Yesterday night, the Justice Department released nearly 1,400 internal documents and e-mails showing in tortuous detail how a February 4, 2011 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee came to have misrepresentations about Operation Fast and Furious. The letter stated that the ATF had made every effort to interdict guns before they reached Mexico, and that it had never allowed straw purchases to occur. Both these assertions have proven to be false. Knowingly lying to Congress is a criminal offense, so this document dump should be taken as an attempt by high level Justice Department officials to avoid prosecution, and shift the blame to others.
The documents appear to show, as reported by NPR, that:
— The basis for the inaccurate statements in the letter appears to have originated among people in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona and among ATF officials earlier this year … Also at the meeting were the ATF’s top congressional liaison and a high level deputy named Billy Hoover … the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona passed along inaccurate information about the length of the gun trafficking operation and the timing of when guns were purchased.
— Jason Weinstein, a senior aide in the Justice Department’s criminal division, played a key role in drafting the February 2011 letter … Justice officials say Weinstein relied on the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in drafting the letter.
— Justice Department Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer received draft copies of the Feb. 4, 2011 letter from Weinstein and forwarded those messages to his personal email account, which he didn’t share in recent congressional testimony about questionable ATF tactics in gun cases. However, Breuer writes in new correspondence to Congress Friday that “I cannot say for sure whether I saw a draft of the letter…I have no recollection of having done so and given that I was on official travel that week and given the scope of my duties as Assistant Attorney General, I think it is exceedingly unlikely that I did so.” …
— Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned in August as the gun trafficking scandal intensified, repeatedly urged Justice officials in Washington to “push back” against “categorical falsehoods” coming from whistleblowers inside the ATF and from members of Congress. Burke also had some choice words for Sen. Grassley’s staff, which he said were “acting as willing stooges for the Gun Lobby” and “lobbing this reckless despicable accusation” about ATF. In another message, he tells a colleague that the congressional accusations are “among the lowest acts I have ever seen in politics.” …
In short, the DOJ is trying to say that Dennis Burke and William Hoover provided the false information, that Jason Weinstein drafted the letter but was relying purely on information from Burke and Hoover, and that while Lanny Breuer may have been cc’d drafts of the letter, he cannot remember actually reading those drafts. Meanwhile, Eric Holder was not even involved.
This is all really convenient for Breuer and Holder, as Burke has since resigned, and Hoover–a Deputy Director of the ATF–has been reassigned.
When bureaucrats release a blizzard of documents, there is always the question of whether they are using the sheer number of documents being released to obscure the fact that some important documents are still being withheld.
In particular, we still do not know who authorized Operation Fast and Furious in the first place. According to Justice Department protocol and procedures, it would appear that such an operation would have had to have been approved by both Breuer and Holder, and possibly even signed off on by the President himself. If this is so, then the document trail released today is all subterfuge. The most important internal document–the one that has so far not surfaced–is the one showing who approved of this operation. All these other documents might as well be Christmas decorations.
Two federal agents and more than 200 innocent civilians were murdered as a result of illegal gun purchases overseen and allowed by the ATF.
- Justice Dept. Got its Statements Wrong (myfoxphoenix.com)
- DOJ debated “gunwalker” reply in frenzied emails (cbsnews.com)
- Whistleblowers That Testified Against Fast & Furious Facing Retaliation From DOJ (politicons.net)
- Justice Dept. details how it got statements wrong (sfgate.com)