ACRU

Holder Must Go Over Gun Scandal, but What Did Obama Know?

This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published July 12, 2011 on The Washington Examiner website.

Operation Fast and Furious is a growing scandal. Attorney General Eric Holder must go, but Congress should not stop investigating there, and ask if Democratic operatives knew anything.

Fast and Furious is the latest variation of the ATF’s Operation Gunrunner (aka Gunwalker), allowing U.S. guns into Mexico. It’s a disaster involving more than 2,000 guns, many now being used in crimes, and one used to kill a federal agent.

Despite Holder claiming to have only recently learned about Fast and Furious, BigGovernment.com found a 2009 speech wherein Holder bragged about Gunrunner.

In “The Bourne Identity,” Jason Bourne is a secret assassin for Operation Treadstone. When Treadstone became a liability, the government terminated it, simultaneously launching Operation Black Briar. Same people, objectives and tactics. Same operation, different name.

The only way Holder didn’t lie to Congress is if he’s parsing with Bourne-style doublespeak. “Oh, I meant Fast and Furious, not Gunrunner.” It’s a distinction without a difference.

A July 5 letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa says that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives leadership has been “muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials … obstruct[ing] our investigation.”

Few recognize the name Ken Melson, the acting ATF director currently offered up for blame as a sacrificial lamb. But many know the name Eric Holder, whose resignation as attorney general would weaken President Obama.

Search warrants were authorized, which Issa notes is above Melson’s pay grade. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration were involved, suggesting possible interagency coordination by DOJ.

And U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke (Attorney General Janet Napolitano’s former chief of staff in Arizona) was involved, who is DOJ. Now we learn that similar operations were being conducted out of Florida.

An editorial last week in this newspaper asked: What did Holder know, and when did he know it?

We also must ask: Did any political operatives calling for gun control know the ATF had caused these gun crimes? And did the president or anybody else in the White House know about this?

Anti-gun Democratic congressmen and liberal politicos have been citing U.S. guns showing up in Mexico and Southwestern states as proof that America needs new gun control laws.

In the aftermath of Gunrunner, they’re shamelessly adding the solution is to give the ATF new gun control powers.

After the tragic Tucson, Ariz., shooting, Obama told anti-gun activists that his team was working on gun control behind the scenes. The next question becomes: Is there a connection?

The National Rifle Association has fully engaged this issue. CEO Wayne LaPierre gave a passionate speech at the NRA’s Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, demanding answers.

Did White House allies calling for gun control know Obama’s ATF had created the problem? How many people knew about Gunrunner, under any name?

The NRA is perhaps the most formidable public-interest group in America. LaPierre’s justified focus on this scandal could bode ill for Obama in 2012 if anyone close to the president is implicated.

Congress can discover the truth. It can force Melson to testify about details over Holder’s objections. It can force Holder to testify. And it can obtain any DOJ emails, including any to White House allies.

The legal doctrine of when administrative officials can be forced to testify is called executive privilege. Certain matters are always confidential, such as military movements and diplomatic secrets.

Others are always unprotected, such as criminal behavior. Between those two, there are various factors courts consider to determine whether officials must testify.

Everything pertaining to this scandal is unprotected unless the president was personally involved. Even then, one of the questions DOJ officials can be required to answer is, “Have you communicated with anyone in the White House on this? If so, who?” We need those answers.

But regardless, DOJ was clearly in charge. So Holder must go.