Judicial Watch yesterday announced that a federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice to release an index of all requested documents relating to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal by Oct. 1, more than two years after President Barack Obama protected those documents by claiming executive privilege.
The announcement, while receiving little attention from the mainstream press, set the blogosphere buzzing. Gun rights advocates who had been watching the Fast and Furious scandal unravel more than three years ago with hearings before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have long suspected there may be a direct link between the Obama administration and the gun running sting operation that went horribly bad in late 2010 with the slaying of a U.S. Border Patrol agent by a criminal using a gun linked directly to Fast and Furious.
Operation Fast and Furious was conducted by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Recently, Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) announced he would craft legislation to dissolve the agency, following another scandal involving storefront stings in Milwaukee and other cities.
According to yesterday’s Judicial Watch press release, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia ruled on July 18 that the Justice Department must provide a “Vaughn index” of “all requested Operation Fast and Furious materials” that had been sought under a Freedom of Information Act requests in June and September 2012. Judicial Watch asked for the documents that the Obama administration was withholding from the House committee, which is chaired by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.
According to the Office of Government Information Services, “A Vaughn Index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.”
DOJ, the press release noted, had opposed releasing the documents, claiming that to do so would interfere with the agency’s litigation with the House committee over the same documents. Many gun rights activists suspect those documents might reveal whether the White House knew about the operation.
Fast and Furious allowed more than 2,000 guns to be “walked” across the border from gun shops in Arizona, where hundreds of them had been purchased with full knowledge of the ATF. Agents in charge of the operation have been moved to other jobs in the agency, or retired and some moved on to other jobs outside the agency.
The scandal was first revealed by National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea and independent blogger Mike Vanderboegh following the December 2010 slaying of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in a gun battle in the southern Arizona canyon country near Nogales. It got national attention when former CBS investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson interviewed a whistleblower in the case. Both Codrea and Attkisson received awards for their coverage.