Former VPB staffer at center of right wing media/DOJ fracas

While flipping through channels the other night, one of our editors saw a familiar face plastered on the screen of Fox News’ O’Reilly Show – former Press Bureau and Rutland Herald reporter Tracy Schmaler, who is now a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs.

It seems Schmaler has run afoul of some elements of the media who have written that she “conspired” with the left-wing blog Media Matters to discredit critics of the DOJ over the “Fast and Furious” debacle that has dogged Attorney General Eric Holder. She’s also been compared to elements of Hitler’s Nazi regime, and  the Tucker Carlson-associated web site The Daily Caller has  FOIA’d a series of emails between her and Media Matters bloggers.

The emails certainly show communication between Media Matters and Schmaler, but mostly revolve around clarifying the similarities and differences between the “Fast and Furious” operation, which was basically an attempted sting carried out by the DOJ and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the prior “Wide Receiver”, also a joint sting.

The two operations were similar in that undercover agents were basically feeding guns – including semiautomatic weapons – and more into the Mexican drug cartel system in order to track them to the bigger, higher-up fish up the chain. This misguided attempt at flushing out the kingpins resulted in about 2,000 guns disappearing into criminal hands, and possibly the use of those guns in murders, shootings, and the death of a US agent.

The two operations differ in the respect that “Wide Receiver” took place primarily in 2005 and 2006, under the Bush Administration, while “Fast and Furious” primarily occured in 2010 and 2011, under the Obama Administration.

The DOJ Inspector General’s investigation into the operation has resulted in two officals leaving the department, and reprimand of a dozen more.