to Congress by William Hoover, Assistant Director for Field Operations for the BATFE on February 7, 2008. According to that report, 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels were purchased from or originated in the U.S.

That stunning revelation empowered the Obama administration to solicit public support for banning so-called assault weapons in the U.S., and calling for tougher gun control laws. The problem, however, is that the statement is disingenuous at best.

First and perhaps most transparent, it has been noted that only 1 in 5 guns that have been recovered in Mexico actually underwent any form of tracing, leaving 80% untraced. Accordingly, the 90 percent figure is already factually inaccurate.

In 2009, 21,313 guns were recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing. Less than a quarter of those guns were found to have originated in the U.S.

Secondly and perhaps the most scandalous of all is that all figures of cited by this administration pertaining to weapons tracing include weapons sold to the Mexican military via U.S. arms-trading policies under programs such as Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) initiatives. The fact is that the bulk of the arms used by the Mexican drug cartels did not – and do not originate from gun shop sales in the U.S., but from U.S. government sponsored programs that sell weapons and ammunition to the Mexican military as well as other third-world nations. This process was accelerated under Obama.

Many of the weapons used in Mexico and counted in border violence statistics actually arrived in that area from Central American countries involved in U.S. government sanctioned programs administered by the Pentagon and with the knowledge and imprimatur of the U.S. State Department.

Interestingly, confirmation of the government’s programs and knowledge by government officials, particularly Hillary Clinton was made public by the release of State Department cables published by Wikileaks. The cables prove that the U.S. State Department and Hillary Clinton knew the origins of the bulk of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels, although kept this information secret for the greater agenda of U.S. gun control.

Meanwhile, it appears that the Obama administration with the full cooperation of Eric Holder, used various weapons tracking programs already implemented to inflate the statistics involving guns originating in the U.S. to advance even tougher gun control measures.

Research and investigation indicates that a series of programs implemented under the umbrella of a government sanctioned program known “Project Gunrunner” were purposely exploited with the knowledge and consent of government officials at the highest of levels.

According to several agents who have provided testimony, each operation where weapons were allowed to “walk” into Mexico from the U.S. was approved at the highest levels of the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of State. Some believe that operations of this magnitude could not have been possible without the knowledge and approval of Obama himself.

Forty years after the biggest scandal to rock the nation, it is again time to ask the question to Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama under oath and in front of congress: What did you know and when did you know it?