ACRU

What Did Napolitano Know about Fast and Furious?

This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published August 31, 2011 on The Washington Examiner website.

Heads seem to be rolling from the deadly Operation Fast and Furious gun scandal that is revealing the Obama administration to be as anti-gun as the National Rifle Association has always said.

Fast and Furious is the program initiated two years ago by officials within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to allow more than 2,000 firearms to be sold by U.S. gun dealers to suppliers known to be working for Mexican drug cartels.

The idea was the guns would later show up at crime scenes in Mexico and aid authorities in linking cartel leaders to specific acts that could be prosecuted. Instead, many of the guns have been found at U.S. crime scenes, including the one last December in which a U.S. Border Patrol agent was murdered.

Besides Attorney General Eric Holder’s knowledge, congressional investigators might also want to ask Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano some questions about her knowledge on the subject.

Yesterday, Kenneth Melson, the now-former acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) who has been the public face of the scandal, was transferred to a new job in the Department of Justice.

But while media focused on Melson, less attention was paid to the resignation the same day of U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke, under whom the Fast and Furious program was carried out.

Burke’s involvement is very serious because of his special relationship with Napolitano.

Napolitano formerly held the same post as U.S. Attorney in Arizona under Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Burke worked for Napolitano then, then became her chief deputy when she was elected Arizona Attorney General in 1998.

When Napolitano was elected governor in 2002, Burke became her chief of staff. When President Obama made Napolitano head of DHS, Burke followed as a senior advisor. Only later did Burke leave her side, taking Napolitano’s first political post as U.S. Attorney.

Burke was the top Obama administration official on the ground in Arizona as Fast and Furious was progressing. Now we learn that DHS was receiving weekly reports on this deplorable fiasco.

Napolitano talked with Burke essentially every day–often multiple times every day–for more than a decade. What are the odds that she never talked with her close friend and confidante Burke about any of these reports, especially when she used to hold that same job?

As I’ve written previously, Obama’s allies were citing the presence of American guns in Mexico as “proof” that new gun-control laws are needed.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, who has exposed the Fast and Furious scandal, should be asking if White House officials knew ATF was illegally sending firearms to Mexico. It’s also important to know what Attorney General Eric Holder knew, and when he knew it.

But given Burke’s relationship with Napolitano, Issa should also be asking the homeland security chief what she knew about Fast and Furious and when.