Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has been relentless in his pursuit of the truth regarding the failed federal gun-walking operation Fast and Furious – and it may finally be paying off despite the consistent stonewalling by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Obama administration.
Issa, in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dated June 5, 2012, says senior Justice Department officials had specific knowledge that their federal agents were allowing guns to walk across the Mexico border. This is something that DOJ officials have repeatedly denied.
On what basis did Issa make such a bold accusation? He says the investigating committee is basing their information on six wiretap applications that have been obtained by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and relate to the failed operation.
"The wiretap applications show that immense detail about questionable investigative tactics was available to the senior officials who reviewed and authorized them," Issa wrote. "The close involvement of these officials – much greater than previously known – is shocking."
The six wiretap applications were approved by senior Justice Department officials from March through July, 2010, according Issa. All of the applications included a "memorandum" from Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer to Paul M. O'Brien, Office of Enforcement director.
According to CBS News, Holder testified before Congress on Nov. 8, 2011 and said he would "be surprised if the tactics themselves about gun walking were actually contained in those, in those (wiretap) applications. I have not seen them, but I would be surprised (if) that were the case." He must be pretty "surprised" at the present moment.
"The wiretap applications obtained by the (House Oversight) Committee show such statements made by senior Department officials... to be false and misleading," Issa wrote.
More from Issa's scathing letter to Holder:
In a May 15, 2012 letter, the Deputy Attorney General reiterated the Department's position that the "inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious... were not initiated or authorized by Department leadership in Washington." We now know that statement is false.
In light of the information contained in these wiretap applications, senior Department officials can no longer disclaim responsibility for failing to shut down Fast and Furious because they were unaware of the tactics used.
You have repeatedly either denied involvement by senior officials in Fast and Furious, or asserted that the wiretap applications do not contain rich detail about irresponsible investigative tactics. In a press conference on September 7, 2011, you stated:
"The notion that somehow or other this thing reaches into the upper levels of the Justice Department is something that... I don't think is supported by the facts. It's kind of something I think certain members of Congress would like to see, the notion that somehow or other high-level people in the department were involved. As I said, I don't think that is going to be shown to be the case."
Late yesterday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote his own letter to Republican House leaders, including Issa, saying the DOJ disagrees with Issa's claims and that they are "legally prohibited from commenting on the content of sealed court documents," CBS News reports. In other words, they are refusing to address the new evidence.
The wiretap applications have been provided to Democrats on the House Oversight Committee for them to review as well.
"Chairman Issa's letter makes clear that sealed court documents...have been disclosed to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in violation of law. This is of great concern to us," said Cole in his letter.
This development in the Obama administration's lingering Fast and Furious scandal should arguably be on the front page of every news outlet in the U.S.
Both Mexican Authorities and Holder have admitted that guns linked to Fast and Furious have killed hundreds of civilians in Mexico as well as U.S. border agent Brian Terry. Holder testified before Congress and said the death toll would likely increase.
The party line thus far has been that Fast and Furious was hatched by the Phoenix Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and senior officials had been left in the dark. It should be interesting to see if Issa's latest move prompts any kind of story change. Read all of Issa's letter to Holder here.