Department of Justice refuses to release “Fast and Furious” documents?
Chairman Issa – “I have been stonewalled by Attorney General Holder and DOJ”
“Since January 2011, Chairman ISSA and I have been stonewalled by Attorney General Holder and by other people in the Justice Department regarding our investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. This deadly operation let thousands of weapons ‘‘walk’’ from the United States into Mexico. Despite the fact the Department of Justice inspector general possesses over 80,000 relevant documents, Congress has received only around 6,000 in response to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee. Even basic documents about the case have been withheld by the Justice Department. Yet the Department insists on telling us— and before they tell us, they seem to tell the press—that they are cooperating with Senator GRASSLEY and Congressman ISSA.
Charlotte City Buzz Examiner
Congressional Record (March, 15-2012).
GUNWALKING BY ATF - PROJECT GUNRUNNER
The ATF gunwalking scandal came to national attention in the United States in 2011 after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran a series of “gunwalking” sting operations between 2006 and 2011. This was done under the umbrella of Project Gunrunner, a project intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico by interdicting straw purchasers and gun traffickers within the U.S. “Gunwalking” or “letting guns walk” was a tactic whereby the ATF knowingly allowed thousands of guns to be bought by suspected arms traffickers ("gunrunners") working through straw purchasers on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.
The stated goal of allowing these purchases was to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher−level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels, in theory leading to their arrests and/or the dismantling of the cartels.
The tactic was questioned during the operations by a number of people, including ATF field agents and cooperating licensed gun dealers, according to various reports.
Operation Fast and Furious, by far the largest "gunwalking" probe, led to the sale of over 2,000 firearms, of which fewer than 700 were recovered as of October 20, 2011 (2011 -10-20).
A number of straw purchasers have been arrested and indicted; however, as of October 2011, none of the targeted high−level cartel figures have been arrested.
Firearms "walked" by the ATF have been found at violent crime scenes on both sides of the US−Mexico border, and have been found at the crime scenes involving deaths of many Mexicans and at least one US federal agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
The “gunwalking” operations became public in the aftermath of Agent Terry's murder. As a result, dissident ATF agents came forward to Congress. As investigations have continued, the operations have become increasingly controversial in both countries, and diplomatic relations have been damaged as a result.
OPERATION FAST AND FURIOUS
On October 26, 2009, a teleconference was held at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, D.C. to discuss US strategy for combating Mexican drug cartels. Participating in the meeting were Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller and the top federal prosecutors in the Southwestern border states. They decided on a strategy to identify and eliminate entire arms trafficking networks rather than low–level buyers.
Those at the meeting did not suggest using the "gunwalking" tactic, but ATF supervisors would soon use it in an attempt to achieve the desired goals.
The effort, beginning in November, would come to be called Operation Fast and Furious for the successful film franchise, because some of the suspects under investigation operated out of an auto repair store and street raced.
The strategy of targeting high–level individuals, which was already ATF policy, would be implemented by Bill Newell, special agent in charge of ATF's Phoenix field division. In order to accomplish it, the office decided to use "gunwalking" as laid out in a January 2010 briefing paper. This was said to be allowed under ATF regulations and given legal backing by U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis K. Burke. It was additionally approved and funded by a Justice Department task force.
However, long–standing DOJ and ATF policy has required arms shipments to be intercepted.
In November 2009, the Phoenix office's Group VII, which would be the lead investigative group in Fast and Furious, began to follow a prolific gun trafficker. He had bought 34 firearms in 24 days, and he and his associates bought 212 more in the next month. The case soon grew to over two dozen straw purchasers, the most prolific of which would ultimately buy more than 600 weapons.
The tactic of letting guns walk, rather than interdicting them and arresting the buyers, led to controversy within the ATF.
As the case continued, several members of Group VII, including John Dodson and Olindo Casa, became increasingly upset at the tactic of allowing guns to walk. Their standard Project Gunrunner training was to follow the straw purchasers to the hand-off to the cartel buyers, then arrest both parties and seize the guns. They watched guns being bought illegally and stashed on a daily basis, while their supervisors, including David Voth and Hope MacAllister, prevented the agents from intervening.
Responding to the disagreements, Voth wrote an email in March 2010: "I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumors, or other adolescent behavior. I don’t know what all the issues are but we are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have an exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law enforcement tool box. If you don’t think this is fun you are in the wrong line of work — period!”
By June 2010, suspects had purchased 1,608 firearms at a cost of over $1 million dollars at Phoenix-area gun shops. At that time, the ATF was also aware of 179 of those weapons being found at crime scenes in Mexico, and 130 in the US. As guns traced to Fast and Furious began turning up at violent crime scenes in Mexico, ATF agents stationed there also voiced opposition.
On the evening of December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and others were patrolling Peck Canyon, Pima County, Arizona, 11 miles from the Mexican border.
The group came across five suspected illegal immigrants. When they fired non-lethal beanbag guns, the suspects responded with assault weapons, leading to a firefight. Agent Terry was shot and killed; four of the suspects were arrested and two AK-47 assault rifles were found nearby. The rifles were traced to Fast and Furious within hours of the shooting, but the bullet that killed Terry was too badly damaged to be linked to either gun.
After hearing of the incident, Agent Dodson reached out to ATF headquarters, ATF’s chief counsel, the ATF ethics section and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, none of whom immediately responded. He and other agents then contacted Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who would become a major figure in the investigation of "gunwalking."
At the same time, information began leaking to various bloggers and web sites.
On January 25, 2011, US Attorney Burke announced the first details of the case to become officially public, marking the end of Operation Fast and Furious. At a news conference in Phoenix, Arizona, he reported a 53-count indictment of 20 suspects for buying hundreds of guns intended for illegal export between September 2009 and December 2010. Newell, who was at the conference, called Fast and Furious a "phenomenal case," while denying that guns had been deliberately allowed to walk into Mexico, a claim that was later revealed to be false and misleading.
Altogether, it’s been estimated that 2,020 firearms were bought by “straw purchasers” during Fast and Furious. These included AK-47 variants, Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles, .38 caliber revolvers, and FN Five-sevens. As of October 20, 2011 (2011 -10-20), 389 had been recovered in the US and 276 had been recovered in Mexico.
The rest remained on the streets of Mexico, unaccounted for. “It wouldn’t surprise me if people have been murdered by some of those missing weapons, which included by the way .50 caliber rifles”, say Jimenez Gomez of Phoenix, Arizona, who indicated he is working with Mexican Intelligence officials (working inside the US) on finding information relating to this case for the current Attorney General of Mexico, Marisela Morales. According to Morales the ATF's "gunwalking" operations were deliberately kept secret from the Mexican government, which they consider a serious violation of international law.
Another Mexican official investigating US violation of international law is prosecutor Patricia Gonzalez, Chihuahua state in Mexico - who had worked closely with the US for years, said, "The basic ineptitude of these officials [who ordered the Fast and Furious operation] caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims." Her brother, Mario, had been kidnapped, tortured and killed by cartel hit men in fall 2010. It was later revealed that his killers owned AK-47 assault rifles traced backed to Fast and Furious.
So far at least a half dozen deaths may be attributed to guns from the Fast and Furious Operation/ subsequent cover up that followed.
GUNS WENT TO MEXICO’S MOST NOTORIOUS CARTELS
Most of the guns went to the Sinaloa Cartel, while others made their way to El Teo and La Familia. Background information on the Sinaloa Cartel can be found at website Sinaloa Cartel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
CONGRESS INVESTIGATING GUNWALKING
In the US Congress, Representative Darrell Issa (R–CA–49), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R–IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have been investigating "gunwalking" operations.
On January 27, 2011, Senator Grassley wrote a letter to ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson requesting information about the ATF–sanctioned sale of hundreds of firearms to straw purchasers.
ATTRIBUTED TO THE DEATH OF A US BORDER AGENT
The letter mentioned a number of allegations that walked guns were used in the fight that killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
A second letter from Grassley on January 31 accused the ATF of targeting whistleblowers.
STONEWALLING CONGRESS IS A DOJ COVER UP!
“Now comes information that the Justice Department is refusing to turn over documents to Senator Issa and Grassley”, says Larry Dexter of Charlotte, N.C. “What is needed is for someone inside the Justice department to come forward and steal or copy the documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” operation and turn them over to Senator Grassley. Someone inside the Justice Department has to know something. Problem is no one will investigate or turn over the documents, including high level officials in the DOJ’s Inspector General’s Office”, he said.
I contacted some FBI field agents to ask for their cooperation in an investigation of the Department of Justice – they laughed? One field agent in Charlotte was honest enough to say he would in no way risk his distinguished career doing an unauthorized investigation such as this – Coward!
A lawyer in the Justice Department, who declined to be named in this report suggested that an insider investigation into the DOJ’s IG office is the most “ridiculous thing” he has ever heard of – even if it was to find evidence of an alleged cover-up into the Fast and Furious Operation. “There is protocol that needs to be followed in this case”, he said.
“Short of federal agents storming the Department of Justice IG office to seize the documents, you don’t stand a chance in getting them. I don’t care if you’re a US Senator or not. It just will not happen”, says Anthony Ortiz of Charlotte, N.C. a government legal affairs expert. “If someone could get inside and photocopy or download the documents and send them to Senator Grassley or Issa, but were talking access. I don’t know of anyone who can do it. Besides which the smoking gun documents would have most likely been destroyed before the IG had a chance to collect them. I admit it is disturbing to think that the DOJ will is stonewalling members of the US Senate trying to investigate the facts in this case, which just stinks to high heaven of a cover up that extends all they way to the very top of the Justice Department and the office of the Attorney General himself. It could threaten the Obama Administration which would be adverse to any of this coming out”, he said.
“Unless a whistleblower or someone inside the DOJ does the right thing and leak the documents to Congress or Senator’s Gassley’s or Senator Issa’s office we may never really know where responsibility lies”, says Tony Esposito of Charlotte. “But it’s going to next to impossible to get someone in the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Department of Justice to investigate a cover up inside their own agency”, he said.