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Fast And Furious: The Latest Fox News Hunt For Eric Holder’s Scalp

Reported by Ellen - July 3, 2011 -

I haven’t had the chance to report on Fox News’ salivating enthusiasm for the Fast and Furious story – a botched ATF program which, as CNN described it, “focused on following people who legally bought weapons that were then transferred to criminals and destined for Mexico. But instead of intercepting the weapons when they switched hands, Operation Fast and Furious called for ATF agents to let the guns 'walk' and wait for them to surface in Mexico, according to a report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.” Without offering any evidence to tie him to the scandal, Fox News has been using the incident to attack Attorney General Eric Holder - someone they've been witch hunting for since before he took office. Thursday night (6/30/11) The O’Reilly Factor brought on an ATF “whistleblower” who also implicated Holder – even though the guest admitted he had no direct knowledge. Of course, that didn’t stop guest host Laura Ingraham from taking the witch hunt ball and running with it.

Ingraham began by playing a clip of President Obama answering a question about Fast and Furious at his recent press conference. Obama said he did not think the program was “appropriate” but was waiting for the results of an investigation. No need for Ingraham to wait! She sneered, “Who knew what when? And how far up the chain of command did this ineptitude – if that’s all it is – go?” I’m sure, like other Fox Newsies, she’d love to start impeachment proceedings.

Instead of bringing on someone who might answer her questions, Ingraham brough on Vince Cefalu, who has recently been fired from the ATF – supposedly as retribution for being a whistleblower.

After Ingraham and Cefalu ran through a bit of background, Ingraham got down to going after Holder. She said, “We should remind everybody that ATF is under the auspices of the Department of Justice and, obviously, the Attorney General, Eric Holder. He has been asked about this, Vincent, and he said – similar to the President, ‘I didn’t authorize this. This is improper. This isn’t something I would ever authorize.’ But is it conceivable that an operation like this, with this many weapons moving across our border into Mexico, that no one at the Justice Department in a senior position would have authorized this type of operation?”

Cefalu said, “Oh, there were people at the Justice Department that were intimately aware of this. Through my own discussions with people in Mexico, ATF agents who were involved in this.” He added that Senator Charles Grassley and House Chairman Darrell Issa would “get to the bottom of this.” Then, he added, “Whether the Attorney General approved of it, ordered it, whatever words we’re playing here, it should have been stopped immediately when he did find out about it. And if he didn’t know about it, why didn’t he?”

Well, one reason might be because the Senate has stalled the approval of an ATF head since 2006. As the Wall Street Journal (a sister company to Fox News) reported: "The ATF has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2006, with both the Bush and Obama administrations unable to overcome opposition from gun-rights groups to win approval of nominees."

The ATF has been further hamstrung in its efforts to prevent gun trafficking. The Journal says, “The ATF is at the forefront of the government's efforts to stem the flow of what both the U.S. and Mexican governments say is a flood of U.S. arms to Mexican cartels. ATF agents say stopping that flow is often complicated by gun-owning traditions, particularly in border states, and laws that make it difficult to prosecute illegal weapons sales.”

But Ingraham was so intent on pinning this scandal to Holder’s scalp that she didn’t bother to consider the larger picture. She said, “Either he has no handle on his own staff or the operations. This is a major operation – 1700+ weapons crossing the border? I mean, we already have a huge gun and drug problem at the border and now we become part of the problem…”

“Cleaning up the ATF – that’s going to be a lot of work,” Ingraham said, by way of closing.”

Ingraham may well be right about that. Though you would not have known from the segment that anything was wrong beyond the Fast and Furious program, an interesting 2010 article from Main Justice, discussing a CNN report, paints a far more disturbing picture. “Several frustrated agents presented the agency as a place where speaking out against wrongdoing can be career suicide.”

Main Justice also states,

The star of the segment was California-based ATF agent Vince Cefalu, a 24-year veteran of the force, who told CNN he gets paid $150,000 per year plus benefits to do nothing all day. He claimed that he was blacklisted after he reported an illegal wiretap plan on a 2005 racketeering case. ATF disputed Cefalu’s illegal wiretap claims and said he has had performance issues.

As someone who has worked in government, myself, I know full well that retaliation happens and gets covered up. But there’s clearly more to Cefalu’s story than his blowing the whistle on Fast and Furious. If there’s massive wrongdoing and retaliation going on at the ATF, I’d love to know more about it. It also wouldn’t hurt if Fox News shone a light on the problems preventing the confirmation of a new ATF chief. But given the partisan prism through which almost all segments on Fox News are presented, it’s a safe bet that they’ll only focus on what can be framed in such a way as to damage the Obama administration or Democrats.

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