Washington Post Wrong On Issa Knowledge Of Project Gunrunner

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

I read a Washington Post article on Wednesday in which someone at the Justice Department claimed that Representative Darrell Issa had been briefed months ago on Project Gunrunner (more on my views on this in a moment).  The Daily Caller reports on Issa’s denial.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told The Daily Caller that the Washington Post is the only news organization to bite on new misleading sentiments from the Justice Department.

A Wednesday Washington Post story used anonymous Justice Department sources to bash Issa’s investigation into Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious.

The anonymous sources claimed that Issa attended a classified April 2010 briefing for members of Congress and their staffers about the programs that have allowed American guns into Mexican drug cartels’ hands.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told The Daily Caller the Post is the first newspaper to run these DOJ claims, but not the first one the Justice Department went to with them.

“We have had people who have contacted us before the Washington Post,” Hill said. “They told us people in the Justice Department were trying to push this story and I think a number of publications didn’t think it was credible or, for whatever reason, decided not to run it.”

Hill said there was a briefing that Issa attended back in April 2010 on a similar subject. “There were questions at the time about the number of U.S. weapons that were ending up at Mexican crime scenes,” he said. “Basically, [it was about] the efforts of the ATF to stop cartels from doing this.”

Did Project Gunrunner or Operation Fast and Furious come up at that briefing at all? Hill says “they certainly did not.”

When I read the Washington Post article I considered it so unlikely that I didn’t bookmark it or send myself the URL for later use (I normally send myself dozens of URLs per day for potential later use).  I have on rare occasion used anonymous sources, an example of which might be when someone who is deployed is providing a perspective that may reflect on his chain of command.  I routinely receive notes from people I never use (for instance, I exchanged e-mail with a lawyer who knew facts about the Jose Guerena SWAT raid that couldn’t be shared with my readers).

But bloggers must have some sort of protocol for what may be used and what may not.  If someone at the Justice Department, even with legitimate e-mail, phone number, title and name, had told me that Representative Issa had been briefed on Gunrunner in April of 2010 and said nothing about the approach, I would have rejected this source immediately and with prejudice if they had demanded to remain anonymous.

Let me be clear.  Even if this report was correct, it doesn’t exonerate the ATF from wrongdoing.  As I have pointed out 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.”  But since the report has no name attached to it, let me offer some counsel to this supposed anonymous source at the Justice Department. 

Have some balls.  I don’t use a pseudonym.  I put my name on everything I write, and I back it up or retract it.  If you want to be taken seriously, don’t go around whispering secrets to the media.  Step forward, bring your evidence, and stand by your account.  Otherwise, you’re just a coward.  As for the Washington Post, it really looks awful for you to be in bed with cowards.

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the attention.

UPDATE #2:  Hmmm … did the DoJ begin almost immediately trying to walk this back?


Gunrunner Investigation Points Much Higher Than ATF Director

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse On Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking To Mexico

Project Gunrunner: Whitehouse and DoJ Knowledge And Oversight

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On June 23, 2011 at 10:55 am, RebeccaH said:

    This smacks of top officials in very hot water trying desperately to save themselves.

  2. On June 23, 2011 at 11:01 am, GM Roper said:

    “Have some balls. I don’t use a pseudonym. I put my name on everything I write, and I back it up or retract it.” Bravo Mr. Smith.

    I too refuse to use a pseudonym. If my facts wrong, I will retract. If it is a matter of opinion, I stand beside what I think.

    GREAT Post and a fine indictment of both the WaPo and likely, someone in the Justice Department that approved this travesty.

  3. On June 23, 2011 at 11:12 am, zipity said:

    Oh, I’m sure the WAPO is just reeling from embarrassment. Um. Sure. They push their political slant, and damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. Using lies, half-truths, etc. Whatever. The ends (socialist “utopia”) justifies the means.

  4. On June 23, 2011 at 11:18 am, Herschel Smith said:

    And yet … the Obama administration is again floating Andrew Traver for Melson’s replacement, and David Codrea finds Traver’s fingerprints all over Operation Gunrunner.


  5. On June 23, 2011 at 11:23 am, sherlock said:

    Fast and Furious: if this was a Republican adminstration, the WAPO would be calling for a special prosecutor and probably impeachment.

    Libya: if this was a Republican adminstration, the WAPO would be calling for a special prosecutor and probably impeachment.

    Racial bias in DOJ vote-fraud prosecution: if this was a Republican adminstration, the WAPO would be calling for a special prosecutor and probably impeachment.

    The list is longer – these are just off the top of my head. The media has a new favorite client whose best interests it zealously protects, and it is not the American public.

  6. On June 23, 2011 at 11:25 am, Capitalist Running Dog said:

    Please investigate this aspect of ATF’s gun-walked weapons – the same or equivalent guns could have been obtained by narco cartels much cheaper on the international market; why then were they bought in southern Arizona for a $$$ premium? I can only conclude that ATF supplied the $$$ to make the practice viable to the smugglers.

  7. On June 23, 2011 at 11:28 am, jhn1 said:

    Once upon a time sources that lied to media got outer.
    Not anymore. As long as they like the story.
    True or not.

  8. On June 23, 2011 at 11:33 am, cthulhu said:


    April 2010, Discussion document, page 153 of 612: “Oh, yeah — we have a program where we’re carefully tracking weapons from gun shops in the US into Mexico.”

    June 2011, anonymous leak to WaPo: “What’s the big deal? We told you all about it over a year ago.”

  9. On June 23, 2011 at 11:39 am, Constitution First said:

    If failure is always an orphan, what does that make Epic Fail?

    Once those guns left the ATF’s sight, destined to cross over into foreign lands, there was no possible means of tacking them.

    No one has yet explained who was supposed to benefit by hawking guns to drug lords. They might have caught the first or second tier players, but they are, by definition: bit players, easily replaced, the big fish are on the other side of the border, where obviously and clearly they, the ATF, had no assets.

    This is Epic Fail on a whole new level. If Eric Holder didn’t know about this, he sure should have. Either way, the buck surly stops there, unless Holder can finger a higher player…

  10. On June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm, willis said:

    A reasonable explanation is that no one in the DoJ sent anything to Wapo. They did this in an attempt to muddy the waters and re-cast the whole event as just incompetence on the part of everyone. I suspect that Wapo believes this was a well executed plan to overturn the 2nd amendment and the DoJ lost control of the narrative.

  11. On June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm, Daniel said:

    If this is report were true it would mean that these operations were known and approved at the highest level of the Justice Department, and would implicate them in them. For, it is inconceivable that the head of that organization is kept unaware of what Republican members of Congress are told.
    This is a startling admission of guilt by this anonymous member of the Justice Department.
    Of course if the perpetrators of the operation could come up with a reasonable explanation of the purpose of the operations, they might be able to save themselves, but this kind of tu quoque argument actually makes things worse for themselves.

  12. On June 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm, M. Simon said:

    They are using the Drug War against the 2nd. And this is not the first time. Care to look into Alcohol Prohibition and its effects on gun rights?

    You would think some one with a knowledge of history would notice. You would be wrong. Mostly.

    This was an attempt to use the Drug War against you.

    The Drug War – It Is Not Just For Dopers Anymore

  13. On June 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm, A_Nonny_Mouse said:

    So typical of this Administration: Somebody else did something sorta similar; or somebody knew about some part of the plan and didn’t call “foul” based on whatever small part of the operation he was aware of, THEREFORE no matter what we did we can’t be considered, y’know, “guilty” … it’s all completely the responsibility of that “somebody else”.

    Example: Obama wastes hundreds and hundreds of billions on stimulus and bailouts; plus he takes over 2 auto companies, bypassing bankruptcy laws, and gives the cleansed-of-debt companies to unions– “B-b-but Bush spent $30 or $50 billion to bail out automakers, and then he spent $700 billion on TARP, so don’t you dare criticize us for spending vastly greater sums on nothing-in-particular, or for circumventing procedures that protect bondholders in order to reward our cronies.”


    We live in terrible times indeed; and I have no faith we can get back to where we need to be in order to make this a land where freedom is our birthright once more. None of our leaders wants to acknowledge that the notion of “God-given rights” implies corresponding “God-given responsibilities” as well.

  14. On June 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm, clazy8 said:

    I suspect other news agencies were looking for evidence to support the claim. To my mind, in the scenario where you receive such info from someone at DoJ, you’re being unreasonable to reject the claim out of hand, given the source. Surely it would be worth looking into, if no further than to call Issa and ask point blank. If he says no, you’ve still got a story, namely the one run by the Caller.

  15. On June 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm, clazy8 said:

    One more thing, nothing repels “anonymous” manipulators like the huckster at Justice than the threat of exposure. People who lie should be identified. IIRC, that’s something the press refused to do back during the Plame nonsense.

  16. On June 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    The approach you describe is a legitimate one, and it all comes down to whether one pursues the story and how much time and energy one has to get to the truth (and also, don’t forget, contacts and acquaintances to whom you can refer). On the other hand, if I was paid to do this …

  17. On June 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm, Jeff said:

    guess what … It doesn’t matter what Issa was told … he doesn’t run the DOJ …
    does the WaPo really think they can try and smear and not get hammered ? really ???

  18. On June 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    I feel that I need to clarify what I said in my response to you. It would be a legitimate exercise to investigate a DoJ accusation, get Issa’s response to it, and then publish something outing my source at the DoJ as a liar.

    But under no conditions would I have run with a story from an anonymous source at the DoJ as if it was factual. That would make my web site no better than a gossip column, and as far as I am concerned, that’s what the WaPo was in this instance.

  19. On June 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm, Federale said:

    On the issue of living within various laws. Yes, you have to, but federal law enforcement agencies do not. While some like ICE claim that they can violate any federal law in the pursuit of a crime, in fact, all federal law enforcement agencies can violate a federal law with the permission of the Department of Justice. Usually that permission comes from an Assistant United States Attorney. But in this case, apparently higher-ups at the DOJ were also involved. It is quite a common technique for federal law enforcement to allow a crime to be committed or do it themselves. Drug laws are the most common violations, whether delivering the drugs or allowing a delivery to take place by a subject or by a confidential informant.

    Of course the problem is that someone, or many someones, died from this investigative technique.

    The person that Issa should be subpoenaing is the lowly AUSA who is responsible. I am certain he got permission for this from someone higher up.

  20. On June 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    No, you need to check yourself on this. Federal agencies aren’t just allowed to violate laws whenever some lawyer tells them it’s okay. When a law is passed, it usually says something about conditions under which it doesn’t apply to law enforcement. See, for example, the national firearms act, which specifically allows law enforcement to use fully automatic weapons, while I cannot own them. The point is, these things are specifically stipulated in a bill that has passed both houses of Congress. Federal agencies cannot decide which laws they want to live within, and which ones they don’t. That’s like deciding that a citizen doesn’t really have a bill of rights because some attorney general somewhere says so.

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You are currently reading "Washington Post Wrong On Issa Knowledge Of Project Gunrunner", entry #7162 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) BATFE,Project Gunrunner and was published June 23rd, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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