As a result of Operation Fast and Furious, hundreds of people have been killed.
Six Wiretap Applications Approved by Senior DOJ Officials
On June 28, 2012, the same day the Supreme Court handed down its decision, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee that is investigating the Fast and Furious scandal, placed into the Congressional Record a letter he sent this past May to Elijah Cummings, the Ranking Member of the Committee.
In his letter, Congressman Issa discusses a Fast and Furious wiretap application dated March 15, 2010. This is one of six wiretap applications that senior DOJ officials approved between March and July 2010 to authorize seven Fast and Furious wiretaps.
Each wiretap application includes an affidavit that details the case-related facts supporting the request for the wiretap.
The Office of Enforcement Operations, which is part of DOJ’s Criminal Division, is primarily responsible for reviewing the applications to make sure they satisfy statutory requirements and DOJ policy.
After that review, the applications go to Attorney General Eric Holder or his designee for review and authorization before being submitted to a federal judge. Once the judge signs off on the application, it is placed under seal.
The March 15, 2010, application (like the five other applications) includes a memorandum from Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, to Paul O’Brien, Director of the Office of Enforcement Operations. The memorandum authorizes the wiretap application on behalf of Attorney General Holder.
The memorandum from Assistant Attorney General Breuer was specifically marked for the attention of Emory Hurley, who was the lead federal prosecutor for Operation Fast and Furious.
Senior DOJ officials, including Assistant Attorney General Breuer, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco, were responsible for authorizing the March 15, 2010, wiretap application as well as the five other applications.
As Congressman Issa explained in a recent letter to Attorney General Holder, “The applications discussed—in no uncertain terms—the reckless [gun-walking] tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. In light of the information contained in these wiretap applications, senior Department officials can no longer disclaim responsibility for failing to shut down Fast and Furious because they were unaware of the tactics used.”
The March 15, 2010, Wiretap Application
The March 15, 2010, application explains that from September 2009 to March 15, 2010, ATF agents knew that the primary Fast and Furious suspect had purchased 852 guns through a number of straw purchasers in the United States and was planning to transport the guns into Mexico.
Even though senior DOJ officials knew these guns were intended to be brought into Mexico, they did nothing. They did not order the arrest of the primary suspect and did not order the interdiction of the weapons.
The application also explains that law enforcement agents purposely stopped their surveillance of criminals in possession of Fast and Furious guns and thereby lost track of the suspects and guns.
The application further points out that Fast and Furious guns were found at Mexican crime scenes in November and December 2009.
As Congressman Issa explains, “[c]ontrary to the Attorney General’s statements, the enclosed wiretap affidavit contains clear information that [law enforcement] agents were willfully allowing known straw buyers to acquire firearms for drug cartels and failing to interdict them—in some cases even allowing them to walk to Mexico. In particular, the affidavit explicitly describes the most controversial tactic of all: abandoning surveillance of known straw purchasers, resulting in the failure to interdict firearms.”
The Fallout of Operation Fast and Furious
During the course of Operation Fast and Furious, from the fall of 2009 until early 2011, the Obama Administration allowed about 2,000 guns to be “walked” into Mexico and to be placed into the hands of Mexican drug cartel members.
The guns have been connected with many crimes and murders. At least 200 people have been killed in Mexico as a result of Fast and Furious guns. And, United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona in December 2010 in a gunfight with criminals who were using Fast and Furious guns.
Agent Terry’s death occurred well after senior DOJ officials were aware of the gun-walking operation. Had senior DOJ officials stopped Fast and Furious and/or ordered arrests and the interdiction of weapons in March 2010, Agent Terry may not have been killed.
Many more deaths will surely be caused by those using Fast and Furious guns here and in Mexico. The Obama Administration cannot account for hundreds of the “walked” guns.
The Obama Administration Gives Congress False Information
Congressman Issa also notes that the March 15, 2010, “wiretap affidavit reveals a remarkable amount of specific information about Operation Fast and Furious. The affidavit reveals that the Justice Department has been misrepresenting important facts to Congress and withholding critical details about Fast and Furious from the Committee for months on end.”
The Congressional investigation into Fast and Furious started in early 2011, soon after the death of Agent Terry. That February, the Obama Administration sent Congress a letter denying that it had allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico.
The letter stated that “the allegation . . . that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico—is false. ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation into Mexico."
About nine months later, in November 2011, the Obama Administration withdrew the letter because its denial of the gun-walking program was false.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer conceded during his testimony before the Senate in November 2011 that he knew the information contained in the February 2011 letter was false long before the letter was written and sent to Congress.
Even so, the Obama Administration waited until November to withdraw the letter and correct the record.
Fast & Furious Investigation Moves Forward
The investigation into Fast and Furious will continue thanks to those in Congress and in some media outlets who are working to uncover the truth. Slowly, and eventually, the truth will come out.
With each passing day, the Fast and Furious scandal is looking more and more as President Obama’s Watergate. This is especially true now that the President has asserted executive privilege to block the Congressional investigation into certain documents, in particular, those dealing with the February 2011 letter denying the existence of the gun-walking program and the subsequent retraction of that false letter nine months later.
The President’s recent assertion of executive privilege has only caused the public to suspect a cover up.
The suspicion of a cover up will continue to grow now that the public knows that senior DOJ officials knew about Fast and Furious since at least March 2010 and did nothing to stop it, and the public also has learned that the Obama Administration has given Congress false information in response to the Congressional investigation into the Operation.
As Congressman Issa has stated to Attorney General Holder, the “wiretap applications are a crucial component of the Fast and Furious investigation, and establish a direct link between what was happening on the ground in Phoenix [the hub of Operation Fast and Furious] and senior Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C.”
“The new information contained in the wiretap applications places [Congress] in a position to begin the process of assigning accountability among senior Department [of Justice] officials, some of whom were responsible for approving the wiretap applications.”
Time will tell what the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious reveals and who, if anyone, is held responsible for this reckless gun-walking program that has resulted in the murder of hundreds of people to date.