A ways down below the fold is a description of a wiretap application by the Department of Justice (not the wiretap application itself) that had been provided to the House Oversight Committee by a whistle-blower, in response to Oversight’s investigation of the Justice Department’s Operation Fast & Furious debacle. The information found in it would normally be not accessible to anybody outside of the committee – the information that it is describing is under court seal – but Oversight Chair Darrell Issa put said description in the Congressional Record, secure in the knowledge that the Speech & Debate Clause of the Constitution almost certainly protects him from any sort of retribution. And, since it’s in the Congressional Record, it’s now by definition in the public record.
So let’s go.
To summarize, if Issa is providing an accurate summation of the aforementioned wiretap application, it apparently makes it clear that one or more of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Keeney knew as early as March of 2010 that:
- Various individuals were planning to illegally resell firearms in Mexico;
- That these individuals had already purchased large numbers of firearms, many of which were later found in Mexico;
- The various methods by which these individuals planned to illegally resell, and in fact illegally sold, these firearms;
- That surveillance on the individuals in question had already failed on several occasions;
- That guns purchased by these individuals had already been found at Mexican crime scenes;
- And that the individuals in question did not have the personal resources to make the purchases in question.
…and we know this because, to quote Darrell Issa, these individual “signed these applications on behalf of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.” All of this is in flagrant disagreement with the administration’s position, which is essentially that nobody sufficiently important to be embarrassing to the administration knew the details of Operation Fast & Furious prior to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s (whose name Democrats keep forgetting) murder (with Fast & Furious firearms found on the scene) in December of 2010.
Put more shortly: the Justice Department knew that there was a criminal conspiracy to run guns into Mexico; they had an obligation to stop it; they didn’t, leading to the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of victims; and, hey! There’s a bunch of incriminating signatures on some incriminating authorization forms. And, oh, yeah, the Justice Department lied about all of it. Particularly the part about just when they knew all of this was happening.
And now you know why Congress officially holds Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Because frankly, so do I.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
Addendum: the below is a portion of House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa’s presentation on 06/28/2012. It is directly taken from the Congressional Record.
MARCH 2010 WIRETAP APPLICATION STATES THE MAIN SUSPECT HAD INTENT TO ACQUIRE FIREARMS FOR THE PURPOSE OF TRANSPORTING THEM TO MEXICO
According to the wiretap application obtained by the Committee, as early as December 2009, the task force had identified the main suspect in Fast and Furious (Target 1), a figure well-known to our investigation. The affidavit provides transcripts of entire conversations obtained through a prior DEA wire intercept. These conversations demonstrate that key suspects in Operation Fast and Furious were running a firearms trafficking ring. In one conversation that took place on December 11, 2009, Unknown Person 1 asks, ‘‘Can you hold them [firearms] for me there for a little while there?’’ Target 1 responds, ‘‘Well it’s that I do not want to have them at home, dude, because there is a lot of . . . uh, it’s too much heat at my house.’’ Unknown Person 1 then asked where he could store the firearms and Target 1 responds, ‘‘[m]ake arrangements with that guy [Straw Purchaser X], call him back and make arrangements with him.’’ The affidavit acknowledges that while monitoring the DEA target telephone numbers, law enforcement officers intercepted calls that demonstrated that Target 1 was conspiring to purchase and transport firearms for the purpose of trafficking the firearms from the United States to Mexico,
MARCH 2010 WIRETAP APPLICATION STATES THAT NEARLY 1,000 FIREARMS HAD ALREADY BEEN PURCHASED, AND THAT MANY WERE RECOVERED IN MEXICO
The Probable Cause section of the affidavit shows that ATF was aware that from September 2009 to March 15, 2010, Target I acquired at least 852 firearms valued at approximately $500,000 through straw purchasers. As of March 15, 2010, twenty-one straw purchasers had been identified. Between September 23, 2009, and January 27, 2010, 139 firearms purchased by these straw purchasers were recovered—81 of which were in Mexico. These recoveries occurred one to 49 days after their purchase in Arizona.
MARCH 2010 WIRETAP APPLICATION DESCRIBES HOW SMUGGLERS WERE BRINGING FIREARMS INTO MEXICO
The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border. For example, in the span of one month, Straw Purchaser Z bought 241 firearms from just three cooperating FFL,s. Of those, at least 57 guns were recovered shortly thereafter either in the possession of others or at crime scenes on both sides of the border. The wiretap affidavit even shows that ATF agents knew the tactics the smugglers were using to bring the guns into Mexico.
According to the affidavit: The potential interceptees conspire with each other and others known to illegally traffic firearms to Mexico. The potential interceptees purchase firearms in Arizona and transport them to Mexico or a location in close proximity of the United States/Mexico border. The potential interceptees deliver the firearms to individual(s) both known and unknown who then transport them into Mexico and/or the potential interceptees transport the firearms across the border and deliver them to customers both known and unknown.
The fact that ATF knew that Target 1 had acquired 852 firearms and had the present intent to move them to Mexico should have prompted Department officials to act. Department officials should have ensured that the firearms were interdicted immediately and that law enforcement took steps to disrupt any further straw purchasing and trafficking activities by Target 1. Similarly, by way of example, if Criminal Division attorneys were reviewing a wiretap affidavit that showed that human trafficking was taking place for the purpose of forcing humans into slavery, the attorneys should act to make sure such a practice would not continue. Accordingly, Target l’s activities should have provoked an immediate response by the Criminal Division to shut him and his network down.
MARCH 2010 WIRETAP APPLICATION CONTAINS DETAILS OF DROPPED SURVEILLANCE
The wiretap affidavit also describes firearms purchases by individual straw purchasers. For example, Straw Purchaser Y purchased five AK–47 type firearms on December 10, 2009, and surveillance units observed Straw Purchaser Y travel from the FFL where he made the purchase to Target l’s residence. The next day, surveillance units observed Straw Purchaser Y purchase an additional 21 AK–47 type firearms, and within an hour, arrive at Target l’s home.
On December 8, 2009, agents observed Straw Purchaser Z purchase 20 AK–47 type firearms. While Straw Purchaser Z was making this purchase, Z saw a commercial delivery truck arrive at the gun store with a shipment of an additional 20 AK–47 type firearms. Straw Purchaser Z then told FFL employees that he wanted to purchase those additional firearms. Later that same day, Straw Purchaser Z returned to the FFL to buy them. After Straw Purchaser Z left the FFL with the firearms, Phoenix police officers conducted a vehicle stop on Straw Purchaser Z’s vehicle and identified two of the passengers as Straw Purchaser Z and Target 1. The officers observed the firearms in the bed of the truck and asked the subjects about the firearms. Straw Purchaser Z told them he had purchased the firearms and they belonged to him. ATF agents continued surveillance until the vehicle arrived at Target l’s residence.
The very next day, nine of these firearms were recovered during a police stop of a third person in Douglas, Arizona, on the U.S.-Mexico border. Five days later, Straw Purchaser Z bought another 43 firearms from an FFL. On December 24, 2009, Straw Purchaser Z bought even more firearms, purchasing 40 AK–47 type rifles from an FFL. All of these rifles were recovered on January 13, 2010, in El Paso, Texas, near the U.S./Mexico border. Although the individual found in possession of all these guns provided the first name of the purchaser, agents did not arrest the individual or the purchaser. Though the wiretap application states that agents were conducting surveillance of known straw purchasers, none of these weapons were interdicted. No arrests were made.
MARCH 2010 WIRETAP DETAILS HOW FAST AND FURIOUS FIREARMS HAD BEEN FOUND AT CRIME SCENES IN MEXICO
The wiretap affidavit also details the very sort ‘‘time-to-crime’’ for many of the firearms purchased during Fast nd Furious. For example, on November 6, 2009, November 12, 2009, and November 14, 2009, Straw Purchaser Y purchased a total of 25 AK–47 type firearms from an FFL in Arizona. On November 20, 2009—just eight days later—Mexican officials recovered 17 of these firearms in Naco, Sonora, Mexico. Another straw purchaser, Straw Purchaser Q, purchased a total of 17 AK–47 type firearms from an FFL on November 3, 2009, November 10, 2009, and November 12, 2009. Then, on December 9, 2009, Mexican officials recovered 11 of these firearms in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, along with approximately 421 kilograms of cocaine, 60 kilograms of methamphetamine, 48 additional firearms, 392 ammunition cartridges, $2 million in U.S. currency, and $800,000 in Mexican currency.
Once again, although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy.
STRAW PURCHASERS HAD MEAGER FINANCIAL MEANS
The affidavit provides details of the straw purchasers’ financial records. As of March 15, 2010, just four straw purchasers had spent $373,206 in cash on firearms. Yet, these same straw purchasers had only minimal earnings in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. Straw Purchaser Q earned $214 per week, while Straw Purchaser Y earned only $188 per week. Straw Purchaser Z earned $9,456.92 during FY 2009, and Straw Purchaser X did not report any income whatsoever.
Name Money spent on firearms by 3/15/10 FY 2009 income*
Straw Purchaser Y …………………… $128,580 $9,776
Straw Purchaser Q …………………… 64,929 11,128
Straw Purchaser X …………………… 39,663 None reported
Straw Purchaser Z …………………… 140,034 9,456
Total ………………………………. $373,206
*Incomes based on weekly incomes detailed in wiretap application.
These straw purchasers did not have the financial means to spend tens of thousands of dollars each on guns. Yet, ATF allowed them to continue acquiring firearms without approaching them to inquire how they were able to obtain the funds to do so. ATF also failed to alert the FFLs with this information so that they could make more fully informed decisions as to whether to continue selling to these straw purchasers.
The wiretap affidavit reveals a remarkableamount of specific information about Operation Fast and Furious. The affidavit reveals that the Justice Department has been misrepresenting important facts to Congress and withholding critical details about Fast and Furious from the Committee for months on end. As the primary investigative arm of Congress, our Committee has a responsibility to demand answers from the Department and continue the investigation until we get all the facts.