The House Oversight Committee has released interviews with four ATF agents indicate that a top official in the Department of Justice may have lied to, or at the least misled, Congress on a controversial operation that put guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, one of which was used to kill a Border Patrol agent. Ronald Weich, an Assistant Attorney General under Eric Holder, assured Congress in writing that the ATF and Department of Justice “made every effort” seize all illegally-purchased weapons. However, the ATF agents testifed that the ATF and DoJ deliberately allowed hundreds of such weapons to cross the border as part of Operation Fast and Furious:
Dodson, Casa, Alt and Forcelli say they were instructed to watch weapons purchased illegally en route to criminal networks but not seize the weapons as they had been trained. …
Dodson estimates 1,730 weapons escaped to the clutches of Mexican drug cartels throughout the lifespan of “Fast and Furious.” Many were later recovered at the scene of violent crimes.
“This guy comes in, buys 10, 15, 20 AKs or … a 22-year-old girl walks in and dumps $10,000 on … AK-47s in a day, when she is driving a beat up car that doesn’t have enough metal to hold hubcaps on it. They knew what was going on. The ‘may have facilitated’ to me is kind of erroneous. We did facilitate it. How are we not responsible for the ultimate outcome of these [g]uns?” Dodson said.
The agents said they complained vociferously about the operation to superiors. Eventually, a “schism” between team members developed over whether the tactics being used were wise or even legal.
When the agents raised objections to the wisdom and legality of the operation, they were met with a rather pointed response:
David Voth, the team’s supervisor, sent a March 12, 2010 email to the team, saying the tactics of “Fast and Furious” were backed by “HQ.”
“Whether you care or not people of rank and authority at HQ are paying close attention to this case and they also believe we…are doing what they envisioned the Southwest Border Grouops doing. It may sound cheesy but we are ‘The tip of the ATF spear’ when it comes to Southwest Border Firearms Trafficking,” Voth wrote.
If the agents didn’t like it, “Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day,” Voth wrote.
Dodson said he was told “the U.S. Attorney is on board, and it was Mr. [Emory] Hurley, and they say there is nothing illegal going on.”
ATF agents interviewed by congressional investigators described supervisors trying to tamp down agents’ misgivings about the strategy to allow the weapons purchases.
Larry Alt, an ATF agent, told investigators agents opposed the weapons sales as early as December 2009 and wanted to arrest straw purchasers, who are paid to buy guns for others. Mr. Alt said he agreed with a fellow agent who expressed the view that “someone was going to die.”
And, as we know someone, a Border Agent did die. Lots more at the link, and Michelle also is on top of this
Just in from Issa’s office:
Moments ago in his opening statement at today’s hearing, Operation Fast and Furious: Reckless Decisions, Tragic Outcomes, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released three e-mails detailing the intimate involvement of ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Acting Deputy Director Bill Hoover in Operation Fast and Furious:
* The first e-mail from March 10, 2010, to Operation Fast and Furious Group VII Leader David Voth indicates that the two most senior leaders in ATF, Acting Director Kenneth Melson, and Deputy Director Billy Hoover, were “being briefed weekly on” Operation Fast and Furious. The document shows that both Melson and Hoover were “keenly interested in case updates.”
* A second e-mail from March 12, 2010, shows that Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon was so excited about Fast and Furious that he received a special briefing on the program in Phoenix – scheduled for a mere 45 minutes after his plane landed.
* A third – and perhaps the most disturbing – e-mail from April 12, 2010, indicates that Acting Director Melson was very much in the weeds with Operation Fast and Furious. After a detailed briefing of the program by the ATF Phoenix Field Division, Acting Director Melson had a plethora of follow-up questions that required additional research to answer. As the document indicates, Mr. Melson was interested in the IP Address for hidden cameras located inside cooperating gun shops. With this information, Acting Director Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and – himself – watch a live feed of the straw buyers entering the gun stores to purchase dozens of AK-47 variants.