“The Justice Department requested that Obama assert the privilege in refusing to turn certain documents over to Congress concerning the botched gun smuggling operation,” USA Today reports. OMG. WHEN is the mainstream media going to stop calling the ATF’s supposedly anti-gun smuggling gun smuggling program a “botched sting”? As regular readers of this website know full well, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) made no attempt to follow the guns from U.S. gun stores to their ultimate destination. Be that as it is, “In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calf., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, [Deputy Attorney General James Cole] said executive privilege applies to documents that explain how the department learned of problems with the investigation.” Here’s some of the text . . .

I write now to inform you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011, documents . . .We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the Committee’s concerns and to accommodate the Committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious.

As Chris Lichowitz wrote just minutes ago, nothing says coverup better than Executive Privilege. Wikipedia provides the context:

The Supreme Court confirmed the legitimacy of this doctrine in United States v. Nixon, but only to the extent of confirming that there is a qualified privilege. Once invoked, a presumption of privilege is established, requiring the Prosecutor to make a “sufficient showing” that the “Presidential material” is “essential to the justice of the case.”(418 U.S. at 713-14). Chief Justice Burger further stated that executive privilege would most effectively apply when the oversight of the executive would impair that branch’s national security concerns.

How, pray tell would Operation Fast and Furious involve national security concerns unless it’s related to American foreign policy towards Mexico? More specifically, the Obama Adminsitration’s [well-established] collusion with Mexican drug cartels to prop-up the Calderon Administration?

And when is the House Oversight Committee going to call witnesses who actually bought the guns with the ATF’s help and the DEA’s money? While Representative Issa and Senator Grassley’s battle with AG Holder has been going down, case after case have been brought against the firearms purchasers at F&F’s sharp end; quietly plea bargained into the background.

The Huffington Post’s comments section provides a quick look at the spin that’s coming our way from the Oval Office (and yes I’m quoting dubious sources). “Coverup? Political Witch Hunt would be more appropriate,” William J. Ferrara opines.

“I am glad the president did this we need to protect the information that could potentially ruin other cases just to satisfy the Republican party with a lynching. The attorney general has done everything they asked but they continue to hound him,” papa githiomi adds. “Obama forward 2012.”

Maybe. Maybe not. I wonder if the families of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and U.S. Customs and Immigrations Agent Jaime Zapata—federal law enforcement officers slain by drug thugs wielding ATF-enabled firearms—will vote Democrat in the next presidential election.

What happens next? Watch this space.

74 Responses to ATF Death Watch 153: President Obama Claims Executive Privilege Over Fast and Furious Documents

  1. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment

    Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
    SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

    My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

    Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public….

    • +1 i was just thinking about this statement when i read about this. i’m thinking iran contra/pat tilman parallels here. hope this comes back to bite during the elections.

    • Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush used Executive privilege 14 times each over 8 years. President Obama has now used it once. I would say that is an unprecedented level of openness compared to his two immediate predecessors.

        • The President claims that the documents contain information that would compromise ongoing efforts. Only time will tell if that is true.

        • To protect and continue the operations at work right now. These guns are still in play, with info continuing to bring pain upon the Cartels and others. Despite what others(including people here on TTAG) may think/fantisize/dream, this operation is not about your 2A rights. It is about BADGUYS and our forces doing something about them. As with War on Terror issues, Obama is hitting back hard, and doing damage, and you all seem to not want to hear about that part of this. I have close friends involve in these ops, so please stand down.

          Releasing more info/documents will put operators at risk.

          Note/Consider: if you sold a gun to a dealer/Cabellas, and they sold your gun to a texan and the texan used it to commit a crime killing your cousin in the process, would you be happy if the government came after you for the killing!? The killer did the kill not they seller/previous owner…..

        • “Obama is hitting back hard, and doing damage, and you all seem to not want to hear about that part of this.”
          ——
          Surely, you have documentation of said damage, right?

          “I have close friends involve in these ops, so please stand down.”
          ——
          Um, no. If you have “close friends” involved, I’m sure they can take care of themselves.

        • Note/Consider: if you sold a gun to a dealer/Cabellas, and they sold your gun to a texan and the texan used it to commit a crime killing your cousin in the process, would you be happy if the government came after you for the killing!?

          You tried this BS already, but we’ll do it again. This argument is specious and unrelated to the matter at hand. If I sold my gun to a dealer, knowing that the dealer was an illegal purchaser, or if that dealer sold it to someone else, knowing that that person was an illegal purchaser, then I, or the dealer, respectively, would be criminally liable. The ATF told the border states dealers to sell to people that both the dealers and the ATF knew to be illegal purchasers. Your made up scenario and what happened down there have absolutely nothing in common.

          Obama is hitting back hard, and doing damage, and you all seem to not want to hear about that part of this.

          Actually, I very much want to hear about that part. Please point me to evidence to back up your claims. I really would like to see it.

          I have close friends involve in these ops, so please stand down.

          You’ll pardon my disbelief, I’m sure.

      • This may be the first time Obama himself has invoked Executive Privilege, but as I recall the DOJ under Obama has continued using it to stonewall certain court cases left over from the Bush years. He’s certainly no stranger to it.

        • Departments have their own means of protecting sensitive information, but Executive Privilege is (in my understanding) reserved for the Office of the President.

      • As I recall his use of EOs was almost exponentially higher less than a year into this term. So, tomato, tomahto. Clinton was Bad, Bush was Bad, Obama does the same things and is… good? Nnnnnnnnnope.

  2. I was around during Watergate, the cover up has officially reached the White House, next step, Special Council. Is Patrick Fitzgerald available?

  3. “President Obama Claims Executive Privilege”

    For a brief moment I thought this was a Wednesday morning sarcastic joke.

  4. Now Barry owns this. He can’t blame Holder alone. Fortunately plenty of good attorneys reside in the DC area. And Chicago.

  5. LOL. The government is ran by pussies, dykes, and criminals. We’ll put up with anything in the “land of the free home of the brave.”

  6. The true “axis of evil” in that little snapshot there.

    And so long as you’re quoting HuffPo commentors (the very definition of “useful idiots”), why not get a sampling from all walks of life in that similar IQ bracket and quote some barnyard animals? (Though the HuffPo commentors might be offended when they can’t keep up with the animals’ comparative intelligence and logic).

    Any time I need to support my position that just because someone was born in the US does not make them my countryman/ally, I point to people like that. Remember, folks…loathe as I am to bring the holocaust up for the second time today, remember that the Jews’ “countrymen” manned the ovens. Remember to understand the difference between an “opinion” (“I like chocolate ice cream best”) and a threatening stance veiled as an opinion (“I think Obama should be able to assassinate whoever he wants”). In politics, there are no opinions, only allies and enemies, because every decision affects your life, sometimes in profound ways. Choose wisely.

  7. How/why should planning what could be a cover-up be shielded from oversight?

    “Sharing the documents “would inhibit candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight,” Holder wrote to Obama.”

    I wrote emails to my representative, senators and Speaker Boehner’s office expressing my outrage and asking they continue supporting efforts to determine who/when/why Fast and Furious was authorized. Do any of the Republican leaders have the grit to stand up to this administration?

    • Did they have the grit to stand up to claims of executive priviledge made by previous administrations? Nope, no one has the grit to actually want to govern well. It is all just tribes. We hate the other tribe, and when they do stuff like this, we hate them for it. When our tribe does the same thing, we admire our willingness to exercise power. Damn, we have always had an adversarial system, but it is just getting stupid.

  8. How, pray tell would Operation Fast and Furious involve national security concerns unless it’s related to American foreign policy towards Mexico?

    But that’s exactly the point. F&F was an extension of the same foreign policy that supports the Sinaloa cartel in its death struggle against Los Zetas. We arm the Sinaloas, transport their drugs and launder their cash. The Sinaloas fight Los Zetas, a paramilitary organization that is capable of destabilizing Mexico and exerting undue influence on its upcoming presidential election. The Sinaloas are fighting a proxy war.

    The administration’s is now attempting to alibi its executive privilege claim by linking it to other pending cases. Such an alibi would not support a claim of executive privilege, but will toss the whole matter into the courts where it will rot on the vine. If the same privilege claim was linked to foreign policy, the EP claim would most likely hold up, but would also admit things that the administration cannot admit.

    • Ralph, is there a need for EP to be tied to foreign policy? Clinton tried to use EP for the Lewinsky indiscretion (not very international), and none of the Bush claims were about foreign policy, as I recall.

      • is there a need for EP to be tied to foreign policy

        No, not at all. But under the Nixon case, national security is the strongest argument.

        Executive privilege is a good thing, not a bad thing. The people in the executive branch should be able to confer with each other freely and directly, without any concern that their lawful conversations will be made public. If undersecretary X thinks that a particular policy sucks, s/he should be able to say so, in exactly those words, no? Moreover, the three branches are supposed to be co-equal. Congress is not supposed to screw with the executive branch, and vice versa. So EP has its place.

        The problem of EP isn’t in its use, it’s in the infrequent misuse. In about the last 20 years or thereabouts, EP has been asserted by Presidents only a couple of dozen times. Even if every one was specious (which I do not believe is anywhere near the truth), that’s bad but not a ton of bad.

        • Executive Privilage was used by Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. 14 times each. If you go back 20 years you will find even more. President Obama has now used it once.

        • No, no. Don’t deflect. We’re talking about the current tennant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

        • Clinton used it 14 times, GWB only 6. But “I’ve used it less than the last guy!” is a stupid argument, and a deflection. It was stupid when GWB’s people pointed at Clinton when they said it, and it’s stupid now that BO’s people are pointing at GWB and saying it.

          It’s also irrelevant. Ask any little brother who tried to point at his older bro and say, “But he’s done it too.” Best case scenario, they both get their asses beat, but I’ve never seen it mitigate the younger one’s punishment.

        • Why are people so sure that it is being used that way. The claim that the documents contain information that will compromise ongoing efforts sounds reasonable. The House has the means to determine that without dragging the whole thing through public political theater.

        • “The claim that the documents contain information that will compromise ongoing efforts sounds reasonable.”
          ——
          Except that it doesn’t. Congressmen and senators are thoroughly vetted and cleared for information related to national security. Issa isn’t demanding that the documents in question be released to the public.

  9. If I remember right, Obama had stated that the White House had nothing to deal with F&F. Now he is claiming executive privilege. That now means the White House had dealings by either orchestrating the operation or was informed about the operation and did nothing. To me this means Issa needs to dig even deeper to know what Obama knew about the operation.

    Obama might have just hung himself.

    • No, all he is claiming is that the material is sensitive to national security. Just because he claims executive authority doesn’t provide a direct link. However it does beg the question, if it is vital to national security why can there no oversight? My guess is on going operations in Mexico and at home. As to the nature of those operations, who knows.

    • No. It simply means that the Executive Branch believes that the public disclosure of sensitive documents would compromise ongoing efforts. It does not mean that the Office of the President was intimately involved with a Justice Department program.

  10. How is it King O claims EP over docs and evidence AFTER the operation occurred? Am I missing something?

  11. Not surprised. I hope that this Jackel gets the boot in November. Although Romney doesn’t sit so well with me either…. It’s going to be a rough 4.5 years…

  12. This is great news as I see it! Obama OWNS Fast and Furious now and will become whatever version of “GATE” cover up that the left now has to deal with. Instead of doing the investigation from the bottom up, there is now plenty of ’cause’ to investigate from the top down!

    If the right doesnt jump on this and run like hell with it, they are fools. Obama just didnt hand the right a magazine full of ammo, he just gave them the entire ammo manufacturing plant!

  13. There is a place for this to be settled – a closed session of House Intelligence Committee. If the documents contain details of ongoing efforts in Mexico, then they should not be a part of any public proceedings.

    A “Fast and Furious” gun killed a Border Patrol agent, and details of ongoing efforts may kill even more people trying to quell the violence in Mexico.

  14. I wish there could be a eerr well you know wiki leaks kind of thing here. Seriously it would probably cause the entire administration to implode.
    While I don’t agree with the white house leaks, and to be honest I don’t always agree with the stuff that was leaked to wiki leaks over the years this one would be juicy I am sure.
    They are going to stonewall for the next four years, or at least until they lose the election. My only hope is that the new president would then demand all documents be made public. It would probably cost a lot of folks their jobs and worse.
    I am just flabbergasted.

    • the notion the Fast and Furious is going to cause the Administration to collapse is pure wishful thinking mixed with the hyperbole of internet partisanship. This is an election year tempest in a tea pot.

  15. Executive privilege, translated into English: abuse of power. Dumb and Spurious will be remembered in a long list of such acts by administrations of both parties. The sad truth is that voters never seem to care much.

  16. Not surprised that BHO called EP on this one.
    Two choices:
    (1) BHO approved and had full knowledge of F&F from day one.
    (2)One or more of the alphabet agencies is/was running other operations also without the knowledge of the Mexican government.
    Watergate was breaking and entering, F&F cost the lives of two federal agents and the murder of who knows how many others.

    • If you think that Watergate was just breaking and entering, then you need to brush up on the facts of the case. Fast and Furious in not as bad (nowhere near it in fact).

        • Do you seriously think that the man who pulled the trigger would have stopped if Fast and Furious had not existed? That argument is filled with exactly the kind of backwards logic found in the drive to ban guns.

          The man that pulled the trigger would have had a gun no matter how it crossed the border. Criminals will get guns and use them. That is a fact.

          Unless, of course, you want to jump on the gun grabber’s band wagon.

  17. I’m just curious if RF is still going to stand by his assertion that Obama has done nothing to suggest that he is anti-2A

  18. Maybe someone who knows more than I do could chime in, but it seems to me that the White House’s assertion of executive privilege equates to the White House’s buying and owning Fast & Furious all for itself. It means the White House knows what it is exercising the privilege over. And the White House will not be able to disavow any of it. Fast & Furious is now the property of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    • Nope. The Justice Department, being part of the Executive Branch, can be the subject of Executive Privilege without the Office of the President being directly involved in the matter covered by EP.

      • Well, the White House, not the Justice Department, asserted the privilege. It would be odd for the White House to assert a privilege over information it had nothing to do with.

        • The Justice Department is in the Executive Branch. Clearly the Office of the President was called upon to help. That does not mean that the President was there from the start.

  19. Might there be some relationship between Obama’s reported statement to Sarah Brady about working on gun control, having to go through a few processes, but under the radar…and F&F?
    Just asking.

  20. This post is a symptom of the unnecessary blurring of the lines between support of the Second Amendment and partisan politics. This kind of political rhetoric keeps the 2A crowd weak, because it drives a wedge between those of us in the center and on the left, and those in the 2A crowd on the right and far right. It is bluster like this that caused me to drop my NRA membership. 2A rights are not red or blue … they are red, white, and blue.

    • @crosswiredmind, re: blurring of the lines

      The lines aren’t blurred. They are inextricably intertwined. The ATF is a federal agency tasked with the enforcement of existing regulation. When it runs afield of that task, itself breaking the laws it purports to enforce in an effort to promulgate more regulations, the responsibility for the steering lies with the hand on the tiller. When the ATF is being used as a tool to effect change, it is being used incorrectly.

      If F&F was purely a construction of the ATF offices in the southwest states, fine, shitcan the people responsible and move on. But it wasn’t. The people responsible at ground level haven’t been fired for malfeasance, they’ve been reassigned, transferred, and promoted. The paper trail leads up through the org chart, from the field agents, to the supervisors, to the regional directors, and eventually you end up at the DOJ, where you hit a stone wall. Does it go higher, to the White House? Nobody knows, because they ain’t telling.

      The people on the ground are not political, their supervisors are not political, the regional directors aren’t necessarily political. But the chain of command and responsibility potentially leads all the way to Eric Holder, and he is [i]very much[/i] political. At that point, following the lead doesn’t somehow magically become partisan politics just because he happens to be a Democrat. He is simply the next link in the chain.

      I don’t want to know the answers because I want the Democrats out of office. I want to know the answers because the entire situation is wrong, and there needs to be accountability and explanation.

      • You have missed my point. The connection between Fast and Furious and Second Amendment rights is tenuous at best. The fact that this place seems utterly obsessed with it does not help to demonstrate the broad bi-partisan support for gun ownership and the Second Amendment. In fact, it reinforces the stereotype that gun culture is inseparable from the political ideology of the right wing.

      • Crosswiredmind, you are defintelety drinking the Koolaid! If you can’t see what the left wants to do to the 2A, you must be blind. Wait until Hillary signs the UN Arms treaty in the next couple of days, it can’t be any clearer. Of course it won’t go anywhere because it needs to be ratified by the senate which won’t happen, but thats not to say some clowns may be voted in at a later date (probably democrats) who might change their mind and ratify it. Your blind obedience to the annoited one is nauseating….

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