Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bureau stonewalls Senator on walking guns to Mexico

President denies any role in "Project Fast and Furious" - also denies AG played in part or okayed the scheme to sting drug cartel smugglers

“Send lawyers, guns and money;
Dad, get me out of this.” - Warren Zevon

Washington – Battle lines long ago carved in stone are grooving more deeply every day as the fight for power continues in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Justice Department officials continue to stonewall the ranking member in Freedom of Information Act requests regarding “Operation Fast and Furious,” dubbed by critics of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives as “Operation Gunwalker.”

In turn, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Ia, is showing every sign of continuing to block the appointment of a director of BATFE, or approval of the President's proposed two-year extension of FBI Director Robert Mueller's term.

He played the abuse card – the one marked “improper political influence and abuses of the past.” Harking back to the days of the everlasting career of J. Edgar Hoover and his extensive files on the private proclivities of politicos, Presidents, stars and honchos, Sen. Grassley said, “This is an unusual step by the President, and is somewhat of a risky precedent to set. Thirty-five years ago Congress limited the FBI director's term to one, 10-year appointment as an important safeguard against improper political influence and abuses of the past.

“There's no question that Director Mueller has proven his ability to run the FBI. And, we live in extraordinary times. So, I'm open to the President's idea, but I will need to know more about his plan to ensure that this is not a more permanent extension that would undermine the purposes of the term limit.”

Ditto the term of acting BATFE Director Kenneth E. Melson, who assumed his post in April of 2009. A former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, Mr. Melson is a widely published professor at George Washington University and a distinguished fellow of various scientific organizations devoted to sophisticated crime detection techniques and crime lab evidentiary procedures.

Most recently, GOP Senators blocked the recess appointment of Andrew Traver to head the agency. Mr. Traver is a known opponent of private gun sales, gun shows and ownership of semi-automatic rifles.

In hearings before the Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder told Senators Grassley and Darrell Issa, R-Ca, “I frankly don't know” anything about Project Fast and Furious, which has gained infamy in the popular lexicon as “Project Gunwalker” following revelations last winter that two AK-47 semi-automatic rifles obtained by smugglers in the Phoenix area were used in the attack near Nogales, Arizona, that left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.

BATFE agents turned whistle blowers allege that thousands of these weapons have been approved for sale to drug cartel smugglers in an effort to “pad” the figures of guns sold to Mexican smugglers by federal firearms licensees in southwestern border states.

Dick DeGuerin, an attorney for Houston area gun dealer Bill Carter alleged that the approval for sales over the dealers' objections were actually a part of the bureau's campaign to send massive numbers of such weapons south of the border. Dealers have long objected to selling guns to persons who fit the profile for straw purchasers who funnel firearms to smugglers.

The controversy led the NRA's Wayne LaPierre to call for the resignation of the Attorney General.

That call was joined by Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Chairman Alan Gottlieb, who said Mr. Holder is “either monumentally stupid, or he is telling a monumental lie...This operation happened on his watch, and apparently right under his nose, and apparently cost the life of at lest one law enforcement officer...How could he not know, almost six months after the slaying of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, that guns recovered at the scene are linked directly to the Gunrunner sting?”

President Barack Obama denied that either he, or Mr. Holder authorized any such approval of sales to suspected smugglers for any reason whatsoever.

He told a Univision interviewer, “It's a big government; it has lots of moving parts.”

To date, the government has denied any information release regarding the operation on the grounds that it might hinder prosecutions under investigation.

Said Senator Issa, “We're not looking at straw buyers, Mr. Attorney General, we're looking at you.”

Senator Grassley said, “Congress should not allow its fact finding efforts to be stonewalled just because the details might be embarrassing to certain officials in the department.”

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