The attorney general, of course, has adamantly denied that he and other top Obama DOJ officials were aware of the use of gunwalking in the Fast and Furious operation until weeks after Agent Terry’s murder. Indeed, in a letter to the Committee in March 2011 (about three months after Agent Terry’s murder), the Justice Department falsely denied that gunwalking had even been used. Holder subsequently “retracted” that falsehood. Moreover, as the public began to be educated about the federal law’s requirements for wiretapping applications, the Justice Department changed its story on that, too. It began claiming that, while it is true the wiretap applications were reviewed by DOJ’s office of enforcement operations, the Department’s top political appointees only perused “summaries” of the applications — which, it was implied, did not allude to gunwalking.
Having worked on and supervised numerous wiretapping investigations in eighteen years as a federal prosecutor in New York, I found these claims implausible. In my experience, the Justice Department reviews wiretap applications from the district U.S. attorney’s offices extremely carefully — Justice is mortally embarrassed if wiretap evidence gets suppressed due to misstatements, errors, or omissions in applications that the Justice Department headquarters has reviewed. Further, because wiretaps are resource-intensive and thus expensive and burdensome to conduct, they tend to be approved only in very important cases — the cases that get a lot of DOJ attention. Finally, Fast & Furious was an “OCDETF case”: the investigation qualified for extraordinary funding and resources under Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force — a coveted designation reserved for the Department’s most significant organized crime cases, the cases DOJ tracks most closely. (See here.) It has been inconceivable to me that top DOJ officials would have been unaware of what was happening in Fast and Furious.
In any event, Chairman Issa’s disclosures, as reported by Mr. Dinan, appear to put the lie to much of what Holder and his minions have been claiming. That includes the bit about “summaries”; quite apart from the extreme unlikelihood that wiretap application summaries were top officials’ only source for Fast and Furious information, it appears that even the summaries describe the gunwalking tactic:
The summary of a March 2010 wiretap application shows that federal agents repeatedly lost track of guns they knew were being trafficked back to cartels in Mexico — a violation of Justice Department policy that should have raised red flags with top department officials who signed off on the wiretaps, said Mr. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the oversight committee that is looking into the operation. Mr. Issa introduced the summary as part of the House’s debate Thursday before lawmakers held a historic vote to to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress.
Mr. Issa contends the wiretap application contradicts Mr. Holder’s claim that nothing in there would have shown gunwalking was going on. “The affidavit explicitly describes the most controversial tactic of all: abandoning surveillance of known straw purchasers, resulting in the failure to interdict arms,” Mr. Issa said in a letter he placed in the Congressional Record. It appears on pages H4409 through H4411 of Thursday’s official chronicle of its debates.