Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious LXVI

Emails show top Justice Department officials knew of ATF gun program

Memos from 2010 show some in senior positions were aware of tactics used in a surveillance operation in which firearms were allowed into Mexico in a failed effort to catch drug cartel leaders.

by Richard A. Serrano

Senior Justice Departmentofficials were aware that ATF agents allowed firearms to be "walked" into Mexico, according to a series of emails last year in which they discussed two undercover operations on the Southwest border, including the failed Fast and Furious program.In the emails that the department turned over to congressional investigators, Justice Department officials last October discussed both the Fast and Furious gun-trafficking surveillance operation in Phoenix and a separate investigation from 2006 and 2007 called Operation Wide Receiver. In Wide Receiver, which took place in Tucson, firearms also were acquired by illegal straw purchasers and lost in Mexico, the emails say.The term "gun walking" is central to the failure of Fast and Furious. Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them. But they lost track of more than 2,000 weapons, and the Mexican government says some of them have turned up at about 170 crime scenes there. Two were recovered at the scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent's slaying in Arizona in December.Justice Department officials have said repeatedly that they knew nothing of Fast and Furious tactics until ATF whistle-blowers went public this year with allegations that guns were being illegally purchased with the ATF's knowledge.Justice Department officials, who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigations into Fast and Furious, said that although senior department officials knew that guns were "walked" in the Wide Receiver investigation, they were unaware that ATF agents were using similar tactics in Fast and Furious.Jason Weinstein, deputy attorney general in the criminal division, brought up both cases in an October 2010 email, apparently concerned that they were going to overlap."Do you think we should try to have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and [the] Tucson case are unsealed?" he asked about his boss, Lanny A. Breuer, head of the criminal division. "It's a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but it is a significant set of prosecutions."James Trusty, acting chief of the department's organized crime and gang section, responded, "I think so but the timing is tricky too."He said the Tucson case would be ready for indictments before Fast and Furious, and that "it's not clear how much we're involved in the main F and F case."Either way, he added that "it's not going to be any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX, so I'm not sure how much grief we get for 'guns walking.' It may be more like, 'Finally they're going after people who sent guns down there' "Investigators working for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, view the emails as strong evidence that Justice Department officials knew about "gun walking" tactics in Fast and Furious.Fast and Furious ran from fall 2009 to January, culminating in charges against 20 people — none of them cartel leaders. It was unclear whether any indictments were issued in the Wide Receiver operation.July 2010 memos, part of weekly reports, discussed an illegal straw purchaser in Fast and Furious who bought 1,500 weapons "that were then supplied to Mexican drug-trafficking cartels."October and November memos said that "Phoenix-based 'Operation Fast and Furious' is ready for takedown" — several months before the investigation was officially closed.Copies of all of the memos were heavily redacted.Justice Department officials said Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. routinely received reports about myriad ongoing investigations around the country, and that the reports did not disclose that ATF agents were purposely "walking" the weapons. They said Issa received a similar Fast and Furious update last year.But congressional investigators said the memos suggested Holder had hedged what he knew.According to the emails, Holder was told generally about Fast and Furious in the memos in July, October and November 2010, well before he told congressional committees he had first learned of the program.On March 10, Holder testified before a Senate subcommittee that he had just learned about the Fast and Furious gun-walking allegations and had asked for the inspector general's investigation. "We cannot have a situation where guns are allowed to walk," he said.On May 3, he was asked by Issa when he first learned about Fast and Furious. "I'm not sure of the exact date," Holder testified. "But I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."Justice Department officials said Holder was referring to the date when he first learned about the operational details of Fast and Furious, not the program itself.

Obama and Holder Still Pleading Ignorance on 'Fast and Furious,' But It’s Getting Harder

by Chris W. Cox

I would like to believe that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – no matter how much they oppose our Second Amendment rights – would never break the law and endanger human lives in their mission to score political points against gun owners.
I’d like to believe operation “Fast and Furious” is just another example of the Obama administration’s gross incompetence, albeit this time with tragic and deadly results. I’d like to believe that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had nothing but good intentions when it illegally helped transfer thousands of guns to violent drug lords in Mexico.
I’d like to believe this was just a misguided and foolish law enforcement operation gone horribly wrong.
However, to believe all of this, I would have to ignore a lot of facts.
I would have to ignore the fact that since “Fast and Furious” became public knowledge, Holder’s Justice Department has repeatedly refused to fully cooperate with congressional investigators. Instead, Holder has launched his agency into full cover-up mode, even promoting the BATFE agents who had direct oversight of this scandal.
I would have to ignore the fact that while Holder’s BATFE was pushing illegal firearms into the hands of known Mexican criminals, President Obama was trying to push his gun control agenda by blaming American gun owners and our Second Amendment rights for Mexican drug crime. In fact, the Obama administration is now requiring gun shops in states that border Mexico to register the firearms sales of any law-abiding American who purchases more than one rifle of certain types.
I would also have to completely disregard the recent revelation that BATFE ordered at least one of its agents to purchase firearms with our tax dollars, and then resell them to a gun runner for a Mexican drug cartel.
As this scandal and the resulting cover-up grow bigger and more shocking by the day, President Obama and Eric Holder continue to shrug their shoulders and plead ignorance. They seem quite content to destroy what is left of Americans’ faith in our government, so long as they don’t have to answer the big question: Who authorized this operation and how high up does this scandal go?
But make no mistake: Their refusal to cooperate with congressional investigators is also a part of their political strategy. They know that most of the mainstream media outlets will continue to give them cover by ignoring “Fast and Furious.” And they know that NRA, gun owners and freedom-loving Americans will continue to demand answers. Thus, Obama and Holder are hoping to create the perception that this is just another partisan issue.
But this is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. People died as a result of it, and Americans’ confidence in their government’s ability to preserve the sanctity of our freedoms is rapidly eroding with each passing day.
If our President and his Attorney General won’t help Congress get to the bottom of this scandal, it is imperative that an independent prosecutor be assigned to this case. NRA will continue to fight this battle until all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, get the answers we need to make sure an operation as reckless, corrupt and deadly as “Fast and Furious” never happens again.

Does Fast and Furious Put Impeachment on The Table?

by Ben Shapiro

"The story is one of not covert activity alone," intoned Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, "but of covert foreign policy .... It is a tale of working outside the system and of utilizing irregular channels and private parties accountable to no one, on matters of national security, while ignoring the Congress and even the traditional agencies of executive foreign policy making. The story is both sad and sordid."Sen. Inouye was speaking not of the biggest scandal of the Obama administration, but of the biggest scandal of the Reagan administration -- the Iran-Contra scandal. In that scandal, the United States sold weapons to parties in Iran in an attempt to free Lebanese-held hostages, then funneled the weapons cash to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. The outcome of that scandal: indictments against the secretary of defense, the national security advisor, the assistant secretary of state, the chief of covert ops at the CIA and several others.That scandal pales by comparison to the so-called Fast and Furious scandal now bubbling in Washington, D.C. In fall 2009, Eric Holder and the Department of Justice decided on a strategy supposedly designed to combat gun trafficking on the Mexican border. They didn't want the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seize illegal firearms anymore; instead, they wanted them to give firearms to members of the Mexican cartels.According to the Congressional report, "ATFs Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns .... This shift in strategy was known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department." One goal was to identify "straw purchasers" -- legal gun purchasers who hand off those guns to illegal owners. Instead of arresting the straw purchasers and their contacts, however, ATF was to allow the guns to continue to flow to the Mexican drug cartels. "ATF and DOJ leadership were interested in seeing where these guns would ultimately end up," the report states. "ATF would only see these guns again after they turned up at a crime scene."That's exactly what happened. The entire operation ended with only 20 indictments of straw purchasers -- indictments that could have happened immediately upon transfer of the weapons, stopping the flow. In fact, the straw purchasers, at issue, were known to be straw purchasers from the get-go. The indictments only took place at all because U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered using the weapons authorized for free flow by ATF and DOJ. Terry wasn't the only person killed because of Fast and Furious -- the weapons OK'd by the DOJ and ATF were used in three murders, four kidnappings and an attempted murder in Mexico. They've been identified at 11 other crime scenes in the United States.So what was the real goal of the DOJ and ATF? It certainly wasn't to shut down access to arms for the cartels -- the ATF was agreeing to such access. It wasn't to stop straw purchasers -- the ATF was signing off on the straw purchasers. It wasn't to track the movements of the cartel -- there was no way to do that. It was, very simply, to establish for political reasons that American guns were being used in crimes by foreign cartels.This was the Reichstag fire of the Second Amendment. By authorizing the passage of weapons to America's enemies, President Obama and his administration clearly wanted to set up a narrative that America's lax gun laws were killing American troops and law enforcement officers. They wanted their misuse of law enforcement authority to create the impetus for a crackdown on gun sales in the United States.How high does this go? Apparently, all the way to the top. The attorney general of the state of Arizona, a Democrat operative, has already resigned in an attempt to avoid the consequences of participating in this fiasco. Middle management at DOJ and ATF has already been thrown under the bus. The acting director of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, has already been defenestrated.For his part, Obama has denied that Attorney General Eric Holder green-lit the operation, stating, "My attorney general has made clear he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico." This is less than credible -- how could the head of the DOJ not know about an operation of this magnitude handled by the DOJ? And how could President Obama not know? And why, if the DOJ is uninvolved, do they want a copy of Melson's confidential interview with Congressional staff?If this scandal runs all the way up the chain of command -- and by all indicators, it could -- it is certainly an impeachable offense. This is a high crime, not a misdemeanor. Pushing an operation designed to undercut American freedoms that ends with the death of Americans is not only illegal, it is unconscionable. And unlike Iran-Contra, it wasn't done for the right reasons.
Documents Suggest Holder Knew About 'Fast and Furious' Earlier Than He Claimed
by William Lajeunesse

For the first time, documents appear to show Attorney General Eric Holder was made aware of the Operation Fast and Furious earlier than he claimed -- up to nine months earlier.
The documents seem to contradict what Holder told a House Judiciary Committee on May 3, when he said he could not recall the exact date, but he'd "probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
However, in a July 2010 memo, Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, told Holder straw buyers in the Operation Fast and Furious case "are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels."
Also, on Oct.18, 2010, one of Holder's chief deputies, Lanny Breuer, chief of the department's Criminal Division, told Holder in a memo that prosecutors were ready to issue indictments in Operation Fast and Furious.
Documents also show, contrary to earlier reports, the Justice Department was aware that ATF agents under the department's direction were involved in the controversial practice known as "gun walking" -- allowing illicit gun sales to proceed to track the traffickers to higher-ups. The department has said it did not allow guns to "walk."
When agents "let guns walk," they stop surveillance and allow criminals to transfer weapons to others. In this case, that meant allowing the guns to cross the border into Mexico. It is a highly controversial practice agents typically are taught not to do.
However, in an Oct. 17, 2010 memo, Deputy Attorney General Jason Weinstein asks another attorney in the Criminal Division if Breuer should do a press conference when Fast and Furious is announced, but says, "It's a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked."
His associate, James Trusty writes back, "It's not going to be any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX (Mexico), so I’m not sure how much grief we'll get for 'gun walking.'"
Until now, there's been an attempt to portray Operation Fast and Furious as a rogue operation by ATF agents in Phoenix and the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office. But insiders claim these documents show the Department of Justice in Washington was intimately aware of the case almost from the beginning.
In response to the documents released Monday, the Justice Department said Holder's response referred to when he first learned of the "troubling tactics" of the program, not the name of it. A department spokesman also says that the "gun walking" referred to in the October 2010 email exchange is about another case initiated before Operation Fast and Furious.

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