5 years, 8 months ago
Media Matters excoriates those who traffic in confusion over Project Gunrunner.
This is starting to get pathetic.
Right-wing media outlets keep dishing out new “evidence” for why senior Justice Department leaders must have known about Fast and Furious, a failed operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). All they keep proving is that those officials knew about Project Gunrunner, the high-profile effort begun under President Bush of which Fast and Furious was one small part.
They’ve already used this conflation to baselessly claim that the stimulus included funds for Fast and Furious (the funds were earmarked for Project Gunrunner and were not distributed to the ATF office that handled Fast and Furious) and that a 2009 Holder speech proves that he was aware of the program (the speech references only Gunrunner and was given before Fast and Furious was initiated).
In their latest effort, these outlets are pointing to a two-minute clip of a speech that then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden gave on March 29, 2009. In the speech, Ogden said:
DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is increasing its efforts by adding 37 new employees in three new offices, using $10 million in Recovery Act funds and redeploying 100 personnel to the Southwest border in the next 45 days to fortify its Project Gunrunner, which is aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico.
ATF is doubling its presence in Mexico itself, from five to nine personnel working with the Mexicans, specifically to facilitate gun-tracing activity, which targets the illegal weapons and their sources in the United States.
Let’s go over this again: Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious are not the same thing, and Fast and Furious wasn’t reportedly begun until six months after Ogden gave this speech.
Nonetheless, in an editorial comparing Fast and Furious to Watergate, Investor’s Business Daily claims that the Ogden video “may rival the tape that turned a ‘third-rate burglary’ into a presidential resignation.” IBD also claims that both the Ogden clip and Holder’s speech show the speaker “taking credit” for both Project Gunrunner and Fast and Furious. They provide text from both speeches in which the speaker references the former and not the latter, because they are lying (and embarrassingly bad at it).
Meanwhile, Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com cites this clip to claim that Ogden left DOJ in late 2009 because he “wanted to reduce his chances of becoming the ‘fall guy’ for the Obama Administration after news of this doomed-from-the-start gun-running operation became public.”
Analysis & Commentary
David Codrea and Bob Owens have both had this in their sights. David does legitimate reporting as well as analysis and commentary, while I mostly focus on analysis and commentary. So at times I speculate or infer, usually based on a string of evidence or reports (some published, some maybe not). But regardless of however much we might like the reporting at Big Government, or Salem News, when they link up video or cite documents demonstrating that so-and-so was aware of Project Gunrunner, and flatly assert that he or she is admitting complicity in the smuggling of weapons to the cartels, it is both sloppy and not necessarily correct (note that I said not necessarily, and I’ll return to this later). It isn’t necessarily correct, not yet, and not exactly.
We know that Project Gunrunner began in Texas in 2005, and was designed primarily during the Bush administration to include the training of the Mexican authorities in the use of eTrace to track weapons. It involved a handful of ATF field agents, but until late in the Bush administration it wasn’t heavily resourced or funded. The Merida Initiative changed that. There were a number of problems with this initiative, but at the moment, I’m just relaying the facts.
The stimulus of 2009 sent more money in the direction of Project Gunrunner. When the Obama administration took office, there was increased attention on Project Gunrunner, and most astute readers are aware of Operation Fast and Furious which focused on the Southern border and which was run primarily out of the Phoenix office of the ATF. Fewer people are aware that there was a similar companion operation (called Operation Castaway) in which weapons were released to MS-13 in Honduras, run primarily out of the Tampa office of the ATF.
More recently, there is e-mail evidence indicating that the ATF was searching for anecdotal support for a demand letter on long gun sales in July of 2010. And only a few days ago David Codrea published a letter he received concerning the illegality of the trafficking of weapons, a point I have made (albeit not as clearly) before.
“[it] isn’t okay for the ATF to violate the National Firearms Act or the Arms Export Control Act if I must live within its stipulations.”
There is indeed illegality involved for knowledgeable individuals (the executive branch of the government cannot willingly violate laws legitimately enacted by Congress any more than can I). So there is a lot at stake to protect information and identities. It will be some time before everything is uncovered in this scandal.
But if there is sloppiness in some conservative commentary concerning the conflation of Project Gunrunner and Fast and Furious (or Castaway), and even if Media Matters got this one at least partially right, there is another perspective.
There is a lot of dissimilarity between Project Gunrunner during the Bush and Obama administrations. Project Gunrunner was small during the Bush years, and doesn’t appear to have included any illegal trafficking of weapons. The Obama administration oversaw a significant expansion of the program, with strategic studies, Office of Inspector General recommendations for more expansion, the training of corrupt Mexican police, involvement of the FBI and DEA, etc.
We know all of these things based on irrefutable evidence. We can assess, or speculate, that there is cohesion of intent and knowledge of the operations up the chain of command within the administration. In other words, we can speculate that weapons trafficking was a subset of Project Gunrunner, as it morphed during the Obama administration into something much larger and organized than it was in the Bush years. Another way of saying it is that equating Project Gunrunner during the Bush and Obama years is inaccurate. Same words, different meaning.
We can speculate that since Mr. Obama is a statist, or Fabian Socialist in his thinking, his slip concerning bitterly clinging to guns and religion wasn’t really a slip. It was a glimpse into his soul, the very core of his being. I tend towards this interpretation, and thus I have no problem surmising that the chain of evidence plus what I know about Mr. Obama and his administration points towards complicity and prior knowledge within his administration. Mr. Obama is no friend to firearms.
But it’s important that this be stated as surmising at the moment. There is much investigative work to be done, and hunting for evidence from amongst this administration will be like pulling teeth. Finding the truth will be hard. Commentators are best advised to do better research before conflating phrases and terms, and get busy researching and digging. Personally, I believe that Project Gunrunner isn’t the same thing it once was. As I said before, same words, different meaning. But I’m unwilling at the moment to flatly assert much more than what I have said thus far.