Rep. Walberg Pushes Fast And Furious Conspiracy Theory

February 02, 2012 4:32 pm ET — Chris Brown

During today's House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) echoed the gun lobby's conspiracy theory suggesting that Operation Fast and Furious was "set up to go wrong" in order to undermine the "Second Amendment liberties of law-abiding citizens."

In fact, an official report issued by the House Oversight Committee's own chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), found that the "purpose" of Fast and Furious was to "build a large, complex conspiracy case" targeting high-level Mexican cartel members. Further, as has now has been documented extensively in a report by House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), similar misguided tactics were used in several cases during the Bush administration. Nonetheless, Walberg is more comfortable pushing conspiratorial accusations than discussing the reality of these misguided ATF tactics.

WALBERG: No admission [by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein], other than now when brought on the carpet and brought into the public light, that this has gone wrong, was set up to go wrong, and frankly I believe was set up to go wrong in order to deal with Second Amendment liberties of law-abiding citizens and pushing into a perception that it was the problem of the Second Amendment as opposed to law enforcement, and more importantly, Mr. Attorney General, your oversight of an agency, of a department of individual leaders in that department that have not been held accountable.

HOLDER: Well, with all due respect and,, I mean this with great respect, the notion that this was an operation set up to do something to impinge upon the Second Amendment rights of my fellow citizens is absurd.


Walberg is not the first Republican to adopt this conspiracy, which is a favorite of the National Rifle Association and their allies in the right-wing media. Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Joe Walsh (R-IL), and Dan Lungren (R-CA) have all embraced similar claims. Lungren was rebuked by Holder after raising the issue at a December hearing.

While right-blogs have reported Chairman Issa himself has veered into conspiratorial accusations behind closed doors, when he and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) issued a joint report about Fast and Furious based on interviews and documents related to the case they found that the ATF's purpose was to identify additional suspects to build a "complex conspiracy case." From Issa's report:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) implemented that strategy using a reckless investigative technique that street agents call "gunwalking." ATF's Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns. The purpose was to wait and watch, in the hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.

Indeed, a new "memorandum" issued today by Issa provides additional evidence undermining Walberg's conspiracy theory.

Issa's report details an interview conducted as part of the ATF's failed efforts to successfully investigate these higher level suspects. From the memorandum:

When ATF finally brought the ringleader, [Manuel] Celis-Acosta, in for his proffer after his indictment in January 2011, ATF learned the names of the two cartel associates. These were the "big fish" that [then-ATF Special Agent in Charge William] Newell had hoped to catch as a result of Fast and Furious and the federal wiretaps. Because the ATF wiretaps and ATF agent surveillance had thus far failed to identify these associates, the proffer was the first time ATF identified these individuals.

If Walberg wants contribute to his committee's oversight responsibilities he should spend more time reviewing the emails and interviews collected by the committee's staff and less time engaging in baseless conspiratorial speculation.