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Tag: darrell issa

GOP Report Blames Five ATF Officials for “Fast and Furious” Mess


William Newell

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Republican investigators blamed the failures of “Operation Fast and Furious” on five high-ranking officials at ATF in a scathing congressional report issued Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“From the outset, the case was marred by missteps, poor judgments, and an inherently reckless strategy,” the report states.

The 211-page report calls on the Obama administration and Senate to improve leadership at the ATF, which has been without a permanent director for six years.

Among the five held responsible is William Newell, the former special agent-in-charge in Phoenix, who the report says exhibited “repeatedly risky management,” the LA Times reported.

The five ATF managers identified in the report have been moved to other positions, according to the LA Times.

Here’s some excerpts of the report:

“From the outset, the case was marred by missteps, poor judgments, and an inherently reckless strategy. In the summer of 2009, the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. promulgated a ‘Strategy for Combating the Mexican Cartels.’ The new aim was to zero in on the firearms trafficking networks. Agents were advised that ‘merely seizing firearms’ purchased illegally by straw buyers should take a back seat to gathering information in hopes of dismantling entire firearms trafficking networks. To effectuate the new plan, ATF agents in Phoenix convinced local gun dealers to cooperate by supplying ATF with real-time information on the straw purchases, even though ATF knew the buyers were illegally obtaining firearms destined for the Mexican drug cartels. The gun dealers were reassured that ATF was closely monitoring the transactions, and interdicting the weapons. That was false.”

**

“Shortly after the case began, in December 2009, DEA supplied ATF with extensive information on what would become ATF’s prime target. At that point, ATF should have shut Fast and Furious down, but it failed to recognize the significance of the information the DEA had shared. Instead, ATF continued with its plan to identify all the players in the trafficking network rather than disrupt or deter them through confrontation and arrest. So, hundreds of guns flowed to criminals while two of the trafficking network’s customers, who were its connection to the Mexican drug cartels, were already known to U.S. law enforcement. Both the FBI and DEA had key information on the network’s connection drug cartels in Mexico by the time ATF’s wiretaps were approved.”

 

***

“Though Attorney General Holder testified that the case was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and President Obama has stated that mistakes may have been made, all responsible ATF officials still work either at the ATF or within the Department of Justice. The two men most closely identified with the failed strategy of the case and who bear the brunt of responsibility for supervising the operation on a day-to-day basis, William Newell and David Voth, have both kept their jobs at ATF.”

 

***

“This report is not intended to imply in any way that the mistakes and responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious are limited to ATF and other federal officials who were based in Arizona. While mistakes by figures in Arizona were immense, the joint Congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will issue a second report detailing the mistakes and culpability of Department of Justice officials based in Washington, D.C.”

***

“Operation Fast and Furious was the largest firearms trafficking case involving the U.S.-Mexico border in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The case began in the fall of 2009 in ATF’s Phoenix Field Division under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge William Newell, an agent with a history of sanctioning the dangerous investigative technique known as gunwalking. Newell had been reprimanded before by ATF management for pushing the envelope with discredited tactics. But Newell had an audacious goal. He intended to dismantle the U.S.-based gun trafficking network that supplied the formidable Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. When the Obama administration resurrected an earlier case in which his division used reckless gunwalking tactics, Newell saw his opportunity.”

***

Click here for a copy of the report, Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed Operation, Part I of III” and the 2,148 page appendices.

Column: Grassley and Issa — Time to Show Your Cojones and Go After the NRA

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Hats off to Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa for their keen interest in the failed ATF Operation Fast and Furious.

They have a right to be concerned about the program that let guns walk into Mexico. It’s great that they care that the feds let guns get into the hands of the criminals and cartel members.

Now, it’s time for them to really show that they have some backbone, some cojones, some balls.

Time to stand up to the National Rifle Association, which has done more than any failed ATF operation to help put guns into the hands of criminals and Mexican drug cartels. The cartels use the border states as supermarkets for weapons, thanks for lax laws that allow people to walk into gun stores and walk out with dozens of guns at a time.

Yes, Grassley and Issa. Time to channel some of that outrage, some that first-rate moral indignation and rip into the NRA.

Time to push back and enact tougher gun legislation so more guns don’t walk into Mexico.

That’s right, guns still walk into Mexico. It didn’t suddenly end when you two started throwing a hissy fit about Fast and Furious.

Don’t stop with Fast and Furious, guys.

Time to go after the NRA and show us how much you really care about guns getting into the hands of criminals and the drug cartels.

 

Grassley and Issa Concerned ATF Director’s Comments Could Put a Chill on Whistleblowing

Todd Jones

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, two of Capitol Hill’s chief critics of ATF, expressed concern about comments the agency’s acting Director B. Todd Jones made to employees earlier this month.

Specifically, the two were concerned about a comment that could put a chill on whistleblowers.

Todd said: “… if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences. …”

A press release from Grassley and Issa stated:

Grassley and Issa wrote to Jones, stating that the essence of whistleblowing is reporting problems outside of an employee’s chain of command, and whistleblowers were instrumental in exposing the shortcomings of the government’s botched gun-walking operation, Fast and Furious. Grassley and Issa wrote to Jones, “Your ominous message – which could be interpreted as a threat – is likely to have a major chilling effect on ATF employees exercising their rights to contact Congress. Therefore, it needs to be clarified.”

Grassley and Issa also wrote, “On numerous occasions, we have stressed to ATF and the Department of Justice the importance of protecting whistleblower disclosures and preventing retaliation against whistleblowers.”

 

Political Bickering Heats Up Over Contempt Vote for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr.P

Holder wearing badge and ribbon/aft webpage

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The politicization over ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious and Attorney General Eric Holder’s response to turning over subpoenaed documents continued to heat up on Monday.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who has been leading the charge, says he plans to hold a contempt vote for Holder next week (June 20), saying Holder has been withholding documents for no legit reason.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) weighed in as well, saying:

“The Justice Department is out of excuses. Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious…. Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”

Under Operation Fast and Furious, ATF encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hope of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels. Problem was, ATF lost track of many of the guns and some surfaced at crime scenes.

But Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Democratic Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, shot back, saying:

“It is unfortunate that the Committee scheduled a contempt vote against the Attorney General when federal law prohibits him from turning over many of the subpoenaed documents, but I am guardedly optimistic that a path forward exists that will serve the legitimate interests of the Committee in conducting rigorous oversight, protect the legitimate interests of the Department in its ongoing investigations and prosecutions, and avoid the needless politicization of this very serious issue.”

The bickering is only expected to get louder.

Dem Staff Report Says Top Justice Officials Did Not Give Green Light for Fast and Furious

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A report issued late Monday night by the Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tries to debunk suggestions by Republicans that high level appointees at the Justice Department conceived and directed the very flawed ATF Operation Fast and Furious. It places the blame for the operation squarely on the agents in Phoenix.

“This report debunks many unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top ranking Democrat,  wrote in a cover letter for the detailed report. “Contrary to repeated claims by some, the committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was a politically motivated operation conceived and directed by high-level Obama administration political appointees at the Department of Justice.”

“The documents obtained and interviews conducted by the Committee indicate that it was the latest in a series of reckless and fatally flawed operations run by ATF’s Phoenix Field Division during both the previous and current administrations,” Cummings wrote.

The report counters repeated claims by Republicans like Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif) that top ranking Justice Dept. officials gave the green light for  Fast and Furious.  Under the operation, ATF’s Phoenix office encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.  Some of the weapons surfaced at crime scenes including at the murder scene in Arizona of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Many Republicans have called for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, to resign.

The report is expected to be met with skepticism by many Republicans and critics of ATF, which has come under intense scrutiny, and has undergone a major shakeup in management. Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa’s and Cumming’s committee on Thursday where he’s likely to get a grilling from the Republicans.

Cummings, who has sometimes been at odds with Issa over Fast and Furious, said in a press release  that the minority staff report was the result “of the Committee’s year-long investigation into the actions and circumstances that led to multiple gunwalking operations in Arizona from 2006 to 2010.”

The report concludes that the ATF Phoenix office failed to use sufficient controls to stop weapons from getting into the hands of violent criminals.

“Although this report provides a great amount of detail about what we have learned to date, it has several shortcomings,” Cummings wrote in his letter. “Despite requests from me and others, the Committee never held a hearing or even conducted an interview with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Committee obtained documents indicating that in 2007 he was personally informed about the failure of previous law enforcement operations involving the illegal smuggling of weapons into Mexico, and that he received a proposal to expand these operations. Since the Committee failed to speak with Mr. Mukasey, we do not have the benefit of his input about why these operations were allowed to continue after he was given this information.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

“The Committee also rejected my request to hold a public hearing with Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director of ATF, the agency primarily responsible for these operations. Although Committee staff conducted an interview with Mr. Melson, the public has not had an opportunity to hear his explanations for why these operations continued for so many years without adequate oversight from ATF headquarters.”

The report states that in 2006, ATF agents in Phoenix initiated Operation Wide Receiver with the cooperation of a local gun dealer.

“For months, ATF agents watched in realtime as traffickers purchased guns and drove them across the border into Mexico,” the report states.

The report also states “that ATF’s former Acting Director, Kenneth Melson, and ATF’s Deputy Director, William Hoover, told Committee staff that gunwalking violated agency doctrine,that they did not approve it, and that they were not aware that ATF agents in Phoenix were using the tactic in Operation Fast and Furious. They also stated that, because they did not know about the use of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, they never raised it up the chain of command to senior Justice Department officials.”

The report further stated: “Former Phoenix U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke told Committee staff that although he received multiple briefings on Operation Fast and Furious, he did not approve gunwalking, was not aware it was being used, and did not inform officials in Washington about its use.”

“He told Committee staff that, at the time he approved the proposal for a broader strategy targeting cartel leaders instead of straw purchasers, he had been informed that there was no probable cause to make any arrests and that he had been under the impression that ATF agents were working closely with Mexican officials to interdict weapons.”

The report goes on to state: “Gary Grindler, the former Acting Deputy Attorney General, and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, both stated that neither ATF nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office ever brought to their attention concerns about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, and that, if they had been told, they ‘would have stopped it.’”

“When allegations of gunwalking three years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver were brought to the attention of Mr. Breuer in 2010, he immediately directed his deputy to share their concerns directly with ATF’s leadership. He testified, however, that he regretted not raising these concerns directly with the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General, stating, “if I had known then what I know now, I, of course, would have told the Deputy and the Attorney General.”

“The Committee has obtained no evidence indicating that the Attorney General authorized gunwalking or that he was aware of such allegations before they became public. None of the 22 witnesses interviewed by the Committee claims to have spoken with the Attorney General about the specific tactics employed in Operation Fast and Furious prior to the public controversy.”

Rep. Issa Ain’t Giving Up in Fast and Furious; Demands Assist. U.S. Atty Talk

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Like a pit bull, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ain’t letting go, ain’t giving up easily in finding out more details about ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

The latest: Issa, chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has fired off a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. demanding that his agency make Arizona Assistant United States Attorney Michael Morrissey available to speak with Committee investigators about his role in and knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious.

Issa notes in a press release issued Thursday that Morrissey’s supervisor, Patrick Cunningham has stated he will exercise his Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer any questions pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious.

“Since August, the Department has identified Patrick Cunningham as the best person in the U.S. Attorney’s Office to provide information about Fast and Furious to the Committee,” Issa said in his letter to Holder.

“The Department has refused to make Michael Morrissey and Emory Hurley, both Assistant United States Attorneys supervised by Mr. Cunningham, available to speak with the Committee, citing a policy of not making ‘line attorneys’ available for congressional scrutiny. Mr. Morrissey, however, was Mr. Hurley’s direct supervisor, and an integral part of Fast and Furious. Importantly, both Morrissey and Hurley are unique in their possession of key factual knowledge about Fast and Furious not readily available from any other source.”

 

Fed Prosecutor to Go Mum in Fast and Furious and Take the 5th

 By JOSH GERSTEIN
Politico

WASHINGTON — A senior federal prosecutor in Arizona intends to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights rather than testify before a House committee next week looking into the Justice Department’s handling of the Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation, the prosecutor’s attorney told Congress in a letter on Thursday.

On Wednesday, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a subpoena to Patrick Cunningham, the chief of the criminal section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. The deposition subpoena came after a plan to have Cunningham appear for a less formal interview fell apart.

Sources say Cunningham is concerned that he’s caught in a pincer of sorts between senior Justice Department officials in Washington eager to shift blame to lower-ranking staffers and Congressional investigators eager to see heads roll over the investigation, which allegedly allowed more than 1000 weapons to cross the border into Mexico despite suspicions they were destined for drug cartels.

To read more click here.

Issa-Grassley Want to Know Who Leaked Sensitive Info About ATF Whistleblower

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The mud in the controversy over ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious continued to get a good stirring this week.

The latest: Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa have fired off a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. in an effort to determine who in the Justice Department may have leaked sensitive information to the media about an ATF whistleblower, the website Main Justice reported.

The Republican duo, who have spearheaded the probe into the faulty operation, want to know who had access to a document pertaining to whistleblower’s role in an undercover operation, Main Justice reported.

“This leaked document was also accompanied by a set of talking points designed to undermine agent Dodson’s credibiilty as a whistleblower,” the letter said, according to Main Justice.