Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, has sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder detailing reasons why Grassley believes that the Department of Justice lied–and not just misspoke–in its February 4, 2011 letter to the US Congress denying that Fast and Furious allowed guns to walk into Mexico. According to Grassley’s letter:
Specifically, on February 2, 2011, my investigators contacted an ATF Special Agent who worked out of the Phoenix Field Division, Group VII office, and was familiar with Operation Fast and Furious. The conversation centered on the ATF Agent’s recollection of how Fast and Furious was executed and his recollection confirmed the allegations my office had heard from other ATF whistleblowers. What was unknown until late 2011 was that this ATF Agent produced a memorandum on February 3, 2011, which documented his discussion about Fast and Furious. The subject of the memorandum is, “Contact with Congressional Investigators,” and I have enclosed it within this letter.
This Fast and Furious memorandum traveled rapidly through ATF’s chain of command. The memorandum was emailed on February 3, 2011, from the Dallas Field Division to Phoenix SAC William Newell and Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon. Records that the Justice Department has withheld from Congress, which were only made available for review in camera, show an email chain attaching this memorandum was sent to Assistant Director of Field Operations Mark Chait at ATF headquarters by the afternoon of February 3, 2011.
According to ATF personnel, the memorandum was discussed by high level ATF personnel and possibly forwarded to DOJ headquarters on February 3, 2011. Specifically, it has been alleged that individuals within the Deputy Attorney General’s (DAG’s) office and the Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) at the Department were aware of or actually read the memorandum before the Department’s February 4, 2011, letter was sent. Some individuals who spoke with my office claim they were “alarmed” by the substance of the memorandum and it caused such a stir that ATF planned to put a panel together to address the allegations but someone within DOJ suppressed the idea.
Oddly, the “Contact with Congressional Investigators” memorandum along with the ATF’s reaction to it seems exculpatory on the surface. In the memo, ATF Special Agent Gary Styers relates what he knows about Fast and Furious, but he is not aware of the chain of command for the operation above the level of the local group supervisor. Thus, it could be construed that the operation was being run by rogue agents out of the Phoenix office. When ATF headquarters received his memo, they were alarmed by the contents. Were they alarmed because Styres had talked to congressional investigators, or because they realized that guns were being let walk? The fact that the ATF wanted to convene a panel to look at the issue shows that many in the higher echelons of the ATF had no knowledge of what Fast and Furious was about, as one does not convene a formal panel in order to obstruct justice.
The idea that Fast and Furious was a rogue operation by local ATF agents is belied by its links to the DOJ, and the DOJ’s reaction to the investigation.
First, when the ATF wanted to look at the issue, someone higher up in the DOJ intervened and said no. Why didn’t the DOJ want the ATF to look into this?
Second, ATF sources swear that they passed on these allegations to their superiors at the DOJ on February 3, 2011, but the DOJ sent a letter to Congress on February 4, 2011 categorically denying that guns had ever walked in Fast and Furious. This is inexplicable unless the DOJ were somehow involved in the operation and wanted to cover up this involvement.
Third, federal wiretaps are comparatively rare, and are only approved at the highest levels of the DOJ. As noted in Styres’s memo, Fast and Furious involved wiretaps, so the higher levels of the DOJ must have known about it. Indeed, last week during the debate on Holder’s contempt of Congress citation, Rep. Issa put a summary of a Fast and Furious wiretap application into the Congressional Record, which described in detail Fast and Furious procedures, including gunwalking, as a justification for the wiretap.
Finally, there is the curious comment in Styres’s memo that the case had “systematically divided and isolated agents from the group”. If this was a rogue operation by a handful of agents, then it would not have this effect–the operation would have been exposed and ended long before then.
The picture thus is of a rogue operation, all right. However, it is not a rogue operation involving a handful of agents in the field, but one supervised by the highest levels of the DOJ and possibly the White House, using back channels to keep the leadership of the ATF out of the loop and ignorant of what was going on. This was in fact the initial accusation levied by ATF whistle blowers.
For those who claim that this scenario is not a fair depiction of the truth, there is the question: Why should the DOJ stonewall Congress, withhold documents and witnesses, and claim executive privilege? If it really were a rogue operation by local ATF agents, the simplest thing to do would be to mount a full internal investigation of the ATF Phoenix field office, and then put the results of that investigation into the public record. However, the DOJ has in fact done exactly the opposite.
Here is a link to Grassley’s letter with Styres’s memo as an attachment.
- Another ‘Fast and Furious’ Memo Released (investmentwatchblog.com)
- E-mails reveal retaliation, cover-up at ATF, DoJ following Fast & Furious exposure (hotair.com)
- ATF’s Fast and Furious Coverup Exposed (powerlineblog.com)
- DOJ Refuses to Prosecute Holder!! (wdednh.wordpress.com)