FAST AND FURIOUS
What is the national investigation called “Fast and Furious”? It’s an operation begun by George W. Bush in 2006, to stop gun running from the U.S. to Mexico that has been turned into a referendum on the Obama administration.
In the fall of 2009, the directors of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the ATF and the top federal prosecutors in the Southwestern border states met with the deputy attorney general at the Justice Department to figure out a way to prevent tens of thousands of guns from being trafficked from the United States to Mexico and to ‘get’ the top criminals.
The first couple of suspects (called straw purchasers) worked in an auto repair shop and raced cars in Phoenix, Arizona. ATF operatives wittily named the investigation after a popular race car movie, Fast and Furious.
Working out of their Phoenix, Arizona office, the agents, one of whom was John Dodson, watched the suspects buy boxes of guns but were ordered not to confront them, the theory being to follow the guns to Mexico and catch the top buyers. Dodson became more and more upset with allowing the straw purchasers to get away with their loot. In-fighting and rebellion developed between the Phoenix ATF operatives, middle management, and new leadership sent to Phoenix to work the case.
Then, one night in December, the worst happened. Patrol agent Brian Terry and fellow officers were patrolling Peck Canyon near the Mexican border. The officers came upon a group of bandits and illegal immigrants and a gun battle ensued. Terry was shot dead. Four men were arrested, two with AK 47 semiautomatic rifles. Though neither of the rifles could definitely be linked to Terry’s killing, the ATF did find that both guns had the same serial numbers as the guns Dodson had seen purchased outside Phoenix.
Having never agreed with the methodology in the first place, Terry’s death was the last straw for Dodson. He reportedly tried to contact everyone he could think of at ATF but to no avail.
Was it frustration or political motivation that caused him to make the next phone call to Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee?
Without the power to subpoena investigative documents from the ATA, Grassley went to his buddy and fellow Republican, Darrel Issa, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa could do what Grassley couldn’t – subpoena people and papers.
Now, with congress involved, the mutiny of John Dodson and the other Phoenix ATF officers turned a substantive gunrunning investigation into a full-blown congressional uproar. People, some only remotely connected to the investigation, were called to testify before congressional committees.
Kenneth Melson, former director (he was forced to resign) of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency “went in secret to Capitol Hill to talk to the political enemies of his bosses in the Obama administration,” according to the Washington Post.
Just last week, Representative Issa’s committee voted to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not turning over secret documents concerning Fast and Furious which, remember, was a covert operation. President Obama intervened by exerting executive privilege to protect those secret documents.
As of now, many officials including Bill Newell, former ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix office (he’s since been transferred) still believe Fast and Furious was the best way to investigate and stop the flow of guns between the U.S. and Mexico – a “phenomenal case,” he says, “that will soon lead to the indictment of as many as two dozen high-level traffickers.”