In another geological era, I served as a special attorney with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Way back then, working with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, we conducted investigations with the quaint object of making prosecutable cases against actual felons.

Well, so much for the good old days. The Obama Justice Department has apparently come up with a novel, new mission. "Operation Fast and Furious" sanctioned and promoted illegal sales by American gun shops of thousands of military-style semiautomatic rifles to straw purchasers for the Mexican drug cartels. Thereafter, no serious effort was made to trace the whereabouts of these weapons. Instead, the government simply allowed them to disappear into the underworld, where, as could be expected, they were used to commit hundreds of murders.

All of which prompts this question: What on earth was the legitimate law enforcement purpose of this exercise? How could it have conceivably produced a provable criminal case against anyone?

We already knew that the Mexican drug cartels were heavily armed. So why supply them with even more guns?

In his inept appearances before Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder has provided conflicting stories about the very existence and scope of "Fast and Furious," while withholding related documents under his control. And now, President Obama has asserted executive privilege to keep those documents under seal.

The claim of executive privilege certainly suggests direct White House involvement in this operation. If so, what was the Obama administration trying to accomplish by increasing the drug dealers' firepower?

Recall that, in 2009, Obama advocated resurrecting the Clinton-era ban on the sale of military-style semiautomatic rifles by fatuously claiming that 90 percent of the guns seized after shootings in Mexico came from the United States. This startling statistic became an oft-repeated talking point for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), and other gun-control advocates.

Unfortunately for them, their statistical proof was readily and embarrassingly debunked by gun advocates, as well as nonpartisan groups such as the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Now we learn that the Justice Department has been running guns to Mexico for no rational law enforcement purpose. Could it be that Holder — at the direction of the White House — was trying to inflate the number of guns sold in America and found to be used in Mexican crimes? Was this idiotic operation nothing more than an attempt by the Obama administration to manufacture bogus "proof" of the purported need for stricter gun controls in this country?

If not, then why has Holder stonewalled Congress, to the point of being held in contempt? And why has Obama placed himself in the middle of this fiasco by asserting executive privilege?

But if this was just an antigun stunt, then we may well be looking at Watergate redux — with several hundred murder victims, including U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, thrown in for good measure.

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