Different ATF Programs Have Different Names

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

This is starting to get pathetic.

Right-wing media outlets keep dishing out new "evidence" for why senior Justice Department leaders must have known about Fast and Furious, a failed operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). All they keep proving is that those officials knew about Project Gunrunner, the high-profile effort begun under President Bush of which Fast and Furious was one small part.

They've already used this conflation to baselessly claim that the stimulus included funds for Fast and Furious (the funds were earmarked for Project Gunrunner and were not distributed to the ATF office that handled Fast and Furious) and that a 2009 Holder speech proves that he was aware of the program (the speech references only Gunrunner and was given before Fast and Furious was initiated).

In their latest effort, these outlets are pointing to a two-minute clip of a speech that then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden gave on March 29, 2009. In the speech, Ogden said:

DOJ's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is increasing its efforts by adding 37 new employees in three new offices, using $10 million in Recovery Act funds and redeploying 100 personnel to the Southwest border in the next 45 days to fortify its Project Gunrunner, which is aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico.

ATF is doubling its presence in Mexico itself, from five to nine personnel working with the Mexicans, specifically to facilitate gun-tracing activity, which targets the illegal weapons and their sources in the United States.

Let's go over this again: Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious are not the same thing, and Fast and Furious wasn't reportedly begun until six months after Ogden gave this speech.

Nonetheless, in an editorial comparing Fast and Furious to Watergate, Investor's Business Daily claims that the Ogden video "may rival the tape that turned a 'third-rate burglary' into a presidential resignation." IBD also claims that both the Ogden clip and Holder's speech show the speaker "taking credit" for both Project Gunrunner and Fast and Furious. They provide text from both speeches in which the speaker references the former and not the latter, because they are lying (and embarrassingly bad at it).

Meanwhile, Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com cites this clip to claim that Ogden left DOJ in late 2009 because he "wanted to reduce his chances of becoming the 'fall guy' for the Obama Administration after news of this doomed-from-the-start gun-running operation became public."

Going with the standard the right-wing media has established, the following people would also have known about Fast and Furious well before it received public attention:

  • Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey, who referenced the program in a 2008 speech.
  • Numerous members of the House and Senate who have heard testimony on the program over the years. Those members include House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) (during a July 10, 2009, subcommittee hearing) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (during a May 5, 2010,caucus hearing), who are leading the congressional investigation of Fast and Furious.
  • Mexico's border governors, who made an agreement to cooperate with Project Gunrunner.
  • Anyone who ever checked out the ATF's Project Gunrunner website.
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