“House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has distributed a staff briefing paper and draft of the contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder to Members of the Oversight Committee,” a May 3 press release from Frederick R. Hill Director of Communications for the committee begins.
A copy of the memorandum and draft is posted on the committee website. Highlights include information sharing failures, non-cooperation by the Justice Department, the struggle to get the truth for the family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, retaliation against whistleblowers, the fueling of violence in Mexico, and “allegations of intentional wrongdoing by Justice officials.” No doubt many outlets will report on this, and the intent of Gun Rights Examiner in its Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking” coverage has never been to retell stories uncovered by others, but instead to share original sourced findings derived independently or in partnership with Mike Vanderboegh, who blogs at Sipsey Street Irregulars, and who, on December 28, 2010, was the first citizen journalist to report and reach out for confirmation on postings from the CleanUpATF website alleging guns were being walked, and that walked guns were found at the Terry murder scenes.
That website was established by ATF insiders to address Bureau management waste, abuse corruption and fraud that their chain of command would not, and Vanderboegh and this correspondent had been following forum dialog for years—Gun Rights Examiner had even asked the then-Democrat controlled Oversight Committee to investigate the allegations in 2009, and was ignored.
Katie Pavlich notes in her new book “Fast and Furious,” that “The [CleanUpATF] chatter immediately gained the attention of two bloggers, Mike Vanderboegh and David Codrea. Working together, they vetted the information through their vast network of informants in the ATF.”
Subsequent investigative findings and steps have been documented in Gun Rights Examiner’s “Journalist’s Guide to Project Gunwalker,” and include early highlights such as an ATF source claiming the guns were walked “to pad statistics,” as well as struggles to get the story noticed by the media and by politicians, finally, out of frustration resulting in a January 19, 2011 open letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee begging them to look into the allegations, and to guarantee safety for the whistleblowers. As late as March 6, 2011, this column was still chiding Rep. Darrell Issa and the National Rifle Association to involve themselves.
The importance of these efforts is indirectly acknowledged in today’s Oversight Committee memo, which states “A congressional investigation and reports by journalists utilizing whistleblowers and other sources have shed immense light on what occurred and why.” It’s further recognized in a release just sent out this afternoon by Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating he “first began investigating alleged gunwalking in January 2011 after whistleblowers came forward to alert Congress about gunwalking in Arizona.”
Among those journalists indirectly credited in Issa’s memo are William La Jeunesse of Fox News and Sharyll Attkisson of CBS News, both of whom have done important original groundbreaking and often astounding work in bringing out new revelations and keeping this story alive when no other outlet would cover it. Attkisson’s February 23, 2011 interview with Agent John Dodson put a face on the whistleblowers, unquestionably scooping all other media and escalating the story to the big leagues.
Still, with the well-documented history of all that went on before that journalistic coup, it’s curious that CBS News is still claiming, as in the sidebar video for this column, that “information…in the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal [was] first exposed last year by our own Sharyl Attkisson.”
This is not the first time CBS has made such claims, and while that is not the doing of Ms. Attkisson, whose work is unquestionably original, important, Pulitzer-worthy, and deserving of respect, there is no legitimate reason or need for the network to misstate the origin of the story, particularly since their longer reach ensures that it spreads to other outlets such as Media Research Center (”Attkisson, who broke the gunwalking story back on the February 23, 2011 Evening News…”), Roger Hedgecock (“…made public by courageous whistleblowing federal agents and CBS News”), the Center for Public Integrity (“the controversial program that was uncovered by the Center for Public Integrity and CBS News”) and others.
The above-linked “Journalists’ Guide” can be referenced by anyone interested in seeing the sheer volume of original reporting, 157 posts between Gun Rights Examiner and Sipsey Street Irregulars, that was done prior to CBS News weighing in on the story, after, incidentally, having consulted with both Vanderboegh and this correspondent throughout the week preceding their first report (see sidebar slide, above—note source identity is redacted from some of the email address fields for protection of that individual ).
It cannot be overemphasized that the point of this is not to embarrass Ms. Attkisson, whose work is worthy of gratitude and praise—she is not the one making these claims. But the origins of this story deserve to be told properly, not just for petty reasons like claiming credit, which Vanderboegh most appropriately attributed in his “Pure fact verified” post of January 5, 2011, saying “All credit should go to the agents of CUATF who broke this story…”
Beyond that, it’s simply a matter of basic decency. This correspondent is particularly sensitive, having kept readers apprised of Vanderboegh’s current medical condition, as the man with pre-existing debilitating health problems battles to recover after major surgery—and in spite of that still manages, from a hospital bed, while in great pain and under powerful medication, to scoop the majors. It would be proper to see him recognized for his substantial and heroic efforts.
There is a more important reason why establishing an unequivocal record is paramount, and it impacts more than the Fast and Furious story. Gun Rights Examiner readers are familiar with the “Authorized Journalist” meme constantly referenced in this column, providing regular evidence of mainstream media failures, ignorance and outright deception on the gun issue in general and especially on administration misdeeds related to “Gunwalker.” What the true origins of this story prove, and what those ignoring or subverting it don’t wish recognized, is that this stands as an undeniable example that establishment media no longer holds exclusive information gatekeeper status. The dinosaurs have noticed the small, furry, egg-eating mammals darting and scrambling about their lumbering feet.
Whistleblowers on a forum and lowly bloggers operating out of their homes far removed from events, with no resources, no travel and expense accounts, no “official” media connections–and no ability to attract an audience besides through relentless screaming until somebody noticed—somehow managed to force entry of this story into the public consciousness to the point that it has been covered by many of the major players and the House of Representatives is getting ready to prepare contempt charges against the Attorney General of the United States.
The game has changed. Welcome to the dawn of the age of the Unauthorized Journalist. That’s an as-yet unrecognized, but huge story in all of this, and it scares the hell out of establishment media and the powers that be who rely on them.
About David Codrea
David Codrea is a long-time gun rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He is a field editor for GUNS Magazine, and a blogger at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance. Read more at www.DavidCodrea.com.