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Congressional Members Want Communications of More than a Dozen FBI and DEA Agents

atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two Congressional members probing ATF’s controversial “Operation Fast and Furious” gun program have fired off letters to the heads of the FBI and DEA demanding from more than a dozen agents all communications relating to the case.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) sent letters to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and DEA Director Michele Leonhart.

The letters come in response to statements acting ATF Director Ken Melson made to Congressional investigators over the July 4 weekend in which he said the FBI and DEA were aware of the program.  Issa and Grassley said there are allegations that the FBI had at least one paid informant who may have acted as a straw purchaser in Operation Fast and Furious.

The program encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell weapons to middlemen or straw purchasers — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels. Some of the guns have surfaced at crime scenes including in the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

In a press release,  Grassley and Issa said they sent a letter to the FBI’s Mueller “about the ‘veracity of claims’ regarding the possible involvement of paid FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious and ‘specifically at least one individual who is allegedly an FBI informant’ and ‘might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring.’

The press release added: “The letter to DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart requested a briefing by DEA staff as well as ‘the number of informants or cooperating informants handled by other agencies identified in the course of any investigations related to Operation Fast and Furious.’”

The letter to the DEA’s  Leonhart  specifically asks for communications of DEA Agents: Elizabeth Kempshall, special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; Doug Coleman, acting Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office; Chris Feistle, assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; Albert Laurita, assistant special agent in charge in Tucson, David Hathaway, resident agent in charge in Nogales, Az. and Joe Muenchow, resident agent in charge in Yuma, Az.

The Congressional members also asked for communications of the following FBI agents:

Nathan Gray, former special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; Annette Bartlett, assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; Stephen Cocco, acting special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; Steven Hooper, assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; John Iannarelli, assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; John Strong, assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix office; David Cuthbertson, special agent in charge of the El Paso office; and the case agent from the Tucson office in charge of the murder investigation into Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.


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