Congressional Report Blames Five ATF Officials for Fast & Furious

By RICHARD SERRANO | LA TIMES | JULY 31, 2012

Republican congressional investigators have concluded that five senior ATF officials — from the special agent-in-charge of the Phoenix field office to the top man in the bureau’s Washington headquarters — are collectively responsible for the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation that was “marred by missteps, poor judgments and inherently reckless strategy.”

The investigators, in a final report likely to be released later this week, also unearthed new evidence that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix initially sought to hide from the Mexican government the crucial information that two Fast and Furious firearms were recovered after the brother of a Mexican state attorney general was killed there.

According to a copy of the report obtained Monday by The Times, the investigators said their findings are “the best information available as of now” about the flawed gun operation that last month led to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. being found in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents.

Two more final reports, they said, will deal with “the devastating failure of supervision and leadership” at the Department of Justice and an “unprecedented obstruction of the [congressional] investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the attorney general himself.”

The first report did allege some Justice Department involvement, however, notably that Kenneth E. Melson, then acting ATF director, was made into a “scapegoat” for Fast and Furious after he told congressional Republicans his Justice Department supervisors  “were doing more damage control than anything” else once Fast and Furious became public.

“My view is that the whole matter of the department’s response in this case was a disaster,” Melson told the investigators.

Fast and Furious, which allowed some 2,500 illegal gun sales in Arizona with the hope that agents would track the weapons to Mexican drug cartels, began in fall 2009 and was halted after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. By then, most of the weapons had been lost, and two were recovered at the scene of his slaying.

The five ATF managers, since moved to other positions, have either defended Fast and Furious in congressional testimony or refused to discuss it. They could not be reached for comment Monday. At the Justice Department, senior officials, including Holder, have steadfastly maintained that Fast and Furious was confined to the Arizona border region and that Washington was never aware of the flawed tactics.

The joint staff report, authored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was highly critical of the ATF supervisors.

They found that William Newell, the special agent-in-charge in Phoenix, exhibited “repeatedly risky” management and “consistently pushed the envelope of permissible investigative techniques.” The report said “he had been reprimanded … before for crossing the line, but under a new administration and a new attorney general he reverted back to the use of risky gunwalking tactics.”

His boss, Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, “rubber stamped critical documents that came across his desk without reading them,” the report alleged. “In McMahon’s view it was not his job to ask any questions about what was going on in the field.”

They added that McMahon gave “false testimony” to Congress about signing applications for wiretap intercepts in Fast and Furious.

His supervisor, Mark Chait, assistant director for field operations, “played a surprisingly passive role during the operation,” the report said. “He failed to provide oversight that his experience should have dictated and his position required.”

Above Chait was Deputy Director William Hoover, who the report said ordered an exit strategy to scuttle Fast and Furious but never followed through: “Hoover was derelict in his duty to ensure that public safety was not jeopardized.”

And they said Melson, a longtime career Justice official, “often stayed above the fray” instead of bringing Fast and Furious to an “end sooner.”

But, the investigators said, ATF agents said that they were hamstrung by federal prosecutors in Arizona from  obtaining criminal charges for illegal gun sales, and that Melson “even offered to travel to Phoenix to write the indictments himself. Still, he never ordered it be shut down.”

In the November 2010 slaying in Mexico of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of Patricia Gonzalez, then attorney general for the state of Chihuahua, two of 16 weapons were traced back to Fast and Furious after they were recovered from a shootout with Mexican police.

But 10 days later, ATF Agent Tonya English urged Agent Hope MacAllister and their supervisor, David J. Voth, to keep it under wraps. “My thought is not to release any information,” she told them in an email.

When Patricia Gonzalez later learned that two of the guns had been illegally obtained under Fast and Furious, she was outraged. “The basic ineptitude of these officials [who ordered the Fast and Furious operation] caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims,” she said.

The following month, Agent Terry was killed south of Tucson. Voth emailed back, “Ugh … things will most likely get ugly.”

Obama Sponsoring Privileged Corruption

Obama hides behind legalities to build iron presidency and support government corruption.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 21, 2012

It was just a matter of time after Barack Obama took office for the public to find out about his real deal, and it took less time than with previous presidents. The man who came in promising change, jobs, transparency and a great economy, not only has failed at everything, but also reminded us all that we are not out of the woods when it comes to men who love to build iron castles to hide their support for a powerful Executive Office. As his predecessor once said: “Fool me once is on me, fool me twice is on you.” Americans were fooled again, and so was the world.

After criticizing George W. Bush for his overreach of power — and with reason — during the political campaign of 2008, Obama decided to follow on his tracks to make an ever more powerful Executive branch; one that does not need Congress or the opinion of the people who elected him to make decisions, but the permission of the United Nations and NATO, as Obama himself during several press conferences and speeches. The same talking point came out of the Leon Panetta’s mouth in congressional hearings. “We can’t wait” is the excuse given by the imperial presidency of Barack Obama, who justifies his unilateral actions by saying Congress doesn’t act, so he has the obligation to use his privilege to write executive order to create ‘laws’.

Both Republicans and Democrats have always stood in the way when a president had a ‘signature’ plan in mind to improve the country, but never has a president declared war on the Constitution, the American people and the rest of the world as Barack Obama has done up until today. Mr. Obama has built upon George Bush’s work that began by declaring the so-called war on terror, pushing the Patriot Act and bailing out foreign banks with his TARP legislation. Obama has declared citizens are enemy combatants, even on US soil, grabbed an nonexistent right to assassinate them if he decides is his best interests and has put troops on the streets of the country as no president has done for the past 30 years. While Obama preaches regime change for lawfully elected world leaders, he crushes his own citizens at home.

In the latest example of political and moral deceit, Obama has decided to concede  US Attorney General, Eric Holder executive privilege on documents related to the Fast&Furious gun-running program. Under Fast&Furious, the US government send thousands of fire arms to Mexican Drug Cartels in a supposed attempt to learn about drug and money trafficking from Mexico to North America. But as congressional investigation and alternative media revelations have shown, the US government’s dealings with Mexican drug organizations is nothing else than arms trade between the cartels and the drug-running, money-laundering US government. Some of the fire arms that made their way into Mexico were responsible for the murder of US Border Patrol officer Brian Terry and hundreds of innocent people on the Mexican side of the border.

Congressman Darrell Issa recently announced the start of an official voting process to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress after he decided not to provide sensible documents about Fast&Furious which Obama has now hidden behind his shameless executive privilege. The House Oversight Committee was informed Wednesday morning about Obama’s legitimation of government corruption regarding the Fast&Furious programs, to which Darrell Issa responded that “this untimely assertion by the Justice Department falls short of any reason to  delay today’s proceedings”. Issa, who has questioned Holder in several occasions, accused the Justice Department of trying to have the investigation into the Fast&Furious scandal closed. Apparently, Holder had promised to hand over some documents related to the operation, but Issa said he could not accept that  deal.

After being pressed to the limit, Holder contradicted himself a number of times about what he knew, when he knew it and how he learned about Fast&Furious. In an effort to try to avoid more public scrutiny, Holder’s Justice Department requested in a letter addressed to Obama to keep the incriminating documents related to the gun-running operation secret. Obama rapidly granted his request. “We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps  we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the  committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and  Furious,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee  appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution  of the outstanding issues.”

A significant fact about Obama’s decision to use his executive privilege to hide the Fast&Furious documents is that this is Obama’s first assertion of such privilege. The reason for his acceptance is that Fast&Furious has the potential to bring down Eric Holder and even Obama himself. From all the fire arms that ‘walked’ into Mexico under Fast&Furious, the US government allegedly lost 2,000. How did the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), the agency coordinating with the Department of Justice the Fast&Furious operation lost 2,000 weapons is still unknown. These and other details have been kept secret by DOJ. “The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by department officials in the course of responding to Congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure,” said James Cole.

In addition to hiding the details related to Fast&Furious, Obama signed statements saying that Congress could not declare it unconstitutional for him to have ‘czars’, increased the number of decisions made by himself alone regarding domestic policy, including sponsoring government violence against taxpayers by forcing them to buy health insurance from a government program, reaffirmed the right of the US government to carry out torture, enabled and agreed on the continuation of government spying on the American people through the communications infrastructure, drones and satellites, and so on. In other words, Obama is doing exactly what George W. Bush did during his two term presidency, which in the eyes of many Democrats were actions proper of a dictator, not a president. “Obama’s not saying he has the right to defy a Congressional statute. But if the legislative path is blocked and he otherwise has the legal authority to issue an executive order on an issue, they are clearly much more willing to do that now than two years ago,” said Richard H. Pildes to the New York Times.

In some of Obama’s most recent acts of defiance to the US Constitution and Congressional oversight, he directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and last week he announced he would legalize foreigners who came to the US illegally. “I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Obama in one of his speeches as he flashed a banner with the message “We Can’t Wait”. “When Congress refuses to act and — as a result — hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them.” The problem is that all that Obama has accomplish through his unilateral decisions has been to erode the US Constitution — just as his predecessors did — without having any positive outcome. In fact, due to the violence generated by programs like Fast&Furious both in Mexico and the US, government agencies and the main stream media often request tighter restrictions on civil liberties and individual rights. Coincidence? Not likely.

Eric Holder up to his eye balls on Fast & Furious Scandal

Attorney General Eric Holder was briefed in July 2010 about gun-running operation headed by ATF.

CBS.com
September 5, 2011

New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.

On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

Yet internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.

Read the new documents

Read the July 5, 2010 memo Read the “It’s a tricky case” email Read the memo to AG Holder from Asst. AG Lanny A. Breuer

The documents came from the head of the National Drug Intelligence Center and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

In Fast and Furious, ATF agents allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF

It’s called letting guns “walk,” and it remained secret to the public until Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December. Two guns from Fast and Furious were found at the scene, and ATF agent John Dodson blew the whistle on the operation.

Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico

Ever since, the Justice Department has publicly tried to distance itself. But the new documents leave no doubt that high level Justice officials knew guns were being “walked.”

Two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010. “It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions,” says Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replies “I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like, “Finally they’re going after people who sent guns down there.”

The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General. And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee – he did know about Fast and Furious – just not the details.