If Gun Walking Is Wrong, Why Isn’t Nuclear Blueprint Walking?

In his statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Holder tried to stave off questions about Fast and Furious by asserting that “gun walking” is wrong.

I want to be clear: any instance of so-called “gun walking” is unacceptable.   Regrettably, this tactic was used as part of Fast and Furious, which was launched to combat gun trafficking and violence on our Southwest Border.   This operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution.   And, unfortunately, we will feel its effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crimes scenes both here and in Mexico.   This should never have happened.   And it must never happen again.

It’s a statement he repeated a number of times during the hearing.

The emphasis on the problems with the technique of letting illegal guns pass into Mexico to allow the ATF to trace straw buyers represents a shift in the way Democrats are dealing with the Fast and Furious scandal by looking at similar efforts made under Attorney General Mukasey.

For example, to undercut Darrell Issa’s efforts on Oversight, Elijah Cummings has asked him to include the earlier instances under Mukasey.

A briefing paper prepared for Attorney General Michael Mukasey during the Bush administration in 2007 outlined failed attempts by federal agents to track illicitly purchased guns across the border into Mexico and stressed the need for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials to work together on such efforts using a tactic that now is generating controversy.The information contained in one paragraph of a lengthy Nov. 16, 2007, document marks the first known instance of an attorney general being given information about the tactic known as “gun-walking.” It since has become controversial amid a probe by congressional Republicans criticizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for using it during the Obama administration in an arms-trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious that focused on several Phoenix-area gun shop


Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to the panel’s Republican chairman, Darrell Issa of California, asking that he call Mukasey to testify about his knowledge of the program.

“Given the significant questions raised by the disclosures in these documents, our committee’s investigation will not be viewed as credible, even-handed, or complete unless we hear directly from Attorney General Mukasey,” Cummings wrote.

It’s nice our elected officials are coming to the conclusion that it’s not a good idea to intentionally deal guns directly to people with ties to drug cartels.

But then why is Eric Holder’s DOJ prosecuting Jeff Sterling for allegedly exposing CIA’s practice of dealing nuclear blueprints to Iran (while, at the same time, alerting them to the flaws in those blueprints designed to sabotage their nuclear program)?

After all, if selling guns to cartel members presents unacceptably high possibility for unintended consequences, doesn’t passing on nuclear blueprints to Iran present an even greater risk?

And if that’s true, and if DOJ agrees that the ATF officers who exposed this program are whistleblowers, then doesn’t it follow that Sterling allegedly was, too?

If, as the Attorney General himself maintains, Fast and Furious was “flawed in concept, as well as in execution,” then what distinguishes it from Merlin?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. scribe says:


    The reason gun walking is now being criticized by DoJ, and moreover the reason the Dems (rightly) want to drag Mukasey in on it, is because Issa’s investigation gives the Rethugs a huge hammer to work, to rile their base.

    The investigation gives them a chance to vilify ATF, which is a particular bete noir of right-thinking wingnuts and gun-owners everywhere. It allows them to play the racial code.

    OTOH, it’s Republicans who sell nuclear technology to countries like … Pakistan.

    So, there are good whistleblowers and bad whistleblowers, the distinction depending on whether the whistle being blown will help the Republican party.

  2. rugger9 says:


    Anyhow, Issa’s moral compass is such that he will drill the WH and ignore Mukasey’s part of the plan. It’s about getting the guy out of the WH, and every GOP type is in lockstep, even the so-called “moderate” ones. After all there are primaries waiting for those who don’t play ball.

  3. Bay State Librul says:

    OT where’s Bmaz?

    Former sox manager John McNamara (not MacNamee) will be the surprise witness at the Texas Con Man’s April trial….

    The 1986 World Serious:

    “As for Clemens, McNamara says on the show that, after the last out of the bottom of the seventh, Clemens told him as he came off the mound, “That’s all I can pitch.” McNamara said there was never a blister on Clemens’s middle finger, only the start of a paper cut.

    Clemens has consistently denied asking out of the game, and he does so again on Wednesday’s show. McNamara was emphatic in his TV interview, saying, “I don’t lie.”

  4. Mary says:

    “This should never have happened. And it must never happen again.” Buh..bububuh…but – I thought the appropriate response for these topics was, “we must look forward and most importantly, we must reassure those stalwart FBI agents (although not so much border agents apparently) who acted in good faith to arm drug cartels on our borders that they will not be persecuted, much less prosecuted.”

  5. Frank33 says:

    But then why is Eric Holder’s DOJ prosecuting Jeff Sterling

    Why, because Sterling revealed the neo-cons are creating another pretext for another war. So, give the drug runners automatic weapons and give terrorist nations nuclear weapons. But a war with Iran will not be as easy as the other wars have been.

    Also, the “flawed” blueprints still contained accurate information. That is nuclear weapon proliferation by the CIA. And was it a good idea for this “False Flag” Operation Merlin, to falsely blame the Russians, for nuclear weapon proliferation? Maybe the Russians might decide to have their own False Flag Black Ops blaming the USA.

    Sterling should be considered a hero for revealing these criminal conspiracies, that are spreading nukes to terrorists.

  6. rugger9 says:

    OT, but Hermie’s just daring to breach his confidentiality pacts on settlements #1 through 3. When you place a line in the sand like he did, someone’s going to step across, especially given the sample space for the probability.

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    From the AP story:

    Headlined “Meeting of the attorney general with Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora,” the briefing paper informed Mukasey that the tactic had been tried unsuccessfully but that the ATF wanted to try again and wanted Mukasey to persuade Mexico’s attorney general to provide a team of corruption-free Mexican agents who would assist in the effort. Perhaps implied but not fully detailed in this document was the reason for the failure — that Mexican authorities south of the border fell down on the job, claiming they didn’t see the vehicle carrying the guns that the ATF agents had alerted them to….

    The probe ran into trouble after agents saw the same suspects buy additional weapons from the same store and followed the suspects south toward the border at Nogales, Ariz., on Sept. 27, 2007. ATF officials notified the government of Mexico to be on the lookout. ATF agents saw the vehicle the suspects were driving reach the Mexican side of the border, but 20 minutes later, Mexican law enforcement authorities informed ATF that they did not see the vehicle.

    Hmm… the same Medina Mora who was fired by Calderon because he wasn’t able to do anything about the cartels? And who earlier was “Secretary of Public Safety” in the cabinet of President Vicente Fox? In fact, according to a Sept. 2009 story at The Jurist, “Medina Mora had served in the position of attorney general for the past three years and had served during the prior administration as the head of Mexico’s Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) [official website, in Spanish], the equivalent of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). — I think it’s fair to say Mr. Medina Mora has links with that Agency to the north, and I’m not talking ATF here. The ATF officers must certainly understand by now why they’ve been asked, apparently over and over again, to stand down when some weapons are sent across the border… and it’s not to break up gun smuggling operations.

    Is the U.S. government angling for intervention of a larger sort? One remembers the 2008 “Joint Operating Environment” [JOE] report authored by US Joint Forces Command (now dissolved, btw) on the situation in Mexico, which posited a “worst-case scenario,” as this story described it:

    Regarding Mexico, the JOE analysis stated that:

    “In particular, the growing assault by the drug cartels and their thugs on the Mexican government over the past several years reminds one that an unstable Mexico could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States….

    “In terms of worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.”

    After dealing with the Pakistan scenario, the Mexican worst-case scenario is presented:

    “The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone”….

    On February 26th, 2009, the Associated Press interviewed Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, who managed to put a positive spin on a grim situation.

    The AP reported Mexico’s AG as believing that “the worst is nearly over” and that the drug cartels are “melting down.”

    Let’s connect the dots, and note, there is a very strong presumption that the U.S. and its assets in Mexico have done their damnest to build up the powers of the cartels, or some of the cartels, for reasons of their own. The U.S. wants a puppet state on its southern tier, and if it needs a drug running group of individuals to run it, well, they already played that game in Panama and elsewhere before…

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