Freedomnomics

Article published Friday, December 9, 2011 at Fox News.

Fast and Furious Scandal Cries Out for Answers

By John R. Lott, Jr.

The "Fast & Furious" scandal is getting messier and messier. New e-mails finally released late this past Friday reveal that the Department of Justice personal viewed the then-secret operation as a way to push for more gun control laws. Despite administration promises to the contrary, whistleblowers have endured "isolation, retaliation and transfer."

Meanwhile the operation's managers have done pretty well, some have even received promotions.

Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder admitted that the operation was "wholly unacceptable," but he still offers absolutely no explanation to explain why the program was instituted.

What's going on here? Let's see...

- You have a government agency ordering gun dealers to make sales to suspected criminals that the dealers didn't want to sell to.

- You have government agents testifying that the being purchased were not being traced. No attempt was made to even alert the Mexican government that the United States of America was given guns to drug gangs in their country.

Up until now the only justification from the Obama administration for this "program" is that the Bush administration supposedly did the same thing with operation "Wide Receiver."

In fact, it is a defense that the Justice Department and Congressional Democrats have raise multiple times. Congressman Elijah Cummings' office just made this defense on Wednesday.

But the "Fast & Furious" and "Wide Receiver" programs are not remotely similar on the most important fact: The Bush administration tried to trace the guns and informed the Mexican authorities when the guns went across the border, but the Obama administration did not.

And it is well-known how ineffective tracing programs have been anyway.

The problem is that if "Wide Receiver" failed in tracing the guns and was subsequently shutdown, why is the solution to not even bother to try tracing the firearms? Holder's conclusion in testimony before Congress was simply: "Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border." Would Holder have been as forgiving if a gun dealer had been caught intentionally doing the same thing that the Obama administration has been caught doing?

The new e-mails documenting Justice Department discussions on the political benefits from the "Fast & Furious" program are disturbing and they are only going to give more ammunition to conspiracy theorists for why the Obama administration instituted the program to begin with.

People who haven't trusted the Obama administration on this issue have already pointed out that "Fast & Furious" started pushing guns into Mexico at the same time that the Obama administration was making its inaccurate claims about the United States being a major source of Mexican crime guns.

The new internal messages reveal that in early January this year, a month before there was any publicity about "Fast & Furious," Department of Justice personnel were pointing out: "this case ["Fast & Furious] could be a strong supporting factor [for new regulations] if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case."

More evidence has also surfaced showing how uncomfortable gun dealers were in selling these guns that they didn't want to sell. One dealer wrote BATF officials in April 2010: "[W]e were hoping to put together something like a letter of understanding to alleviate concerns of some type of recourse against us down the road for selling these items. We just want to make sure we are cooperating with ATF and that we are not viewed as selling to the bad guys."

Unfortunately, Holders' testimony Thursday didn't make things any clearer. His definition of "lying" depending on one's state of mind sounded positively Clintonian.

But ultimately the Obama administration still faces a bigger problem. Can they ever come up with any remotely plausible explanation for why anyone would have started a program to push untraceable guns into Mexico? The longer it takes to provide an explanation, the more plausible the conspiracy theorists sound that this was all done for politics.

John R. Lott Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010), the third edition of which was published in May.".

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