Following up on The Blaze's past coverage of the "Operation Fast and Furious" scandal, new emails have come to light that show Washington officials with the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sought to evade lawmaker probing into the failed program.
Operation Fast and Furious was a government operation to observe and try to track illegal gun purchases along the U.S.-Mexico border, but the ATF lost track of many of the weapons, including two that ended up at the scene where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was shot and killed.
Now, according to internal emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the Justice Department and ATF officials said only that the weapons found at the scene were not "used" in Terry's killing, making no mention of whether the weapons were there or not, in response to an inquiry from Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
The Times reported:
According to the internal emails, two days after Terry's killing on Dec. 14 the top two ATF field supervisors in Phoenix were openly discussing that Fast and Furious guns were found at the scene. George T. Gillett Jr., then the acting special agent in charge, sent his boss, William D. Newell, the agent in charge, a "narrative of incident/activity" about the death.
It said Jaime Avila bought three AK-47s a year earlier from a Phoenix-area store and two "were recovered in the area" of Terry's killing near Tucson. "In summary," the email said, "Avila admitted to ATF agents that he straw purchased these firearms for an unidentified Hispanic male."
The emails paint a picture that suggests ATF officials went to close ranks to avoid scrutiny.
After Grassley's inquiries, Hoover received an internal email alerting him that the bureau was "receiving reports that Grassley's staff is contacting current and former ATF field agents to inquire about the open investigation into the Brian Terry murder" and Fast and Furious. According to one email, ATF officials believed that Grassley was growing more suspicious because "ATF is not answering" his concerns.
Upon learning of a heated interaction between an ATF supervisor and an employee who had spoken with a member of the senator's staff, the employee was "ordered to write a memorandum disclosing everything" he'd told Grassley's staff, with agents worried the supervisor could have violated federal whistleblower protection laws.
According to an email to William J. Hoover, the ATF's acting deputy director, a suggestion was made to provide a "watered-down" account of what was discovered at the site of the Terry killing, and also said Grassley was "at best imposing an unobtainable standard on ATF."
Once a two-page response was sent to Grassley's office, emails circulated among top ATF brass praising one another on their work, including "Nice touch partner" from Hoover and from another official, "Whether or not they buy in, you are a man for supporting us like that."