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Tag: rep darrell issa

Former Prosecutor Critical of Rep. Issa’s Attack on the FBI

James Burdick is a former Wayne County prosecutor in Detroit and is a criminal defense attorney who also practices health care discipline and is a reinstatement expert at the firm of Burdick Law, P.C. in Bloomfield Hills, Mi. He has also appeared regularly on Larry King Live, Court TV, Geraldo, Good Morning America and other national shows. He is an occasional contributor to ticklethewire.com.  His column is in response to Rep. Darrell Issa accusing the FBI of stonewalling when it comes to disclosing information about its probe into the IRS investigating a conservative group.

James Burdick

James Burdick

By James Burdick
For ticklethewire.com

And here’s the perfect model of Tea Party imbecile – Darrell  Issa. Now the FBI is stonewalling him about its investigation into the IRS who – sorry, Darryl – was using algorithms that pulled up the names of as many progressive groups as conservative.

Sooner or later Mr. Issa is going to have to start working on a budget, isn’t he? Or is he the Congressman designated to only investigate Democratic administrations?

He apparently wasn’t worried at all over Cheney’s office divulging the name and job of an undercover CIA agent, or the lies his office told Congress to get them to approve a declaration of war against a dictator whose only intelligent act was to despise, and be despised by, al Qaida.

No weapons of mass destruction, no connections with Iran (Iraq’s arch enemy) or al Qaida operatives, and yet Cheney and Bush picked him to attack, because they feared they’d have no chance to find bin Laden and would look like the arm-chair “soldiers” that they really were.

Dem Lawmaker Accuses Rep. Issa of “Election Year Witch Hunt” in Congressional Probe

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,  on Thursday accused Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican committee chair, of an “election year witch hunt” in going after the Attorney General and the Justice Department during a Congressional probe into the flawed Operation Fast and Furious.

Referring to a minority staff committee report released this week — which indicated Holder and other top Justice officials  never gave the green light for Fast and Furious — Cummings accused Issa of “escalating unsubstantiated allegations” during his Congressional probe.

Cummings accusations came during a hearing on Fast and Furious, an ATF program out of Phoenix that encouraged straw purchasers to buy guns from dealers, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of many weapons, some of which showed up at crimes scenes on both sides of the border.

Cummings pointed out that the “gun walking” operations out of Phoenix began five years ago — even before Fast and Furious —  during the Bush years and while Michael Mukasey was attorney general.

Cummings went on to say to Issa: “Mr. chairman, although you deserve credit for exposing these operations over the last five years, we part ways in to what we should  do next. You now appear intent on escalating controversy and promoting unsubstantiated  allegations in a campaign that looks more like an election year witch hunt  than an even handed investigation. This is the sixth time, the sixth time, the attorney general has testified on these issues.”

“In contrast, you never once called the former head of the ATF  to testify at a public hearing even though ATF was the agency responsible for these reckless programs. And although Attorney General Holder has answered questions repeatedly, you refuse to even interview former Attorney General Mukasey.”

Republican committee members took sharp aim at Holder during his appearance before the committee, accusing him of withholding documents to cover up something, and of failing to discipline anyone in the Justice Department for Fast and Furious. Issa has accused the Justice Department of being less than forthright in cooperating with his probe into the gun walking matter.

Democrats defended Holder.

Buerkle to Atty Gen. Holder: You Must be Held Accountable for Fast and Furious and Agent Terry’s Murder

 

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.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

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.”

“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 Goes After DEA; Voices Doubt About Oversight

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By GINGER THOMPSON
New York Times

WASHINGTON — The powerful chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform increased his pressure on the Justice Department on Friday, raising new questions about how the Drug Enforcement Administration conducts its undercover money-laundering investigations and whether those operations cross the line between fighting and facilitating crime.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican who is chairman of the committee, accused the Justice Department of dragging its feet in responding to his request more than a month ago for a briefing on the operations, which allow D.E.A. agents to pose as money launderers and smugglers in order to infiltrate drug-trafficking organizations.

Mr. Issa wrote that he was concerned about whether there was sufficient oversight of these operations. He said an inquiry by his office had revealed evidence of potential impropriety, including the arrests of two American pilots who were held in a Panamanian jail for seven months.

To read more click here.

ATF’s Tom Brandon Named ticklethewire.com’s Fed of the Year

Tom Brandon/atf photo

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Thomas E. Brandon, the straight-shooting, well respected and extremely able veteran of ATF, who was sent around the country this year to try and mend some of the agencies pressing problems, has been named ticklethewire.com’s Fed Of The Year for 2011.

Brandon, an ex-Marine who is currently ATF’s number two person in Washington, started the year off as special agent in charge of ATF’s Detroit office, where he was very well respected.

In the spring, after the agency started coming under Congressional fire for Operation Fast and Furious, Brandon was sent off to Phoenix to head up that office and try and improve morale and straighten out matters.

Fast Furious was created in the Phoenix office. Under Fast and Furious, ATF encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

Problem was, ATF lost track of many of the guns, some of which surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border. Some members of Congress like Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia) went on the attack, criticizing ATF. Some even suggested folding it into the FBI.

In late August, acting director  Ken Melson stepped down. In October, as part of a major shakeup at the agency,  Brandon was summoned from Phoenix to become the number two guy in Washington.

We think it speaks volumes that Brandon has been sent to the agency’s hotspots to help straighten out things at a time the agency has come under fire, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Waco.  To boot, it’s easy to find street agents who respect Brandon, who has been an agent since 1989.

Brandon is the fourth person to receive the Fed of the Year Award.  Previous recipients have included Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008),  Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009) and Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010).

 

Column: Lawmaker Claims Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Protecting Staff in Fast and Furious

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Rep. Darrell Issa
USA Today

As facts continue to emerge about a botched gun investigation of Mexican cartels, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has given the American people reason to doubt his ability to effectively lead the Department of Justice.

His reasoning and judgment will be tested once again Thursday as he testifies about the “Fast and Furious” operation before the House Judiciary Committee.

Nearly a year after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed by a weapon linked to the botched operation, Holder’s Justice Department has spent far more time and resources trying to salvage the careers of senior officials who knew about the operation than in creating accountability for this tragedy and ensuring that nothing like this will happen again.

Conceived by the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — a Justice Department agency — Fast and Furious began in November 2009 after calls by Justice officials to focus resources on Mexican drug cartel leaders rather than low-level straw buyers.

To read more click here.

Rep. Issa Announces Investigation into DEA Letting Money Flow to Cartels

By Allan Lengel and Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)is attacking Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. once again, this time for a DEA operation that allowed money to flow to the Mexican drug cartels.

In a press release issued Monday, Issa announced that he was investigating the matter, which was highlighted in a front page story in the New York Times on Monday.

In a letter to Holder, he said he had been investigating this “reckless tactics” in Operation Fast and Furious, and he was none too happy to see it being done with money “walking” to the cartels. ATF’s Fast and Furious operation encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers” or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the cartels.

“The existence of such a program again calls your leadership into question,” Issa wrote in the letter to Holder. “The managerial structure you have implemented lacks appropriate operational safeguards to prevent the implementation of such dangerous schemes. The consequences have been disastrous.”

DEA agents have laundered or smuggled–or, “let walk”–millions of dollars in drug proceeds in an effort to trace the money to the end recipients, reports the New York Times. The DEA sought to understand how cartels moved their money, where assets were kept and, ultimately, who the leaders were. Money was put into trafficker accounts or shell accounts set up by agents, according to the Times.

The DEA said the operations began in Mexico only within the past few years, but similar operations have been used internationally before. The controversial tactic lets cartels continue their activities while the investigation is ongoing, and raises serious some questions about the agency’s effectiveness, diplomacy and Mexican sovereignty and the distinction between surveilling and facilitating crime, the Times reported.

Former DEA officials reject any comparison between the laundering operation and the gun-walking program Fast and Furious, saying that money poses far less a threat to public safety and can lead more directly to the top ranks of cartels, the Times reports.

Rep. Issa Presses Atty. Gen. Holder Over Shooting of ICE Agent in Mexico


Jamie Zapata/ticklethewire.com photo of ICE video at IACP

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two Congressional members are pressing Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. for more information relating to the shooting death of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaimes Zapata, who was gunned down in Mexico in February by a drug cartel known as Los Zetas. Another agent was wounded in the incident.

In a letter to Holder dated Oct. 25, Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley complained that they tried to get answers but failed.

“On October 11, your Department (DOJ) sent Senator Grassley a letter regarding murdered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata,” the letter stated.”Not only was the response more than six months late, it completely failed to answer the key questions.”

In March of this year, ATF announced that Mexican authorities had recovered three guns used in the ICE agent’s slaying — one of which was tied to suspected gun trafficker Otilio Osorio. He and his brother Ranferi Osorio, 27, were arrested in March at their home in Lancaster, Tex. on charges of possessing firearms with obliterated serial numbers

Authorities alleged that Osorio purchased the firearm used in the ICE agent’s slaying last Oct. 10 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. ATF said ballistic testing conducted by Mexican authorities linked the weapon to Zapata’s death. In a separate criminal complaint, authorities arrested Kelvin Leon Morrison, 25, who lived next door to the Osorio brothers, on charges of knowingly making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms and dealing in firearms without a license.

The letter to Holder, the Issa and Grassley went on to say: “In a March 1, 2011, press release, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) stated it was unaware of Otilio Osorio’s purchase on October 10, 2010, of the weapon used to murder Agent Zapata.’

“According to ATF documents, however, the agency had reason to believe as early as September 17, 2010, that Otilio’s brother and co-habitant Ranferi Osorio and their next-door neighbor Kelvin Morrison were straw purchasers. Yet the ATF apparently made no effort to contact Ranferi Osorio or Kelvin Morrison and inquire about how their weapons came to be trafficked to Mexico within 2 weeks of their purchase.”

The letter went on to say that ATF could have arrested the Osorio brothers and Kelvin Morrison during a staged operation on November 9, 2010, but did not. The letter asks Holder what and when the Justice Department knew of these gun runners.