The controversial Fast and Furious gun-walking operation has prompted members of Congress to take a closer look at the Department of Justice. An October 29 report on the Fast and Furious investigation reveals that Justice Department officials “failed to identify red flags” in the gun-walking operation.
Operation Fast and Furious was a gun-running operation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in which the ATF "lost track" of 1,700 guns. The operation resulted in the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry, and a number of the guns lost during Fast and Furious appeared at a variety of crime scenes. Investigation into the operation has been particularly incriminating for the ATF.
However, investigations into the Operation Fast and Furious revealed a number of startling items.
Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee that is leading the investigation into the operation, told ABC News’ Jake Tapper that pertinent e-mails revealed that the agenda of the operation was to advocate for greater gun control, not, as was alleged, to pursue criminal prosecutions of drug cartel members.
CBS had made the same determination in 2011. According to CBS, “ATF officials didn’t intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called ‘Demand Letter 3.’ That would require some US gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or ‘long guns.’”
Likewise, allegations made in August by a high-ranking Mexican drug cartel operative in American custody show that Fast and Furious was an agreement between the U.S. government and the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel to help take down rival cartels. Likewise, the operative indicates that drugs were permitted to be trafficked across the U.S. border from 2004 to 2009, incriminating both the Bush and Obama administrations, if proven true.
The findings did not stop there.
In the latest report from Rep. Issa’s and Senator Chuck Grassley’s final investigation into Fast and Furious, several members of the Department of Justice have been incriminated. Fox News reported Monday, “The 140-page report singles out five senior agency officials: Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel.”
The first installment from the investigation focused on the role of the ATF. The latest installment addresses the role of the DOJ.
The report’s findings are based on testimony by senior Department of Justice officials.
According to the report, Grindler and Siskel were provided details about Fast and Furious during a March 2010 brief that dealt with the illegally purchased firearms that were recovered in both the United States and Mexico. The report notes that despite the evidence brought before Grindler and Siskel at the brief, they did not ask questions or “take any significant follow-up action to monitor and supervise the conduct of the case.”
“Officials in the Justice Department saw countless warnings and some even had the gun-walking information right in front of them, yet nothing was done to stop it, said Grassley, an Iowa senator and ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The report also states that DOJ officials did not take proper action when asked by the ATF to speed up indictments in the Fast and Furious scandal, with a greater focus on the press’ response to the indictments.
Issa contends that the DOJ has taken very limited action against the “negligent managers” and has not made any indications that they would see to it that a similar “disaster” is not repeated.
“The failures happened because of conscious decisions to encourage gun dealers to sell to known traffickers and avoid interdicting … all in the hope that would lead law enforcement to cartel connections,” the report concluded.
Congressional investigators had already determined that Attorney General Eric Holder had been trying to cover-up some of the necessary facts for the investigation of Fast and Furious and the DOJ’s role in the operation.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to comply fully with the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. The vote was 255 to 67 with 17 Democrats breaking from their party to vote in favor of the contempt measure along with Republicans.
A second resolution, the civil contempt charge that would authorize the House Oversight Committee to seek judgment in federal court requiring Holder to comply with subpoenas, passed by a vote of 258 to 95, with 21 Democrats voting with Republicans.
Congress has been investigating the Fast and Furious operation for well over a year, and has grown infuriated with Holder’s refusal to adequately comply with the investigation. The New York Post reported June 13:
Holder has provided 7,600 documents while the [House Government and Oversight] Committee has issued subpoenas asking for tens of thousands more over a botched federal program that resulted in guns getting into the hands of Mexican criminals.
Holder has defended his refusal to hand over documents for the congressional investigation by asserting that it would violate the “separation of powers.”
In fact, both President Obama and Attorney General Holder have been caught in lies about Fast and Furious, including assertions that the operation began under President George W. Bush.
Likewise, Patrick Cunningham, chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, plead the Fifth when he was issued a subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, prompting investigators to determine that the Justice Department’s integrity was seriously compromised.
"The assertion of the fifth amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the Department's integrity in Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa said in a statement after receiving the refusal from Cunningham’s lawyers. “This is the first time anyone has asserted their fifth amendment right in this investigation and [it] heightens concerns that the Justice Department's motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.”