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Fast and Furious Noose Tightens Around Justice Department

June 29th, 2012 - 2:33 pm

Explosive reports are now surfacing that Justice Department officials clearly knew about the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” tactic, in which the federal government — actually, a task force comprised of Justice Department agencies and led by ATF, a Justice Department agency — allowed upwards of 1400 illegally purchased firearms to be routed to violent Mexican drug gangs. This recklessness led, quite foreseeably, to the murder of at least one federal agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and probably a second, Homeland Security Agent Jaime Zapata. There are reportedly also scores of victims in Mexico.

The reports, including this one from Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times, explain that this gunwalking information was contained in applications the Justice Department made to the court for wiretapping authorization beginning no later than March 2010 (i.e., over eight months before Agent Terry was killed). Readers of Ordered Liberty will not be surprised to hear this. As I explained in a post last week:

[T]here were wiretaps in the F&F investigation, and when the government seeks a wiretap, federal law requires it to explain what investigative tactics have been used in the case, an explanation that is vetted by top DOJ officials because the government cannot apply for the wiretap without the approval of the attorney general or his designee (a high Justice Department official) — it seems highly unlikely, assuming DOJ complied with wiretap law, that top Justice Department officials did not know about the gun-walking tactic until late in the game.

In fact, those who have been following the story here and elsewhere may recall that I started urging the wiretap applications as likely a fruitful source of evidence of the Justice Department’s awareness of gunwalking nearly a year ago (see, e.g., here and here). The required disclosures about investigative techniques are undoubtedly the reason why the Justice Department has stonewalled House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s demands that the wiretap applications be turned over.

Issa, however, has whistleblower sources inside DOJ. He’s thus been supplied with at least some of the application materials. He has now made some of that public. Though at least some of the documents are sealed, he published some of their contents during the House debate over the vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. That means he acted under the protection of the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, which immunizes members of Congress for statements and acts connected to legislative activity.

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