ATF Death Watch 2: We Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

foxnews.com reports that Senator Grassley has uncovered a smoking gun in the ongoing investigation into the brain-dead initiatives known as Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious. “An internal memo from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows that U.S. officials allowed criminals to buy 1,318 guns worth nearly $1 million, even after they knew that the buyers were working for Mexican drug cartels, and that the agency’s effort to stop the guns had ‘yielded little or no results.’” [Click here for the memo.] Note: that’s the number of guns allowed to flow down the so-called “Iron River” after the ATF IDed the so-called straw purchasers—and did bugger all to stop them. In total, 15 suspects purchased 1725 firearms. Now don’t get me wrong . . .

That’s not a hell of a lot of firearms. The Mexican drug cartels have tens of thousands of weapons, including some extremely serious shit (to use the technical term). They have fully automatic machine guns, grenade launchers and grenades. Although the ATF-enabled firearms include a Barrett 50-cal or ten, the walked guns are a drop in the ballistic ocean.

It’s also true that the drug cartels are not relying on Bob’s Gun Stores to git ‘er done. “‘Er” in this case meaning murder, mayhem, the complete subversion of the democratic process, terror, drug pushing and more murder and mayhem. The vast majority of weapons in the drug lords’ arsenals come from military “seepage” and South American bad guys (a.k.a,, good guys, at least when the sales are made).

That said, it’s extremely doubtful that this is a full accounting of all the firearms that the ATF knew about or could have known about or should have known about or should have prevented from leaving American gun dealers—if the ATF had been doing what it is paid to do.

And it is absurd to the point of Senatorial apoplexy that the U.S. government would add even a single gun to the narco-terrorists’ supply. The idea that the federal agency in charge of preventing illegal firearms sales and gun smuggling allowed illegal firearms sales and gun smuggling to secure funds to stop illegal firearms sales and smuggling is quite literally nuts. And yet this the ATF did, with the full knowledge of one Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States.

Holder is busy trying to evade responsibility for this fiasco, a DOJ-approved program that armed drug thugs who murdered not one but two federal law enforcement agents, killed by bullets fired from ATF-enabled firearms. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Grassley’s investigators have tightened the metaphorical noose around Holder’s neck, but good. As have Representative Issa. Here’s what Issa’s staff have unearthed so far:

– U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke was in full agreement with the investigative strategy of allowing the transfer of firearms from gun stores to straw buyers.

– Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer knew about and even approved a wiretap application for suspects targeted in Operation Fast and Furious over a year ago. Issa on Wednesday released documents from Assistant Attorney General Breuer, head of the Criminal Division and a former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton that show he approved Operation Fast and Furious wiretaps.

second document shows that Burke supported the strategy “to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place … in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators who would continue to operate and illegally traffic firearms to Mexican [Drug Trafficking Organizations].”

This is also bad news for the current head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano. Mr. Burke worked with Ms. Napolitano when she was Arizona’s Attorney General. When Napolitano became Governor, Burke was her Chief of Staff. It seems entirely reasonable to believe that whatever Burke knew about the ATF’s gun enablement, Napolitano knew it too. When he knew it.

So Holder and Napolitano are now fighting to remain in power, at least until Barack Obama gets a second term in office (God forbid). At which point, Obama will drop the cabinet-level appointees like a drug peddler dumping a bag of meths during a drug raid. Is it possible we’re looking at a strange echo of Watergate (as Brad Kozak suggested) whereby a scandal simmers through a presidential election, until the Commander-in-Chief is cornered, vilified and, yes. forced from office?

It doesn’t really matter. While focusing on the political soap opera is the natural human tendency, there are far more important issue at stake than whether or not President Obama has surrounded himself with incompetent lying bastards. More specifically, the size and structure of the U.S. federal government. Even more to the point, whether or not the ATF itself will take one to the back of the head.

This is, after all, the ATF Death Watch, not the Obama Administration Death Watch. For the former to occur, the Agency must be discredited along with the players who made a mockery of any legitimate effort to prevent illegal firearms sales. Not that I think the ATF is capable of such a thing. As I’ve said before, as far as I can tell, the ATF’s “successes” rely exclusively on entrapment. But no one is making that point, present company excluded.

For the ATF to disappear down an FBI or IRS-shaped rathole, as it should, two things must happen simultaneously. First, the public must become aware of, and dissatisfied with, the corruption that typifies their work. The botched massacre at Waco was the wake-up call. Gunwalker is—or could be—the breakfast of former champions. In that sense, the theater surrounding “nailing” the Obama administration pencil pushers responsible is a good thing, not a bad thing.

At the same time, a Republican president must take office. One who campaigns on a platform pledging to eliminate entire federal departments. And then does it. Including the ATF. That, my friends, would require a serious popular backlash against Uncle Sam’s profligate ways and some serious stones from the candidate him or herself. And/or a financial meltdown the likes of which we’ve already seen. Or the continuation of same. Or, gulp, something worse.

The first part of this process is unfolding in front of our eyes. The $1.5 billion per year ATF is busy making a case for its own demotion and dissolution. You could even say they’ve already made that bed. All they need is someone to force them to lie in it. And that’s happening right now. The second part, well, a week is a long time in politics. There are a whole bunch of them before we see which Republican gets the nod, and whether he or she is man/woman enough to off the ATF.

At the moment, I wouldn’t bet on it. But just as the Ghostbusters never crossed their proton streams, until they did, no President or Congress has ever killed a fully-fledged federal agency. Until they do. And if they do, the ATF is surely smack dab in the middle of those cross-hairs.