Thursday, June 21, 2012

Executive Privilege and Fast and Furious

With all due respect to the offices of Attorney General of the United States and President of the United States;

Mr. Holder, President Obama, the two of you are a disgrace to this country, and anything short of impeachment and a criminal trial is too good for you.

Executive privilege has been asserted by the Obama administration in response to multiple subpoenas from the Congressional Oversight Committee regarding documents from the program known as Fast and Furious.  In case the reader has not been following this story, it is the operation run by the Department of Justice through the ATF that involved selling guns to known straw purchasers (illegal gun buyers) who would then sell or otherwise provide these weapons to the Mexican drug cartels.  Another brief summary of the particulars of the operation can be found in this post by Dedicated Tenther.  As a bonus, that link contains DT's thoughts on what should happen to those responsible.

Readers of conservative blogs or devoted followers of Fox News and/or the Drudge Report have known about this story for many months, but it has otherwise all but escaped notice in the mainstream media.  I personally would think that the United States government being complicit in the death of several hundred* Mexican civilians and 2 federal agents (Brian Terry, Jaime Zapata) would be a major story, but much of the rest of the media has not thought so.  Clearly, the escapades of Sandra Fluke, a professional activist who was either gravely misinformed or outright lied when speaking at the behest of Nancy Pelosi, and not as a sworn witness before Congress or a committee thereof, on the availability of contraception, is just one example of a story felt to be far, far more important than these murders.

I mentioned this as one of the major scandals of the Obama administration last October.  At that time, I thought the illegal military action in Libya was the bigger scandal, as it was a clear-cut violation of the Constitutional authority of the Executive Branch, and more specifically the War Powers Act--itself a Constitutional crisis waiting to happen but at this time the law of the land.  Fast and Furious has now risen to being on par, or nearly so, with the Libyan debacle through the President's invocation of executive privilege.

Feel free to click on the link above describing exactly what executive privilege entails again.  Candid discussions between advisers, unfettered advice for performing executive duties?  Absolutely, go for it, there's no need for Joe Public to know if, say, President Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed using an ICBM to eliminate Osama bin Laden once they thought they knew his location in Pakistan (set aside that it would have been an awful idea in practice--the point is whether or not the option was ever discussed is not of particular import to the public).  But the problem is that criminal conspiracy is not a normal executive duty.  I admit I have not read the entire United States Code, Annotated, but I am fairly certain that the sale of fully automatic weapons (or "machine guns" in some jurisdictions) and grenades to unlicensed individuals, or individuals whom are known to or reasonably suspected to then illegally sell or transport these weapons in furtherance of a criminal enterprise, is itself a crime.  I am not fully informed on the legalities of "sting" operations and exceptions they provide to normal statutes, but I am pretty sure that one of the normal aspects of a sting operation is that the contraband is not then allowed to remain in criminal possession.  If the FBI wants to sell explosives to a suspected terrorist, they make damn sure that the terrorists do not get to keep the explosives--which were probably fake in the first place.  Contrast these elements with the geniuses in charge at ATF, who did not attempt to track the guns and may have even reprimanded agents who questioned this--well, I suppose it could be called a strategy, though idiocy is probably a much better word.

By invoking executive privilege, President Obama has admitted in the legal sense that Fast and Furious was a sanctioned program that he was aware of, if not actively involved in it.  Furthermore, if he did not approve of the program, there would be no need for privilege, and so a reasonable person can surmise that he approved of the program and the tactics used in it.  We have a word for someone who plans and authorizes a crime--that word is criminal.  When two or more people are involved in planning or committing a crime, that is a conspiracy.  And a person who is negligent in his duties, or carries out a criminal act, is responsible for the consequences of that negligence or those acts.  Any responsible gun owner knows that when they pull the trigger, they are responsible for anything that subsequently happens with that bullet, including if you were shooting at the man with a gun in your doorway but the bullet accidentally kills little Sally in the house across the street.  Well, when someone or a group of individuals knowingly sells guns to criminals, and those guns are then used to kill people, the person or people who sold those guns is both criminally and civilly liable for those deaths.

Now, it is tempting to say that the responsible parties should be extradited to Mexico for trial there--but that would be a lousy precedent to set for a number of reasons.  However, being charged with a couple hundred counts of criminally negligent homicide and the relevant conspiracy charges in an American court is much more appropriate precedent, and anything less than a grand jury being convened to examine those charges is an injustice.  It may be that there is not sufficient evidence to subsequently charge Obama and Holder, and while I doubt that is true, I would be satisfied that at least the proper procedures had been undertaken, if not the outcome.  In all likelihood, however, I will have to resign myself to being unsatisfied as it is very unlikely that Mr. Holder will ever face criminal charges, and there is essentially zero likelihood of President Obama being charged.

With any luck, this story will finally see the light of day and the public will know the extent of the arrogance and probable crimes of the current administration.  I intend to follow it closely and write additional posts as warranted.

*The actual number of Mexicans killed  by Fast and Furious guns is likely unknowable, but according to the Mexican Attorney General as far back as September, 2011, at least 200 deaths were attributed to guns known to have come from this program at that time.  The number I have most commonly seen tossed around is 300+, but I cannot independently verify that claim.

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