U. S. Makes American Drone Deaths Official

In a letter to Congress today, Attorney General Eric Holder officially acknowledged for the first time that the U. S. killed four American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen (Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan) and Pakistan (Jude Mohammed).

Of the four, only Anwar al-Awlaki was specifically targeted.

The acknowledgment comes a day before President Obama’s major address on national security related topics like drones and Gitmo.

As You’d Expect, Holder Knew

Like me, you’ve probably been wondering when Attorney General Eric Holder learned about the FBI investigation that uncovered Gen. Petraeus’ affair.  He found out late this summer.

So when Eric Cantor went to FBI Director Mueller with the FBI whistle-blower in October, Mueller’s boss Holder already knew, so I assume Cantor wasn’t giving Mueller new info, he was telling him, “I know what you know, and if you don’t get it out, I will.”

Mr. President, Please Read Fortune’s Fast and Furious Article

A day before the House votes on whether Attorney General Eric Holder is in contempt, Fortune magazine is up with a piece* based on a six-month investigation which finds that the ATF never intentionally allowed “gun walking,” as both lawmakers and the media have assumed.

I encourage beg you to read the whole article and get everyone you know to read it, but here are some excerpts:

“Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal.  Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands.  Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic.  But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic.  They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked.  Just the opposite:  They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

“Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that [head Phoenix ATF agent] Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies.  Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case.  Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

“How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today.  It’s a story that starts with a grudge, specifically [ATF agent] Dodson’s anger at [his boss] Voth.  After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS.  Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration….

Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false,” says Linda Wallace, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit who was assigned to the Fast and Furious team (and recently retired from the IRS).  A self-described gun-rights supporter, Wallace has not been criticized by Issa’s committee.

The ATF’s accusers seem untroubled by evidence that the policy they have pilloried didn’t actually exist.

“Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal.  But the ultimate irony is this:  Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons — ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.”  Italics in original, emphasis added.

To me this isn’t  irony,  it just shows that however much the GOP loves guns, they hate Obama more.  Fast and Furious may be a Seinfeld Scandal —  a scandal about nothing. 

Much as I’d love to blame Fox, CBS initially behaved shamefully here, believing the bad apple (Dodson) over the good apple (Voth) and taking Voth’s email out of context to say he was referring to gunwalking, when he was not.

* “The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal,” Katherine Eban

The Fight Fox Wanted

From “Fast and Furious:  How President Obama and John Boehner got to the brink,” Josh Gerstein and Jake Sherman, Politico:

“For Obama, the political costs of the executive privilege showdown are obvious:  In an election year, there’s little upside to him being tied more closely to a failed gun-smuggling investigation that may have led to the death of at least one U. S. law enforcement agent and hundreds of killings in Mexico.  The executive privilege claim also undercuts his promises to run the most transparent administration in history and could open him to claims of hypocrisy and coverup.

“For Boehner, an unprecedented floor vote to hold an attorney general in contempt threatens to undermine the GOP’s promise to keep a laserlike focus on the economy and Republicans’ determined effort to hammer away at what they view as Obama’s inability to fix the country’s economic ills.  Headlines about the investigations could remind some voters of the 1990’s, when a flurry of probes the Republicans launched of the Clinton administration boomeranged on congressional inquisitors.

“Boehner, Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy also began to feel extraordinary pressure from their membership, chiefly Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who both serve on the Judiciary Committee and Issa’s panel.  There were also more than 100 members who signed onto a resolution expressing no confidence in Holder.

‘White House officials insist there’s nothing in the records that would do any real damage, beyond perhaps revealing some emails with intemperate language about Issa’s investigation.

Some administration officials believe that Issa and Boehner were essentially forced into the contempt vote because intense coverage of the probe on Fox News and by conservative online news outlets fed expectations in the Republican base that heads would roll and a smoking-gun memo would surface.

“‘They’ve created their own problem because they made so many outrageous statements and created expectations that something big is going to happen,’ said Matt Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman involved in the initial response to Congress.   ‘The Republican leadership in the House has known for a long time that this is a fight they didn’t want to have but were going to be force by their base to have.'”  Emphasis added.

I really believe this is going to bite the GOP in Congress, and by extension Romney, on the tush and not hurt Obama.

Holder Contempt Vote

The House Oversight Committee has voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt, along straight party lines, 23-17.

The NRA, which supports holding him in contempt, has told House members it will score this vote and count it towards their ultimate rating.  What does the NRA have to do with this? You’ll be sorry you asked.  The NRA has bought into a right-wing conspiracy theory that believes Fast and Furious wasn’t a plan that went astray, but a plan that was intended to create so much gun violence on the border that Obama would take away our Second Amendment rights.

The NRA is convinced Obama wants to destroy the Second Amendment because he’s done nothing on gun control during his first term.  They say that was by design, to “lull us to sleep.”  I wish the GOP would have a similar scheme on abortion rights and lull us to sleep by doing nothing.

Boehner is planning to bring this to a full vote in the House next week.  I don’t think he believes the Second Amendment conspiracy stuff, but he has no control over the crazies in his party.

Prez to Issa: Drop Dead

You know things aren’t going well when Drudge features a picture of Richard Nixon with President Obama’s eyes photoshopped in.  No one wants to be compared to Tricky Dick, ever.

Today, Obama claimed executive privilege for the first time in his presidency over documents Congress has subpoenaed in the “Fast and Furious” gun running operation.  Bush 43 claimed the privilege six times, and Clinton 14 times, so this day was inevitable.  At some point, presidents and Congress clash.

This is no longer about Fast and Furious itself.  We know what happened.  In a sting operation to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives didn’t make arrests as quickly as it could because it sought to build a bigger case.  This is known as “gun walking,” and it led to the Bureau’s losing track of about 2,000 guns, two of which were found when a Border Patrol agent was shot in December of 2010.

The Justice Department has already given Congress almost 8,000 documents related to the operation.  What’s in dispute are internal emails after February 4, 2011, about Congress’ investigation into the bungled operation.

Justice officials in D. C. gave Congress incorrect information based on false assurances they received from Arizona-based officials that gun walking had not occurred.  They may have been a little too quick and willing to accept those assurances and pass them along to Congress.

Congress is now looking to embarrass the Justice Department (and President Obama) as Justice scrambled to cover its tush after giving Congress false information about gun walking.

Basically, what did Eric Holder know, and when did he know it?

Obama is sticking his neck way out for Holder, rather than letting him twist in the wind or take the fall.  The GOP will do everything it can to make Holder — and Obama — look bad.

Today, Obama looks tough and loyal.  Not sure how he’ll look in a few weeks or months.  I hope Holder has been straight with him.

This isn’t about losing guns in Mexico, this is about losing the election in the U. S.