After the recent Contempt of Congress citation of Attorney General Eric Holder, the debate over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) investigation named Fast and Furious has raged on.
It has been the position of Holder that Fast and Furious was an operation run out of the Phoenix office without the knowledge of senior management at the Department of Justice (DOJ). In fact, in a December 8, 2011 statement to the Congressional oversight committee regarding Fast and Furious, Holder continued to assert that senior DOJ management was not involved:
"The documents produced to date also belie the remarkable notion that this operation was conceived by Department leaders, as some have claimed. It is my understanding that Department leaders were not informed about the inappropriate tactics employed in this operation until those tactics were made public and, as is customary, turned to those with supervisory responsibility over the operation in an effort to learn the facts." (Holder 12/8/11)
The basis of the contempt citation is that Holder has not been forthcoming nor entirely honest in dealing with the Committee. Holder says that he has been cooperating with the investigation, providing thousands of documents. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chair of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform says he has not been fully forthcoming.
At the end of the day last Friday, Issa placed a letter to Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the committee, into the Congressional Record through the Extension of Remarks process. The Extension of Remarks is a process by which members can add items to the Congressional Record without reading them on the floor.
Issa's letter could be a game-changer in the debate. The letter references a number of wiretaps used for Fast and Furious that had the signatures of Senior BATFE and DOJ officials detailing the operation, number of guns, and specific telephone conversations. Signatures were made as early as December, 2009, apparently directly contradicting Holder's testimony:
"The prior four wiretap applications provided a breathtaking amount of facts and details about the operational tactics used in Fast and Furious. The applications demonstrate that ATF knew as early as December 2009 that the main target of the case, Target 1, planned to acquire firearms for the purpose of transporting them to Mexico. In fact, the applications include entire conversations obtained through a DEA wire intercept demonstrating Target l's specific plans. The applications acknowledge that while monitoring the DEA target telephone numbers, law enforcement officers intercepted calls that demonstrated that Target 1 was conspiring to purchase and transport firearms for the purpose of trafficking the firearms from the United States to Mexico." - (Issa June 29, 2012 letter)
Issa asserts that "Senior DOJ Officials" (ibid) knew of the operation, contrary to Holder's testimony and public statements, hence his push for a contempt citation:
"The volume of information known to senior Justice Department officials regarding Fast and Furious by July 2, 2010 is overwhelming. Despite this, Fast and Furious continued for nearly seven more months. Notably, only after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's murder were arrests made and indictments issued. In light of the information contained in these wiretap affidavits, approved under Assistant Attorney General Breuer's authority, Washington, D.C.-based Justice Department officials can no longer disclaim responsibility in failing to shut down Fast and Furious. We now know numerous senior officials had access to information about the controversial and dangerous operational tactics used in Fast and Furious." (ibid)
Referring directly to a statement by Cummings, Issa says:
"At the Committee's February 2, 2012 hearing with the Attorney General, you stated that we 'now have all the facts.' These wiretap applications prove that your comment was premature. The information contained in these wiretaps underscores the reality that we do not have all the facts. I hope you will join me in strongly urging the Department of Justice to cooperate with our investigation fully until we obtain all the facts and it holds those responsible for authorizing the continuance of this operation accountable." (ibid)
With these revelations, Holder's and Cummings' assertions that Fast and Furious was a rogue operation being run out of BATFE Phoenix are becoming less and less credible.