In what appears to be an exclusive for border issues-focused Fronteras, Michel Marizco reveals information that seems to directly undermine the Department of Justice’s insistence that Operation Fast and Furious was a localized and compartmentalized plot within the Phoenix ATF and Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In sworn testimony in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder continued with this stance. Holder was supported by congressional Democrats who cited a lack of evidence of corruption — corruption that the Oversight majority speculated was a result of the DOJ refusing to hand over the majority of the documents and witnesses requested.
Retired DEA official Tony Coulson was in charge of DEA-Tucson during Operation Fast and Furious. He now states that his agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were not only aware of the gunwalking plot, but that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were actively interdicting the plot, confiscating weapons the ATF was walking to Mexican narco-terrorists:
“In 2009, 2010, I became aware that ATF was walking guns into Mexico,” Coulson said. “I also learned that Homeland Security Investigations, then ICE, actually interceded on more than one occasion where they seized weapons at the ports of entry when they were heading southbound contrary to ATF’s plans.”
There was serious friction, Coulson claims, between ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the ATF in Phoenix. When Coulson took the gun walking to his bosses in Phoenix, he was told the lead law enforcement official in Arizona — U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke — was already aware of it.
Coulson reveals not just the extent of how widely Operation Fast and Furious was known of within federal law enforcement, but that the gunwalking plot was actively opposed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that interdicted the ATF-run weapons shipments on multiple occasions.
Coulson’s information opens up an entirely new group of federal law enforcement officers for interviews by congressional investigators. Investigators could get an idea from interviews with DEA and ICE agents just how widely Operation Fast and Furious was known of among the branches of the Obama administration.
Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller followed up with Coulson in an interview that seems to seriously undermine the position Attorney General Holder has taken that he did not know gunwalking was occurring:
Contrary to the picture Holder has tried to paint during his congressional hearing appearances, Coulson said that “yeah, absolutely” law enforcement officials were widely aware the ATF was using gun-walking tactics in Arizona. Coulson went so far as to say he suspects Holder himself was aware of the tactic, or was willfully unaware — meaning he didn’t want to know and made sure he wasn’t informed of gun-walking.
Depending on where the evidence takes them, Congress may very well have good reason to put DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart under oath to determine what her chain of command knew about Operation Fast and Furious. Leonhart had previously claimed that her department played only a support role, which is vastly different than the ATF’s Bill Newell’s position under oath when he claimed that ATF, DEA, ICE, and the Internal Revenue Service were all “full partners” in the gun-walking operation.
Investigators may also find cause to have Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel testify, and to issue subpoenas for relevant documents from both the DEA and DHS. Interviews with ICE agents and supervisors in Arizona could investigate the alleged interdictions of Fast and Furious weapons, the disposal of those firearms, and precisely what occurred as a result of the “serious friction” between ICE and ATF due to the latter organization’s plot to arm the Sinaloa cartel.
Former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke ran Operation Fast and Furious according to the Department of Justice’s current position. Burke’s history is interesting in the context of the gunwalking plot: he has long been a gun-ban architect for the Democratic Party and was behind the ineffectual 1994 “assault weapon” ban that sunset in 2004. Burke was the former Chief of Staff for former Governor Janet Napolitano for a number of years before she became the Secretary of Homeland Security. Considering their long-term relationship, his role running the plot on Napolitano’s home turf, and the ICE/DHS intercepts of Fast and Furious weapons, investigators may find a legitimate reason to request that Secretary Napolitano testify under oath in front of Congress about what she or other DHS officials may have known about the “widely known” plot.