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10-30-2012, 11:38 PM #1
Report: DOJ Failed to Provide ‘Complete Accurate Answers’ to Terry Family on Fast and
Report: DOJ Failed to Provide ‘Complete Accurate Answers’ to Terry Family on Fast and Furious
By Fred Lucas
October 29, 2012
(CNSNews.com) – A new report on Operation Fast and Furious, the Justice Department’s failed gunrunning program, said that department officials would not give true answers to the family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“No one at Justice Department headquarters have provided complete and accurate answers to the Terry family,” said a report released Monday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Specifically, the report cited the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel and U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke.
“During their respective transcribed interviews, Monty Wilkinson stated 38 times that he ‘did not recall’ or ‘did not know,’” the oversight report continued. “In a similar fashion, Gary Grindler did so 29 times, and Ed Siskel 21 times. In two different transcribed interviews, Dennis Burke said he ‘did not recall’ or ‘did not know’ a combined total of 161 times.”
The Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious allowed about 2,000 guns to flow to Mexican drug cartels. The program began in fall of 2009, but was halted in December 2010 shortly after two guns from the operation were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Terry.
“The report discloses widespread management failures within the hierarchy of the Justice Department,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
“The Justice Department has yet to evaluate these management issues and implement structural changes to prevent another disaster like Operation Fast and Furious from occurring. Furthermore, the Justice Department has taken limited action against these negligent managers,” Issa added.
After the release of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General report, only Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned. However, the oversight committee report faults Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Grindler, Weinstein, Siskel and Wilkinson with having direct knowledge of the operation.
In June, in a bipartisan vote, the House held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide thousands of documents regarding why the Justice Department initially told Congress that no gun walking occurred.
The oversight report, one of several to be issued as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation, does not directly fault Holder for Fast and Furious, but it does demonstrate a connection as to why he might have had knowledge of the program.
“Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General Monty Wilkinson inquired about Attorney General Holder participating in the press conference announcing the take-down of Operation Fast and Furious,” the report said.
“Both Monty Wilkinson and Gary Grindler were informed about the connection between Operation Fast and Furious and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder,” the report continued. “Grindler received detailed information about the connection. He took no action, however, to investigate the operation.”
The report added that Burke recommended against a visit by Holder after the guns at the Terry murder scene were traced back to Fast and Furious.
Burke, a politically connected figure who served as chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she was governor of Arizona and who as a Senate staffer in the 1990s wrote the assault weapons band, was quoted throughout the report.
In the early stages of Fast and Furious, Burke wanted to hold out for a bigger case instead of arresting the straw purchasers and closing the investigation. Burke resigned from office on Aug. 30, 2011 at the height of the investigation.
Burke told committee staff in testimony that wiretaps were unusual for a firearms case.
“You know, I think—part of my recollection was that anyone who was doing a wire outside of DEA was not a typical procedure,” he said. “The FBI obviously does wires. They do a lot of FISAs and other—but an actual wiretap like this, my recollection at the time, I did think that ATF was not an agency that had a lot of history with doing T-IIIs [wire].”
One day before Terry was killed in a gun fight along the Arizona, Mexican border – Dec. 14, 2010 -- Wilkinson and Burke exchanged e-mails about Holder coming to Arizona to announce the upcoming indictments of straw purchasers transporting guns to Mexico. The subject of one message was “Fast and Furious.” Burke wrote: “AG’[s] office is now expressing interest in the AG coming out for it.”
“The e-mail traffic that day shows that Wilkinson left Burke a voicemail message about Attorney General Holder’s plan to travel to Arizona for the press conference announcing the Fast and Furious take-down,” the report says. “Burke and Wilkinson, however, remembered the details differently. Dennis Burke, represented by personal counsel after he had left his position as U.S. Attorney, recalled that the Attorney General’s office suggested the trip.”
Committee staff asked Burke, “So this email is specifically in regard to the Attorney General coming out to join you for the take-down of Fast and Furious?” Burke answered, “Correct.”
The report said that Wilkinson said Burked wanted Holder to come to Arizona.
Committee staff asked Wilkinson, “Is that something that he reached out to you for, or you reached out to him about?”
Wilkinson answered, “I don’t see why I would have reached out to him about it.”
The report said, “Burke adamantly disputed Wilkinson’s insistence that Burke wanted the Attorney General to announce the Fast and Furious press conference. After Wilkinson contacted him about the prospect of Attorney General Holder traveling to Arizona, Burke claims he was delighted, but believed that a Fast and Furious press conference would not be the best use of Holder’s time.”
The report continued, “Shortly after the weapons from Brian Terry’s murder traced back to Operation Fast and Furious, Dennis Burke recommended against Attorney General Holder’s announcement of Fast and Furious to Monty Wilkinson.”
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10-31-2012, 12:28 PM #2
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10-31-2012, 01:55 PM #3
DOJ’s “Absentee Managers” Cover Up Mexican Gun-Running Scandal
October 30, 2012
The fallout from the Obama Administration’s disastrous Mexican gun-running operation continues, with a second federal audit in just weeks blasting Department of Justice (DOJ) hierarchy for covering up the scandal and lying to the family of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the once-secret program known as Operation Fast and Furious that allowed thousands of guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes.
The lost guns have been linked to violence on both sides of the border, including the murder of a federal agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona. In that case, the guns—assault weapons known as AK-47s—were traced through their serial numbers to a Glendale, Arizona dealer that led to a Phoenix man the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico.
While this illegal government operation spiraled out of control, high-ranking officials at the DOJ were “absentee managers” who failed to provide leadership, according to congressional investigators. In a lengthy report made public this week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee outlines a shameful management breakdown at the DOJ, which is responsible for supervising the ATF. “In fact, Fast and Furious had many enablers among the senior levels of the Justice Department,” the report says.
Making things worse, high-ranking DOJ officials with inside knowledge of the flawed gun-running scheme have refused to provide Terry’s family with accurate information. “Brian Terry’s family is still seeking answers 21 months after his death,” the report says, yet “two senior officials very close to the Attorney General who each had detailed knowledge of Fast and Furious, have been unable and unwilling to provide the Terry family any answers.”
Specifically, the report names Attorney General Eric Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Monty Wilkinson, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel as well as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke. On dozens of occasions they repeated these lines when asked about the gun-running operation: “Did not recall” or “did not know.”
Last month the DOJ Inspector General issued its own 512-page report finding that four high-ranking agency officials, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, knew about Fast and Furious yet took no action. Weinstein quickly resigned after the IG’s report was released, but Breuer remains in his office.
During testimony before a congressional panel, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that the Obama White House obstructed his investigation into the botched gun-running sting by, among other things, refusing to provide internal communications crucial to the probe.
Horowitz also blasted senior leadership at both the DOJ and ATF for doing “little in the immediate aftermath of Agent Terry’s shooting to try to learn how two weapons that had been purchased 11 months earlier by a previously identified subject of Operation Fast and Furious ended up at the murder scene.”
Judicial Watch launched an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious last summer and this month JW sued the DOJ and ATF for records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) back in mid-July, 2011. Last fall JW obtained internal government documents that show the number of crimes connected to the gun-running experiment is significantly higher than the administration has chosen to disclose.
DOJU.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!
10-31-2012, 02:00 PM #4
Ex-ATF chief claims gun-running story delay
By John Solomon - The Washington Guardian
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The administration has steadfastly denied intentionally misleading Congress, suggesting the details of complicated investigations take time to sort out. They also have noted that officials like Mr. Melson signed off on their various letters to Congress, leaving conflicting signals about the facts in the case.
The congressional report released Monday afternoon, on the eve of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall and just a week from Election Day, officially accused the Justice Department of concocting a strategy that ultimately led ATF agents in Arizona to allow nearly 2,000 U.S. semiautomatic weapons to flow unimpeded into Mexico’s violent drug wars, where they later turned up at the scenes of several killings on both sides of the border, including the site of a U.S. border agent’s slaying in December 2010.
“Operation Fast and Furious was not a strictly local operation conceived by a rogue ATF office in Phoenix, but rather the product of a deliberate strategy created at the highest levels of the Justice Department aimed at identifying the leaders of a major gun trafficking ring,” the report alleged. “This strategy, along with institutional inertia, led to the genesis, implementation, and year-long duration of Fast and Furious.”
The report accused Justice Department officials of turning a blind eye to warnings signs about the deadly consequences of their flawed strategy.
“Leadership’s failure to recognize Fast and Furious was a problem until it was too late was the result of a ‘pass-the-buck’ attitude that emanated from the highest echelons of the Department of Justice,” said the report from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.
The report also divulged for the first time that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s office originally planned for him to go to Arizona to announce the results of the Fast and Furious investigation before Justice Department officials abruptly dropped the idea when guns from the operation showed up at the murder scene of the border agent.
The administration had no immediate reaction to the conclusions.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler declined comment, referring a reporter to the Justice Department inspector general report’s findings released in September.
But other Justice officials conceded to the Washington Guardian that the administration’s account in Fast and Furious slowly evolved, and that it took eight months to officially correct the record even as internal discussions focused on inaccuracies in the original account.
“We can parse words all we want, but we missed several chances to get straight with Congress,” one senior official said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The congressional report describes in dramatic detail how Mr. Melson came to become a cooperating witness in the congressional investigation in the summer of 2011 to the surprise of some of his superiors. But it does not reference Mr. Melson’s description of what he did when he learned the administration’s original account to Congress was inaccurate.
News reports first surfaced in early 2011 that ATF agents had been overruled by superiors and forced to let guns flow into the hands of suspected smugglers for the Mexican drug cartels. Two of the weapons had shown up at the scene of a killing of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.
Mr. Grassley, the top Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee, began investigating, and the administration sent a letter to the senator, dated Feb. 4, 2011, that categorically denied the accusations.
Specifically, the administration claimed it had not engaged in “gun walking,” an activity in which agents knowingly let weapons flow to straw buyers without interdicting them. In fact, more than a month after Mr. Melson said he warned officials that such denial were inaccurate, the Justice Department sent a second letter to Congress standing by its denial.
“It remains our understanding that ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious did not knowingly permit straw-purchase buyers to take guns into Mexico,” the May 2011 letter asserted.
Eventually, starting with Mr. Holder and President Obama, officials allowed it was possible guns had been allowed to cross the border but that the matter was under investigation. Subsequent investigations by Congress and the Justice Department inspector general verified the agents had in fact let guns walk, and they sharply criticized the administration for permitting a flawed strategy.
The Justice Department, however, waited until December 2011 to formally withdraw its inaccurate letters and correct the record.
Mr. Melson told congressional investigators he originally believed the Justice Department’s assertion to be true, but while flying on a plane March 30, 2011, he reviewed investigative reports (known as ROIs) and wiretap affidavits in the Arizona case and discovered that agents had, in fact, allowed guns to “walk” on numerous occasions.
“I was reading through the some of the wiretap applications on the plane. In fact, I think I was the first, other than a couple of agents who reviewed all of the ROIs and everything, but missed the smoking guns,” Mr. Melson recounted. “I decided to have confidence that we’ve looked at everything, that I would read them all.
“So sitting on the plane, reading the wiretap affidavit and one of the wiretap affidavits — in fact, I think more than one, there was a statement in there prepared by the agents — the AUSA and reviewed by the criminal division that suggested there was probable cause to believe that straw purchasers were taking guns across the border,” he added.
“It was apparent to me that they were suggesting that there was probable cause to believe that this information — that these straw purchasers were taking guns across the border,” he continued. “So while on the plane, I drafted an email to our people, and said, you know, you better back off, you better back off this statement, because — the statement in this letter, this Feb. 4 letter to Sen. Grassley, because I don’t believe we can say that in light of the information that our agent was swearing to before a federal district court judge to get the wiretap.”
After getting off the plane, Mr. Melson alerted then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, who oversaw the Fast and Furious invetsigation, to his concerns about the inaccuracies in the letter. And he sent a email to several subordinates inside ATF titled “Hold the presses,” specifically urging that the Justice Department correct the record.
“We have to change … the statement in the first Grassley response that was actually sent,” Mr. Melson wrote his subordinates, according to excerpts in the September report of the Justice inspector general.
After emailing his subordinates inside ATF to correct the record, Mr. Melson sent a separate email 10 minutes later Associate Deputy Attorney General Matt Axelrod to advise him of his concerns.
The Justice IG recounts the email this way: “Rather than title his e-mail, ‘Hold the presses,’ Melson simply entitled his e-mail to Axelrod ‘F and F.’ Additionally, instead of describing his concerns about the February 4 response to Sen. Grassley, as he had done for his ATF colleagues, Melson simply said to Axelrod, ‘you need to read the [Title] III affidavit, still under seal. Changes some things.’
“Melson thereafter sent at least two additional e-mails to Axelrod referencing the paragraphs in the wiretap affidavit dated July 2, 2010, which concerned him,” the IG found.
Mr. Axelrod told officials he did not think Mr. Melson’s warning was raising specific concerns about the letter to Mr. Grassley but instead spurred recognition that more issues needed to be investigated.
In his deposition to Congress, Mr. Melson lamented the conduct of Justice Department officials in dealing with Congress, suggesting misinformation may have been used to protect the president’s political appointees.
“It was very frustrating to all of us, and 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,” he testified.
A congressional aide familiar with the Fast and Furious investigation told the Washington Guardian that while Mr. Melson’s description of the March 2011 events did not make it into the latest congressional report, it could be important to House Republicans’ efforts to persuade the courts to reject Mr. Obama’s claim of executive privilege.
The House has gone to court to force the administration to release numerous memos showing how it handled the Fast and Furious matter with Congress and the public after the Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Mr. Grassley.
“We believe any effort by the executive branch to slow walk or obscure the truth from Congress is a matter of legitimate oversight that can provide answers to the American public about this administration’s candor,” the investigator said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
The aide disclosed that earlier in the summer White House lawyers let House Republican leaders see some of the withheld Fast and Furious documents, hoping to reach a deal to avoid the court fight.
The aide said in addition to Mr. Melson’s emails, the Republicans were shown a second email from a senior Justice Department official showing the administration knew its account denying gun walking was inaccurate long before it corrected the record.
In the second memo, then-Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein wrote in August 2011 that the administration’s denial of gun walking was “no longer operative,” the aide said.
That email is referenced in a little-noticed appendix to congressional investigators’ first report on the Fast and Furious scandal issued in the summer.
“Weinstein warned a host of senior Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, that he had learned ‘new information’ that conflicted with his previous assurances that the whistleblower allegations about gunwalking in Fast and Furious were untrue,” the note in the appendix stated.
Mr. Weinstein resigned from the Justice Department last month after the inspector general’s report excoriated the department for failing to stop gun walking in the Fast and Furious investigation and failing to correct the administration’s account to Congress sooner.
Proving the administration failed to correct misinformation to Congress and the public has taken on new significance among House and Senate Republicans, who see a similar pattern of omissions and false story lines in the more recent controversy of the Benghazi, Libya, attack.
The administration for days after the tragedy portrayed it as a spontaneous attack by a mob angered over an American Internet video insulting to Islam, but later acknowledged it had information almost immediately that the attack was in fact a more organized terror attack by al Qaeda-inspired spinoffs in Libya.
The Washington Guardian reported on the intelligence pointing toward an organized attack inspired by al Qaeda sympathetizers just 48 hours after the Sept. 11 attack, days before the administration officially acknowledged the possibility.
In a similar pattern, documents that belatedly surfaced in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill showed the White House was told almost immediately after the Deepwater Horizon drilling ship sunk that the size of the oil leak was large, but publicly stuck to a lower estimate for weeks.
U.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!