The point man of the House investigation examining the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), sent a letter yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder claiming that court-sealed wiretap applications obtained by the House probe showed that senior Justice Department officials in Washington, contrary to previous denials, knew that federal agents were using “reckless” gunwalking tactics, yet failed to put an end to the operation.
In the letter, Rep. Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, slammed Holder for his “continuing efforts to mislead Congress” about who knew what information, when they knew it, and why they gave approval for a wayward and ultimately deadly operation.
“The [Justice] Department has consistently denied that any senior officials were provided information about the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious,” Rep. Issa wrote in the letter. “The wiretap applications obtained by the committee show such statements made by senior department officials regarding the wiretaps to be false and misleading.”
Wiretaps used in the Fast and Furious were intended to let investigators in Arizona listen to the phone calls of suspected drug traffickers in order to find evidence of involvement by high-level Mexican cartel associates, Mr. Issa said in the letter.
The letter quotes Holder on four separate occasions where he made remarks, at press conferences, in letters to congress and during testimony before investigators, suggesting that neither he nor his staff were aware of the non-interdiction and minimal surveillance techniques that characterized the botched sting operation.
“I don’t think the wiretap applications – I’ve not seen – I’ve not seen them. But I don’t know – I don’t have any information that indicates that those wiretap applications had anything in them that talked about the tactics that have made this such a bone of contention and have legitimately raised the concern of members of Congress, as well as those of us in the Justice Department. I – I’d be surprised if the tactics themselves about gun walking were actually contained in those – in those applications. I have nod seen them, but I would be surprised if that were the case” Holder stated before a congressional committee on November 8, 2011.
But apparently, those six-sealed wiretap applications (which have not been made available to the public because of the ongoing criminal investigation), obtained by the committee, “discussed – in no uncertain terms – the reckless tactics used” in the operation, which included “conscious decisions not to interdict weapons that agents knew were illegally purchased by smugglers taking weapons to Mexico.”
And according to Rep. Issa those wiretap applications were authorized and approved by DOJ top brass, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco in March, April, May, June and July of 2010.
So, if the wiretap apps are what Rep. Issa claims they are, irrefutable evidence that the DOJ knew about flawed tactics of F&F well before the info became public, then the entire lot should be brought to justice.
Rep. Issa told Holder as much in the concluding paragraphs of his letter, “Because of the wiretap applications, we now know which senior Department officials made these serious mistakes. It is time for you to honor your commitment to Congress and the American people by holding these individuals accountable.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler responded to Rep. Issa’s allegations, saying that senior officials were not aware of the flawed tactics of the operation until they became public in early 2011, and the testimony of Mr. Holder and others have given over the past year at numerous hearings, briefings and interviews was true and accurate.
“Unfortunately, Chairman Issa continues to distort the facts and ignore the law,” she told the Washington Times.
Ms. Schmaler also said she was “very concerned that such documents relating to ongoing criminal cases have been leaked” adding that unauthorized disclosure of court-sealed materials was illegal.