And the Award for Best Fast and Furious Water Carrier Goes To . . .

by Michael Walsh

. . . the New York Times, of course, for its laugh-out-loud-funny spin on the Friday night “Fast and Furious” document dump, in which the Justice Department admitted that its previous denials of complicity were no longer operative. 

Here’s the way I saw it this morning in my New York Post column:

It was all a lie. The angry denials, the high dudgeon, the how-dare-you accuse-us bleating emanating from Eric Holder’s Justice Department these last nine months.

Operation Fast and Furious — the “botched” gun-tracking program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — did, in fact, deliberately allow some 2,000 high-powered weapons to be sold to Mexican drug cartel agents and then waltzed across the border and into the Mexican drug wars — just as Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, who are leading the congressional investigations, have charged all along.

That’s the conclusion we can draw from Friday night’s nearly 1,400-page document dump, which gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Justice Department as it struggled earlier this year to come up with an explanation for the deadly mess — and “misled” Congress.

Or maybe not. Here’s Times reporter Charlie Savage’s lede on Friday:

The Justice Department on Friday turned over to Congress nearly 1,400 pages of “highly deliberative internal communications” about the drafting of a February letter in an effort to show that agency officials did not knowingly mislead lawmakers in connection with a disputed gun trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious.

The letter, which rejected early accusations of wrongdoing in Fast and Furious, told lawmakers that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.”

But . . .

Officials now acknowledge that the claim was misleading. It has come to light that A.T.F. agents in Arizona have on several occasions, dating to a 2006 investigation called Operation Wide Receiver, tried to identify the leaders of gun-trafficking networks by allowing lower-level suspects to transfer guns — and have lost track of weapons in the process.

For those of you who haven’t been scoring at home, Operation Wide Receiver was a Bush-era program that — as Andy McCarthy noted here — bore only a superficial resemblance to F&F:  

Wide Receiver actually involved not gun-walking but controlled delivery. Unlike gun-walking, which seems (for good reason) to have been unheard of until Fast & Furious, controlled delivery is a very common law enforcement tactic…

Fast & Furious involved uncontrolled deliveries — of thousands of weapons. It was an utterly heedless program in which the feds allowed these guns to be sold to straw purchasers — often leaning on reluctant gun dealers to make the sales. The straw purchasers were not followed by close physical surveillance; they were freely permitted to bulk transfer the guns to, among others, Mexican drug gangs and other violent criminals — with no agents on hand to swoop in, make arrests, and grab the firearms. 

But both the administration and the Times are doing their level best to conflate and confuse the two. When in doubt, blame Bush.

In fairness, the rest of the Times’s story is devastating to Justice, particularly the actions of assistant AG Lanny Breuer and his deputy, Jason Weinstein, who now appear to directly contradict one another:

The newly disclosed documents show that Mr. Weinstein was among those who edited the ["misleading"] February letter. On several occasions, he sent a draft to Mr. Breuer, who was in Mexico at the time. After receiving one draft and being told that different officials had signed off on it, Mr. Breuer replied, “Great job.” He also forwarded e-mails with drafts to his personal e-mail account…

But in a written statement sent to Congress on Friday, Mr. Breuer said he did not participate in drafting or editing the letter and had no recollection of reviewing it before it was sent to Congress. He also said that it appeared that the “misguided” tactics used in Wide Receiver had been abandoned years earlier.

My conclusion:

It’s time for the months of lies to end — but don’t hold your breath. The administration recently sealed the court records relating to agent Terry’s murder and — a year later — the one man arrested hasn’t been tried.

So far, three presidential candidates, a couple of senators and more than 50 congressmen have called for Holder to resign. If he can’t answer the one question that matters — why — that number ought to include his boss.

I’m not holding my breath.

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