“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Missing Fast and Furious E-mails

The Department of Justice continues to conceal documents.

“Withholder General of the United States"

There was a time when opposing generals met before a battle. They’d exchange terms and gentlemanly propriety before trying to kill one another.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) might have fit into that age. He purposefully strode across a crowded House Judiciary Committee hearing room Thursday morning and held his hand out to Attorney General Eric Holder. The attorney general flinched when he noticed Issa suddenly so close before looking submissively down at the room’s blue carpet as he quickly took then let go of Issa’s hand.

Representative Issa walked back to the second row of two benches where committee members were taking their seats. Hours would pass before Issa would get his five minutes with Holder, but it was worth the wait.

Behind the seated congressmen and along the walls of the room congressional staffers — some of whom had nicknamed Holder “Withholder General” — were waiting to play their parts in the coming battle.

Issa, who also chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been leading the congressional charge to find out who authorized Operation Fast and Furious, a secret ATF program in which the Obama administration allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico and into the arsenals of Mexican drug cartels. He has complained of being lied to by the Obama administration. He and Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) have had to warn Obama administration officials not to retaliate against whistleblowers. And Issa has pointed out that many of the documents he’s received from the U.S. Department of Justice are so blacked out with redactions that personnel must have had to refill printer ink cartridges constantly to erase all the evidence.

Issa has a right to be incensed. Incredibly, just last week, the Obama administration even had to formally withdraw a letter it sent to Congress last February that falsely claimed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) didn’t watch guns “walk” into Mexico.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) brought up this withdrawn document.

Holder said, “First let me make something very clear, in response to an assertion you made, or hinted at: Nobody in the Justice Department has lied.”

Sensenbrenner demanded, “Then why was the letter withdrawn?”

Holder answered, “The letter was withdrawn because there was information in there that was inaccurate.”

So Sensenbrenner asked, “Tell me what the difference is between lying and misleading Congress in this context.”

Holder replied, “If you want to have this legal conversation, it all has to do with your state of mind, and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that can be considered perjury or a lie.”

Despite the legal basis for his statement, the idea that the truth depends on your “state of mind” sounded so much like Pres. Bill Clinton’s semantics with the word “is” that the spectators — who sat quietly under the watchful eyes of United States Capitol Police — laughed.

As Issa sat waiting his turn, Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.) wanted to know who authorized Operation Fast and Furious.

Holder said, “People in the criminal division of the Justice Department were aware of Fast and Furious. Who did it and who knows about it is being investigated by the inspector general.”

Lungren pressed further by saying, “You’re responsible for what these folks did. After all this time we still don’t know who . . . made the decisions.” Lungren then brought up a recent CBS report that covered an e-mail sent on July 14, 2010. After the operation, former ATF field operations assistant director Mark Chait e-mailed Bill Newell, then ATF’s Phoenix special agent in charge of Fast and Furious, to suggest a possible way to use Fast and Furious:

Bill — can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks.

This “demand letter” refers to the push for a policy that would require U.S. gun shops in southwestern states to report the sale of several rifles or shotguns to a single buyer. According to CBS, “Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.”

Lungren pointed out that the Obama administration was attempting to use “this program as an excuse to broaden their control.”

Holder replied, “You’re taking that out of context.”

Lungren said, “No, we are not.”

Later in the exchange, Lungren asked, “The Justice Department creates the situation where thousands of weapons go south and use that as an excuse to have more gun-control regulations? You ought not to use your screw-up as a basis to expand your authority. Don’t use it as an excuse to expand your legislative agenda.”

All that was the preliminary bombardment before Issa’s planned assault. After hours of waiting, Issa leaned forward to speak into his microphone and began in part by asking,

Do I need to serve a subpoena on you . . . or will you come before my committee?”

After several exchanges, Holder said, “I will consider it.”

Meanwhile Issa’s staff had stacked boxes of papers on either side of the congressman. Issa later used them as a prop for a question: “Does it surprise you that five boxes are what one gun dealer gave us voluntarily while this is all you gave us?” Issa held up and shook a few files before continuing, “Do you have documents . . . that have not yet been granted?”

Holder didn’t answer the question; meanwhile, Issa focused his attack with the tone of voice a prosecutor might use with a hostile witness. “Don’t you think it is a little conspicuous that there is not one e-mail from or to you on Fast and Furious? . . . Isn’t it true that executive privilege does not include you?”

Holder answered, “We have not withheld any documents that are responsive. We have withheld information about ongoing investigations.”

Issa said, “That’s how John Mitchell responded.”

John Mitchell was attorney general under President Richard Nixon, and was found guilty of charges related to the Watergate break-in. He was sentenced to 19 months in prison.

Holder turned to Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith and said, “The reference to John Mitchell, let’s think about that. At some point, you know, as they said at the McCarthy hearings,” then he looked back at Issa he finished, “Have you no shame?”

Issa lashed back, “Have you no shame?”

During their verbal battle Issa accused Holder of being in “contempt” for refusing to turn over documents.

Holder replied, “We will respond in a way that is consistent with the way in which the Justice Department has always responded to those kinds of requests.”

Issa’s explosive five minutes were interrupted several times by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D., Texas). She wanted Issa to give Holder more time to answer, but Issa said, “I only get five minutes,” and he’s “filibustering.” Finally Chairman Smith, had to tell Jackson-Lee she had not been recognized.

Though Issa’s time quickly ended, Holder’s e-mails were still the focus of the Republican member’s attention.

Later, Holder was asked if he authorized the IG investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. He said, “I was in fact the person who asked the IG to investigate, but I didn’t put anything in writing. I have a good relationship with the IG. I don’t think there’s any writing from me, but I can check.”

That was too cute.

Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) focused on the e-mails: “Mr. Issa mentioned some internal e-mails that I think are pretty important.”

Holder acknowledged during the hearing that he has an official e-mail address and a private one, but he wouldn’t say how often he uses these accounts. He also said he had not seen e-mails that were printed in a CBS report that argued new gun-control regulations might have been the reason for Operation Fast and Furious.

Moments later Franks said he understood that Holder doesn’t read all the memos his staff sends to his desk, and Holder seemed to agree with this. Then Franks asked, “Do you read letters from Grassley and Issa?”

After a pause, Holder said, “I think it’s fair to say over the last few months I’ve read all of Issa’s and Grassley’s letters.”

This also drew a laugh from the spectators, but it was really a set-up.

Representative Franks next said, “Mr. Holder, these e-mails were attached to one of those letters.”

Holder tossed his head and replied that he “doesn’t always read attachments.”

The next congressman to continue the push for Holder’s e-mails was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah): “Have you spoken with [Secretary of Homeland Security Janet] Napolitano, [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton, [President Barack] Obama, the president of Mexico . . . about Operation Fast and Furious?”

Holder indicated he hadn’t.

Chaffetz said, “We have 50 members of Congress calling for your resignation . . . you took five days to go to the Caribbean, and you didn’t take five minutes to talk to Hillary or Napolitano?”

Holder responded that his staff has been in touch with them.

Chaffetz then asked about a joint task force Holder has with Napolitano and added, “Yet you never talked about Fast and Furious?”

Holder responded in part by saying, “Let me tell you how Washington works, okay . . . ” This drew another laugh.

In the end this seven-hour hearing — interrupted twice for congressmen to run to the floor for votes — didn’t have any smashing developments. A government-created gunrunning operation that has already gotten at least one U.S. Border Patrol agent killed and that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Mexicans was exposed nearly a year ago.

The investigation into who authorized it has been going since at least late last spring, yet no one has been fired or jailed. Now the attorney general gives the unmistakable impression of obfuscating and hiding his own involvement (his e-mails) behind the cloak of an inspector general’s investigation. Somehow it doesn’t now seem hyperbolic to compare Holder’s withheld e-mails to the tapes President Nixon famously kept.

— Frank Miniter is the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide, and, more recently, Saving the Bill of Rights.


  1. With so many ups and downs in the race, Huckabee suggested that Mitt Romney might benefit from a splintering on the conservative side of the party. But he still believes that, even with less than three weeks before the caucuses, another surprise or two might be in store.

    After all, even when Huckabee took the lead in Iowa polls in late 2007, a lot of observers didn't believe he could actually win. "And no one predicted that I would win by almost ten points," Huckabee said with a laugh.

    "Frankly, that shocked me."

  2. In the midst of a contentious GOP presidential race, the threat of a government shutdown and continued fears of an impending economic downturn, Attorney General Eric Holder's latest politically-driven mission has garnered very little attention: Holder promises to use the Justice Department to conduct a nationwide examination of voting laws enacted by states –- with special concern about laws that require voters to show identification in order to participate in an election.


    The successful non-profit, public-interest organization -- Judicial Watch -- is investigating the DOJ’s partnering with Project Vote on a national campaign to use the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) to register more individuals on public assistance, widely considered a key voting demographic for the Obama 2012 campaign.


    On March 29, 2011, Estelle Rogers and the “voting rights groups” that met with Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli on March 17, 2011, providing recommendations for strengthening “compliance with the NVRA. The recommendations stated “we are grateful that you have invited us to continue this dialogue on the Department’s [DOJ’s] role in providing guidance to states, and we would be happy to supply any additional information you need.”

  3. The ongoing unrest, violence and security crackdowns in Syria have been the subject of major international attention since February. Our current assessment is that the government and opposition forces have reached a stalemate in which the government cannot quell the unrest and the opposition cannot bring down the regime without outside intervention.


    It is tempting to compare Syria to Libya, which very recently was the target of outside intervention. Some similarities exist. The al Assad regime came to power in a military coup around the time the Gadhafi regime took control of Libya, and the regimes are equally brutal.


    As we examine some of the actions available along that force continuum, we should keep in mind that the steps are not at all static; there can be much latitude for action within each step. For example, training provided by mercenaries or the CIA’s Special Activities Division is far more low-key, and therefore easier to deny, than training provided by the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

    Foreign Intervention

  4. For the final time before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the seven men and women running for the Republican presidential nomination will face off on a debate stage tonight.


    * Can Newt hold on?: We all knew the wave of momentum propelling the former House Speaker to the front of the field would crest at some point. And there are signs — both public and private polling suggests a slight dip — that the cresting process has begun.


    * Romney’s return: In every debate prior to last Saturday’s gathering in Iowa, we named the former Massachusetts governor a winner. Given his relatively weak performance last weekend — $10,000 bet, anyone? — odds are that Romney will bounce back tonight.


    * Equal time for Ron Paul?: Ask any veteran Iowa observer who the top two candidates in the state are right now and they are likely to name Gingrich and Paul. And yet, Paul has largely been treated like an after-thought in the debates to date.

  5. Top 3 cities where minorities are now in the majority:

    1. Washington, DC
    > White pop. 2000: 55%
    > White pop. 2010: 49%

    2. San Diego, CA
    > White pop. 2000: 55%
    > White pop. 2010: 48%

    3. Oxnard, CA
    > White pop. 2000: 57%
    > White pop. 2010: 49%

  6. The report took the sheriff's office to task for launching immigration patrols, known as "sweeps," based on complaints that Latinos were merely gathering near a business without committing crimes. Federal authorities single out Arpaio himself and said his office, known as MCSO, has no clear policies to guard against the violations, even after he changed some of his top aides earlier this year.


    The Justice Department said it hadn't yet established a pattern of alleged wrongdoing by the sheriff's office in the three areas where they will continue to investigation: complaints of excessive force against Latinos, botched sex-crimes cases and immigration efforts that have hurt the agency's trust with the Hispanic community.

    Federal authorities will continue to investigate whether the sheriff's office has limited the willingness of witnesses and victims to report crimes or talk to Arpaio's office.

  7. It is a tad oximoronic to call the majority of the people minorities, sam.

    Then again, what is "white"?

    Can a person of Mexican descent be "white"?

    As Hispanic is not a race, but an ethnicity made up of multiple colors.

    Are Italians "white"?
    How about Spaniards, Greeks and Portuguese?

    How about the Turkish?

  8. Yesterday, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sachs delivered the following lecture, asking ‘Has Europe lost its soul?’


    What I hope to show in this lecture, is first, the religious roots of the market economy and of democratic capitalism. They were produced by a culture saturated in the values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and market economics was originally intended to advance those values.

    Second, the market never reaches stable equilibrium. Instead the market itself tends to undermine the very values that gave rise to it in the first place through the process of “creative destruction.”

    Third, the future health of Europe, politically, economically and culturally, has a spiritual dimension. Lose that and we will lose much else besides.

  9. Two million US citizens fell into this category, in 1990:

    In 1990, for interracial families with one white American partner, the other parent...was Asian American for 45 percent...

    Are they counted as "white"?

  10. Are the descendents of the Aztec and Mayans, those North American Indians originating in Mexico, counted racially as "American" Indians, or as Hispanics?

  11. They are counting "white" as an ethnicity, not a race.

    While at wiki they tell us ...

    the concept of race as outlined for the US Census as not "scientific or anthropological" and takes into account "social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry", using "appropriate scientific methodologies" that are not "primarily biological or genetic in reference."

    The race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.

    Fuckin' bogus definitions that further divide Americans, instead of uniting US.

    Government at work.

  12. “Friend, you cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. And what one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government can’t give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody. And when half of the people get the idea they don’t have to work because the other half’s going to take care of them, and when the other half get the idea it does no good to work because somebody’s going to get what I work for. That, dear friend, is about the end of any nation.”

    - Adrian Rogers

  13. Personal Property Tax

    It was that I was thinking of.


  14. Leading American Internet businessmen warn that the draconian anti-piracy bill copyright on the verge of being passed by Congress would let the US government use censorship techniques "similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran."


    Given that Joe Lieberman said that America needs an internet kill switch like China, that the U.S. economy has turned socialist (at least for friends of those with control of the money spigot), and that the U.S. government used communist Chinese torture techniques specifically designed to produce false confessions in order to sell the Iraq war, I guess that the bill’s Chinese-style censorship is not entirely surprising.


    Of course, it might seem over-the-top to worry about copyright laws being used to stifle government criticism in America ... if it weren't for the fact that:

    Some folks have alleged that copyright infringers are terrorists.

    The U.S. government has been using anti-terrorism laws to crush dissent

    In modern America, questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, stocking up on more than 7 days of food, or liking the Founding Fathers may get you labeled as a suspected terrorist.

  15. Idaho businesses are forced to pay the “Personal Property Tax” on their tools, equipment, furniture, computers and other tangible items related to their operation.

    The complaint of the "End the Tax" folk...

    creates a disincentive for businesses to invest in new equipment because they are then taxed on that equipment every year they own it.

  16. Which does not take depreciation allowed by the IRS into account?

  17. Smaller, lighter weapons would allow Iran to place nuclear bombs on the warheads of medium- and long-range ballistic missiles.

    Middle East On Brink Of War


  18. Too Late

    That's the article I was trying to post.


  19. Any coherent containment policy “should seek to block any Iranian expansion in the Persian Gulf,” “induce a retraction of Iranian influence” and “work toward a political – if not physical – transformation of the Tehran regime,” it adds.

    That could require “a constant and significant conventional force presence around Iran’s perimeter.”

    But with pending budget cuts and U.S. military drawdowns in the Middle East, Washington may not be in a position to conduct a full-fledged containment operation against Iran, the AEI warns.

    “Consider the military costs alone: a renewed offensive nuclear deterrent, both in the United States and extended to the region; prolonged counterintelligence, counterterrorist and counterinsurgency operations around Iran’s perimeter; a large and persistent conventional covering force operating throughout the region and a reinforcing force capable of assured regime change; and energetic military-to-military programs with coalition partners,” the report says.

    “Such a deterrent posture is not only near or beyond the limits of current U.S. forces, but also would certainly surpass the capabilities of the reduced U.S. military that proposed budget cuts would produce.”

    National Post


  20. Iran is going to have Nukes. The Rightwingers are out of luck on this one. Obammie ain't coming.

    In fact, Obammie is a'goin'. Outta Asscrackistan as fast as his little ebony ass will take him.

    And, the saner members of Congress are ahead of Him. They just passed a Military Budget $23 Billion LESS than the White House requested.

  21. Smaller, lighter weapons would allow Iran to place nuclear bombs on the warheads of medium- and long-range ballistic missiles.

    Just like Russia and China did? That's MAD.

  22. I'm trying to watch this goofy debate, but I don't think I'll be able to get through it. They haven't even finished the first round of questions, and I already have it on mute. Honestly, the only ones that are any fun to listen to are Newt, and Ron Paul.

    When I see the moronic jackass, Perry, I'm tempted to turn on the audio just to hear the next imbecillic, water-cooler laugh of the day, but it just hurts too much to look at the grinning idiot.

    I can just see him sitting behind a can of billybeer, drunkenly agreeing with the dumb broad that we really should close our embassy in Iran.

  23. Jon Huntsman brags about getting elected with 80% in the Mormon state of Utah... Geez Mr. Huntsman that's a layup in my book.

  24. Lasted three minutes watching the GOP debate. This is the cream of the crop of Republicans?

  25. Obama's DHS cuts off Sheriff Joe's access to immigration status records.

  26. Well, the good news is that the Supreme Court is going to jerk a knot in Obama's tail on illegal immigration this summer.

    The bad news is that this is going to be an ongoing struggle as long as Obammie's in the White House.

  27. It is a tad oximoronic to call the

    gang of Outlaws Under Holder the

    "Justice Department,"


  28. Teresita said...

    "Obama's DHS cuts off Sheriff Joe's access to immigration status records."


    Just trying to be helpful.

  29. God, I wish Ron Paul would win Iowa. He's a hoot to watch. And, he scares the MIC to death when he asks, "well, why did we have a drone there, in the first place?"

  30. .

    From the editors of The Washington Examiner on Newt,

    "[H]e is like an exploding cigar, waiting to be lit."


  31. I fell asleep.

    I don't have a dog in the fight.


  32. I dreamed of Christmas, in Wasila.


  33. :)

    You and half the NBA, evidently.

  34. Bob, how's about giving us a "heads-up" when you do those American Stinker links?

    Now I gotta go an' wash my computer.

    If I don't end up having to shoot it.

  35. In September, the United States exported 3.2 million barrels of refined petroleum products a day and imported just 2.2 million barrels a day. That's a surplus of exports over imports of roughly a million barrels a day. For the first nine months of 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the U.S. exported 752 million barrels of refined petroleum products: gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene and such chemical-industry feed stocks as ethylene, butane and propylene.

    The swing in less than a decade is immense. For 2005, for example, the U.S. imported 900 million more barrels of refined petroleum products than it exported.