In a perfect world, everybody takes their oaths of office seriously, tends to their knitting, and works hard as servants of We the People. Here’s the world U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder lives in: “The notion that somehow or other this thing [the Gunwalker scandal] reaches into the upper levels of the Justice Department is something that . . . I don’t think is supported by the facts. It’s kind of something I think certain members of Congress would like to see, the notion that somehow or other high-level people in the department were involved. As I said, I don’t think that is going to be shown to be the case — which doesn’t mean that the mistakes were not serious.” Not shown? Serious? U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered with an ATF-enabled gun. How do you reality check that kind of weaseling and hold those responsible responsible? Simple . . .

Appoint a Special Prosecutor.

The U.S. Constitution provides for checks and balances between the three, co-equal branches of government (Congress, Judiciary, Executive). Congress can investigate the Executive and Judiciary, The Executive can investigate just about anybody (through the Justice Department). And the Judiciary can go after the Executive and Legislative branches. Fair enough. But sometimes, politics gets in the way.

At the end of the 20th Century, a President with rock star popularity (that would be Clinton) had a number of, ahem, dubious ethical dealings which attracted the attention of Congress. This would have been no big deal, as long as Congress was run by the same party as the folks in charge over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But what happens when the loyal opposition takes over, as they did when Newt and his Contract With America guys took over Congress? Well, we have a clambake. Or to put it more specifically, a Congressional investigation.

Because one side wants to acuse the other of staging a politically-motivated witch hunt, Congress passed a law providing for the option to create a “special prosecutor” who would operate with absolute impunity, untouched by political influence. A prosecutor who could Get To The Bottom Of Things without making it look as if Torquemada had taken up residence in D.C. and was open for bidness.

The special prosecutor system, frankly, doesn’t get around claims (from either side) of politically-influenced witch hunts. Just look at the ritual abuse heaped upon Kenneth Starr, special prosecutor of one William Jefferson Clinton. Wild Bill may or may not have been guilty of something – anything – in the Whitewater(gate) scandals – we’ll likely never know. But one thing is indisputable. Clinton lied in front of a Grand Jury when questioned about his dalliance with Ms. Monica Lewinsky, White House intern, starry-eyed girl, and cigar aficionado.

Starr’s investigation resulted in impeachment charges being brought against Clinton in the House. In the case of Impeachment, the House acts as a kind of Grand Jury, authorized to bring charges against the President. They did. The Senate then acts as both Judge and Jury in a trial that can result in the President’s removal from office.

Clinton got off (legally – I won’t speak in the euphemistic sense), largely due to a lack of will on the part of the Senate to nail Clinton for lying to a Grand Jury. The whole case largely brought the White House to a standstill and crippled the second term of Slick Willie & Company.

That brings us to the alphabet soup of agencies implicated in the mess known as Gunwalker: ATF, FBI, CIA, ICE, CPB, DHS, DoS, AG, and the DoJ. Wow. That’s a lot of soup. But the ones that really count here, at least as far as an investigation goes, are “AG” and “DoJ.”

It’s hard to imagine the idea of “self-policing” working, when the suspicion of wrong-doing goes all the way up to America’s Top Cop, Attorney General Eric Holder, and his Department of (in)Justice. Don’t think Fast and Furious is enough to worry about? Howza about the whole Gibson GuitarGate? What about the “We’re not going to prosecute in voter fraud cases” thing? See a pattern here?

Senator Grassley and Representative Issa have done a fine job of keeping the ATF mess from getting swept under the ObamaNation rug. But they can only do so much before they are pilloried for being biased due to party affiliation. [ED: See New York Times hit piece on Issa.] A Special Prosecutor can investigate without the encumbrance of ties to the Just-Us Department or the Executive Branch. He or she’s got the power to kick down doors, take names, and walk out of the room with somebody’s ass in their briefcase.

To uncover the full illegality that goes by the name of Gunwalker, to follow those guns wherever they lead, we need a special prosecutor. Right now.

Special Prosecutors don’t come cheap. The whole Whitewatergate/Lewinsky mess didn’t come cheap. But whereas the Clinton White House hunkered down in the bunker mentality and curtailed some of their more creative stabs at implementing their agenda, the Obama White House does not seem to be similarly encumbered. Things like the Gibson Guitar raids would indicate they’re taking more of a “Damn the Torpedoes…Full Speed Ahead” strategy.

But this Gunwalker mess seems to grow by the hour. In the last two months, we’ve gone from “there’s something rotten in the State of the ATF” to compelling evidence that nine major federal agencies were involved in activities that armed criminals that shot a federal law enforcement officer. And God knows who else. And God knows what else.

In the last three days, we’ve learned that the ATF enabled illegal gun purchases in Indiana. That the ATF and U.S. Attorney’s office allowed a known grenade maker and gunsmith—a man who also converted semi-automatic rifles into submachine guns for Mexican drug cartels—to return to his craft south of the border. That the case against some 20 straw purchasers is collapsing like a house of cards.

There’s really only one office that has (as of yet) not been drug, kicking and screaming) into the eye of the storm – the Oval Office. And if you believe in the old axiom “where they’re smoke, there’s fire,” you have to believe that things are getting a little hot over on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A Special Prosecutor can and would take this case and run with it. Unlike other investigations, they can go where the evidence leads, all the way to the top, if need be. It’s probably the only thing that will really give the fine folks over at Justice a serious case of acid reflux. They can stonewall Congress, redact away, and hope things blow over. Even call “executive privilege” or “national security” when things get a little too hot. But a Special Prosecutor? Now THAT’S some power.

As Santayana was fond of saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Between Watergate, Whitewatergate and this current mess, it would seem that history is doing that self-fulfilling prophesy thing again. That may sound like great fun in a bread and circuses kinda way. But America actually face some serious problems right now. We need to clean house before we can put our house in order.

So it comes to this: how ’bout we put the pedal to the metal and get this over with, before this devolves into a quagmire that consumes the nation? Email your Congress critter now with a simple message: “Please appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate all the crimes relating to the program conducted by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives known as Operation Fast and Furious.”

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20 Responses to ATF Death Watch 76: Brian Terry, Eric Holder and The Starr Chamber

  1. I’ll be sending letters to Kerry, Brown, Capuano (my local guy), the remainder of the Massachusetts delegation, as well as Grassley & Issa, before the weekend is out. I know, I know, I’m not holding out much hope for the Mass. delegation, but you’ve got to try anyway, right? I’ll send you the replies if you’d like.

  2. I dunno, Brad. As with the whole Lewinsky thing, I have to ask seriously, what is the desired outcome here? If the BATF ends up getting dismantled it will most likely just be recreated as something else, with the same mandate and the same people in charge. Kind of like in the Army where every now and then they’ll “move” a division from 1 post to another. Nothing actually “moves” (except maybe the division colors which are put into a case and mailed to the new duty station), all that happens is the soldiers at one post switch shoulder patches from the Screaming Eagle or the Black hourglass to the Electric Strawberry or something similar.

    Impeachment? Not a chance (and as an aside, am I the only one who’s getting a little tired of the inevitable calls for impeachment by the losing side of every presidential election? Seems like the first impeachment demand is typically made at about the same time the new president’s hand comes off the bible at the inauguration ceremony.)

    So what’s the end game here? If this is just a public scandal-fest designed to pave the way for the Republican candidate in 2o12, then the accusation that it’s a “politically motivated witch hunt” is actually correct, is it not?

    There’s also the old medieval adage that says if you strike at the King, you’d better finish the job. The Republican congress suffered a significant backlash in the 1998 elections as a result of the impeachment, and you have to figure that the Obama folks are hoping for the same thing here.

    From what I’ve seen here and elsewhere, the whole Gunwalker scandal was a screwup, a mistake. I don’t see actual malice here, an actual intent to arm the cartels in order to harm or kill American LE personnel. I see a cockamamie, half-assed plan that was poorly thought out and poorly executed. Trying to turn it into Watergate just won’t work.

    • My main interest is the law. As in prosecuting people who’ve broken the law. Either we are a nation of laws or we are not. I would be prefer the former to the latter, and anything that aids the cause of justice is OK in my books.

      • I hope you are consistent. It laws are broken under Republican administrations too (Iran Contra, Iraq WMD etc etc). Even border agents are killed and the perps are given US citizenship (back in 2005/06 I believe).

      • So what law was broken? Yes, weapons were illegally transferred – as part of an investigation, much like when the cops set up a “sting” involving prostitution or drugs or stolen merchandise. Even when those operations go south (as they sometimes do) their actions are mistakes, not crimes. And while you can (and should) punish people politically for mistakes (i.e., don’t reelect them), punishing them criminally is problematic for a whole raft of reasons.

        • I made a financial mistake and now have to become a prostitute or steal something to feed myself. Does that make it no longer a criminal act, but rather a big mistake? Its nice to know that if your in goverment, your above the law, with the only possible punishment being not elected again. How about they acted for financial gain, specifically the income of their jobs?

        • In all police stings, the po-po pay maintain surveillance on the drugs/cash/counterfeit watches/whatever. If the cops allow the goods to leave their control, their case falls apart AND they’re no better than the thugs who sell the stuff “for real.” In fact, in the case of F&F, they knowingly supplied weapons to known criminals, who later used the weapons for felony murder. Even though Uncle Sam’s jackbooted thugs enabled the guns for law enfrocement purposes (allegedly), they’re lack of controls makes them criminally complicit.

    • +1

      Also Brad “There’s really only one office that has (as of yet) not been drug, kicking and screaming) into the eye of the storm – the Oval Office. And if you believe in the old axiom “where they’re smoke, there’s fire,” you have to believe that things are getting a little hot over on Pennsylvania Avenue.” Why would it be hot if as you say it hasn`t even been suggested that the Oval office was involved in a ATF issue.

  3. A special prosecutor appointment will make a lot of political noise, gin up some more outrage than there is now and when finally complete will find that there were errors in judgment, violations of the law which while criminal were “good faith” violations so they should be handled internally. Scapegoats will be reassigned and in some cases demoted. They will appeal their demotions and after a peer review their appeals will be sustained and records stricken of any black marks. Their career paths will resume so they can serve out their “20” and retire.

    The special prosecutor appointment is a distracting sideshow which will also give political cover to those who support it and they will hide behind this act to show to constituents their “2nd Amendment street cred”, thus nullifying any action on advancing the RKBA in congress.

    The DOJ doesn’t care if people die. The only federal official who was ever in any serious jeopardy from Ruby Ridge was Lon Horiuchi, the actual murderer. Sure, the guys & gals who gave the Ruby Ridge and Waco orders were made uncomfortable, but jail was never on the table for anyone except the trigger man in RR. Who really got punished for either debacle?

    Does anyone here seriously expect to see Bill Newell, or some ATF thug behind bars?
    Or some wayward US Atty. or DOJ official?

    Horiuchi murdered Vicki Weaver while holding an infant child in her arms according to some sources, of course denied by DOJ. It doesn’t get more murderous than shooting an unarmed female holding a child in her arms. That is possibly one of the most vile, disgusting murders in modern times. Yet DOJ went to bat to cloak Horiuchi in immunity and would still defend him if Boundary county again up took the case.

    Let’s look at the logistics for a second or two and fantasize that a special prosecutor finds some legal problems and wants to pursue some ATF thugs. DOJ will defend them with a bottomless pit of taxpayer money. The special prosecutor budget? Not so bottomless. Especially in a time of extreme financial difficulty.

    Also, if you get a special prosecutor on board, there is zero chance that ATF will suffer any blow to its power. There’s practically zero chance of that happening anyway, as Congress has plainly indicated at every turn that it FULLY SUPPORTS ATF, its mission, goals and staff. Defunding or disbanding requests will be met with protests “I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I supported a special prosecutor to investigate gunwalker … thank you for sharing your views with my office, I will keep your views in mind”.

    So, while a special prosecutor is a good concept, the side effects will be less palatable. Politically it will be more effective to have Congress keep investigating and prolonging the Gunwalker agony through the elections. Right now, they have nothing to “hide behind” in pursuing this as they’ve produced no tangible results, so we can amplify gun owner outrage and pressure for Congress to show some tangible support for the RKBA.

  4. There won’t be a special prosecutor. What we can expect is a special carpet cleaner to sweep this mess under the rug.

  5. Mike:

    You sound like a good Soviet citizen during the !930’s — “If only Comrade Stalin knew… .”

    I work with an Army reservist who was brought in on orders to do counter-threat finance because he is a DEA agent in civilian life. When this story broke I asked him what gives. He explained to me how this is supposed to work. The SAC with the bright idea goes to the local US attorney with a plan that has to pass legal review and lead to a legitimate arrest. Since this plan involved a violation of Mexican sovereignty it had to go to main Justice and then to the State Department for approval. Finally it goes to the US Embassy in Mexico City to gain the approval of the Mexican government. Clearly the final step never happened but it is certain that it went to Justice. No US Attorney would violate the border without approval from the AAG who runs the criminal division.

    You probably don’t know this but no agency head goes over his superiors direct to the National Security Staff because they are going to ask your boss what’s up. If you did that you would be given your walking papers the day they found out. So even if Melson briefed the White House without clearance from the AG, Holder would have been notified immediately by the White House about F&F after receiving Melson’s first brief.

    In cases where an agency goes rogue the “best and the brightest” end their careers in a giant bloodletting but in F&F they all got promotions while those who blew the whistle got canned. That means the crew that executed F&F were good soldiers who followed orders from above. If this was a screw up it seems to a popular one with ATF and Justice doesn’t seem to mind. It took the Commander, US Southern Command to blow the whistle on the “screw up” in his AOR (Operation Calypso). Now we know that ATF has been walking guns domestically from an Indiana dealer. That’s three screw ups. Only a fool could believe that all this gun walking was just the kids getting out of hand.

    If Holder wants to claim that no senior Justice Department Official knew about this little game he should appear under oath before the committee and say so instead of at a press conference. The fact that he won’t testify to this claim under oath is a dead giveaway that he is lying.

    And by the way Comrade Stalin knew all about it.

  6. HERE WE ARE PROSECUTING BASEBALL PLAYERS FOR LYING TO CONGRESS AND PUTTING THEM IN PRISON BUT WE HAVE POLITICIANS AND COMITTEE HEADS LYING TO THE GOVERNMENT AND IT IS SWEPTED UNDER THE TABLE. HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL BEING A LICENSED TO CARRY OBEYING THE LAWS AND MIGHT HAVE MY RIGHTS TAKEN AWAY BECAUSE OF THIS WHOLE ORDEAL. THEY ARE BLAMING OUR SECOND AMMENDMENTRIGHTS AS THE REASON FOR THE GUN PROBLEMS IN THIS WORLD

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