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It would seem equally inconceivable that one of the ATF agents who revealed the scandal would be fired. But agent Vince Cefalu, who told FoxNews.com about the operation last December, two months before the story broke nationally, was served with termination papers in June. “Aside from Jay Dobyns, I don’t know of anyone that’s been more vocal about ATF mismanagement than me,” said the former senior special agent who had been based in Dublin, CA. “That’s why this is happening.” Ironically (or perhaps defiantly), Cefalu, a 24-year veteran, was fired during the same week in which Darrell Issa sent a letter to the DOJ “requesting assurance” that the ATF “will not retaliate against witnesses who have provided information to this Committee.”
As for Issa himself, it is a rather curious confluence of events that on August 14th, The New York Times ran an investigative story about the congressman entitled “A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself,” in which Issa was described as a man with “dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.” The Times further contended that “[A]s his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.” Issa, who refused to cooperate with the reporter doing the story, cited 13 errors of fact in the story. The paper has so far issued three corrections.
Pure coincidence? Big Journalism columnist AWR Hawkins doesn’t think so. “[M]y guess is that the real goal of the piece was to malign Issa’s character, thereby undercutting the momentum his investigation of ‘Fast and Furious’ has gained,” he wrote on August 16th.
The Times is not alone in its attempt to take out Issa. On June 21st, the Washington Post ran a story claiming Issa knew about the scandal in 2010 “and did not express any opposition.” They were also forced to issue a correction, which now appears above the story itself, noting the original headline “did not reflect that those accounts were disputed by an Issa spokesman.” Pajamas Media reported that it has a “well-placed source” who told them the hit piece had been “shopped by the administration to several other news organizations. All passed on it, since there was no credible attribution for the story.”
As for the Times‘ latest coverage of the scandal itself, one might find its headline, “Firearms Bureau Chief Is Out After Disputed Inquiry” (italic mine) followed by the characterization of Fast and Furious as “an ill-fated investigation into a gun-trafficking ring in Arizona” rather odd. So, too, their contention that, according to an unnamed Justice official, Mr. Holder was responsible for the “moves” which were made for “management reasons.” The so-called “paper of record” also implies that Mr. Issa is on a bit of a witch-hunt, noting that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee “has repeatedly sought to link high-level Obama administration officials to the operation, although no evidence has yet emerged that they knew about its details.”
One can only wonder what the Times thinks of Kenneth Melson’s aforementioned testimony described in a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder by Issa and Senate investigator Charles Grassley. “Specifically, we have very real indications from several sources that some of the gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants. The Acting Director said that ATF was kept in the dark about certain activities of other agencies, including DEA and FBI.”
A comment made yesterday by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, indicates that yesterday’s action isn’t likely to satisfy the skeptics. “This move by the administration indicates that Director Melson may be being used as a scapegoat for a much larger problem within ATF and DOJ,” he contended. Nor will skeptics be placated by the deeply cynical reality that no one, except a whistleblower, has been fired.
One of the oldest political aphorisms is that the attempted cover up of a scandal is often worse than the scandal itself. Despite the grave nature of an operation that resulted in the deaths of two federal agents and as many as 150 Mexicans killed or wounded, the Justice Department’s ongoing attempt to stonewall this investigation, or deflect it with a transparent shuffling of personnel, is appalling.
Perhaps in the self-constructed, and far too often media-protected bubble in which many members of this administration seemingly operate, yesterday’s “moves” for “management reasons” may be considered sufficient to keep this scandal contained. Not a chance.
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