For those who haven't heard, "Operation F & F" was a program begun in 2009, whereby the ATF tracked the flow of guns from the US to Mexican drug gangs by allowing surrogates for the gangs to buy weapons in the US, in order to discover who was involved in the gunrunning operations. This tactic was previously used under the Bush Administration (named "Project Gunrunner"), but the difference between the two administration's approaches is that the Bush administration ATF arrested the surrogates before the guns were delivered. By contrast, the Obama administration ATF has travelled into dangerous territory by allowing the guns to actually reach the Mexican gangs, apparently in contradiction of the ATF's longtime policy of stopping any weapons from reaching their ultimate destination, once its agents have identified such a plot. Two of the guns have been implicated in the killing by gang members of a US Border Agent. The ATF let about 2,000 of these guns reach the gangs, and given the amount of shooting going on across the border, it would be difficult not to believe that many of these guns have been used in killings in Mexico.
There's been speculation that all this might be part of a manufactured crisis by the Administration, aimed at creating a political environment that would be more favorable to restrictive guns laws, which has long been a cherished liberal goal. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, as of tonight the news is that the acting head of the ATF is going to resign, possibly under pressure from above, which would be the first serious fallout of this scandal. Issa has stated that he believes Attorney General Eric Holder hasn't been truthful in his claims about when he became aware of this mess, and Issa has made requests for officials from the Justice Department to appear before his committee in the coming weeks. These requests may be rebuffed, but ultimately Issa has the power to issue subpoenas to force them to appear. It's entirely possible with this Justice Department that Holder might order his people to refuse to appear even under subpoena, but I can't see how that would do anything but make things worse for the Administration.
We heard repeated frequently in the late Weiner affair the post-Watergate axiom that it's not the crime, it's the cover-up that brings scandal-ridden politicians down. It seems to me that there is a possibility here that the possible criminal aspects of this scandal may be as serious as whatever political consequences may be suffered by any efforts toward a cover-up. The fact that this misbegotten operation has resulted in at least one death at the hands of evil people brings this to a level beyond the usual money/sex/influence peddling scandals we've seen so often.
The big question for the moment is how far up into the Justice Department this will reach. If it is proved that Eric Holder hasn't been truthful about his role, I think he'll have a hard time holding onto his job. Anything beyond that will take the Administration into the dark land of politician's nightmares, one in which a President with failing prospects heads into an election with a storm of scandals at his back.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has stated that Obama was completely unaware of what was going on with Operation Fast & Furious. If that statement proves untrue, I think Obama might find he's made a seriously wrong turn down a mean little street called Impeachment Alley.