By Dave Workman
Senior Justice Department officials knew about the “reckless tactics” used in Operation Fast and Furious, according to new documents uncovered in the investigation, but Attorney General Eric Holder misled Congress about it, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has asserted.
Issa’s allegation was in a letter he sent to Holder after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform obtained information about six sealed wiretaps that were submitted to the Justice Department in Washington, DC. That letter may be read here.
“The wiretap applications show that immense detail about questionable investigative tactics was available to the senior officials who reviewed and authorized them,” Issa wrote. “The close involvement of these officials – much greater than previously known – is shocking.”
Issa’s six-page letter to Holder was mailed June 5 and TGM obtained a copy. Issa chairs the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating Fast and Furious and the alleged cover-up for almost 16 months. In a press release, Issa said that while refusing to produce several subpoenaed documents, the attorney general had “previously denied knowledge of and cast doubt on the possibility that the wiretap applications contained information about reckless tactics.”
Operation Fast and Furious is believed to have allowed some 2,500 guns to be “walked” into the hands of Mexican drug cartel gunmen. Many of those guns have been recovered at crime scenes, including two that were found in southern Arizona at the spot where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was slain in December 2010. That incident led to the revelation about the gun trafficking operation, first by BATF whistleblowers and then by on-line bloggers David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh. From there, coverage of the scandal expanded, as Gun Week and several other news organs began digging, and both CBS and Fox News launched investigations.
In his letter, Issa reminded Holder of his previous denials.
“Throughout the course of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa wrote, “the (Justice) Department has consistently denied that any senior officials were provided information about the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. The wiretap applications obtained by the Committee show such statements made by senior Department officials regarding the wiretaps to be false and misleading. You have repeatedly either denied involvement by senior officials in Fast and Furious, or asserted that the wiretap applications do not contain rich detail about irresponsible investigative tactics.”
The wiretaps were allegedly “approved under the authority” of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. In addition to Breuer, Issa said that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco were responsible for authorizing these wiretap applications.
Because of the new revelations, Issa told Holder, “…it is disingenuous for (Justice) Department officials to publicly claim that senior officials were unaware of the unacceptable tactics used in Fast and Furious.”
Issa’s committee has subpoenaed tens of thousands of documents including e-mails and memoranda form the Justice Department, but only about 7,000 documents have been produced. Issa and his Republican colleagues on the committee have complained that holder is stonewalling. That claim has also been raised by Senator Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was Grassley who first launched the Fast and Furious inquiry in January 2011.
“The new information contained in the wiretap applications places us in a position to begin the process of assigning accountability among senior Department officials,” Rep. Issa wrote. “After reviewing these applications, we now understand why the Department has been resisting our efforts to secure full cooperation and compliance with the subpoena.”
Issa recalled that, under oath, former BATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson testified, “It appears thoroughly to us that the department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the department.”
With the new revelations, that no longer appears to be an option.