Michele Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, has sent a letter to congressional investigators admitting her agency played a role in a criminal investigation that turned into a de facto gun-smuggling operation run by federal law enforcement agencies.
In mid-July, Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Darrell Issa sent a pair of letters to the heads of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, asking them to explain their alleged roles in Operation Fast and Furious and to provide specific communications relating to specific agents and managers in those respective organizations.
Fast and Furious is blamed for the deaths of approximately 150 Mexican law enforcement officers and soldiers, along with an unknown number of civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The program was only shut down after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in a nighttime desert firefight with criminals armed with at least two Fast and Furious-provided AK-pattern rifles.
The letters from Grassley and Issa were directed to FBI Director Robert Mueller and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. According to Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, Leonhart has responded:
The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration has acknowledged to congressional investigators that her agency provided a supporting role in the ill-fated Operation Fast and Furious run by the group’s counterparts at the ATF.
Michele M. Leonhart, the DEA administrator, said DEA agents primarily helped gather evidence in cases in Phoenix and El Paso, and in the program’s single indictment last January that netted just 20 defendants for illegal gun-trafficking.
The development marks the first time another law enforcement agency has said it also worked on Fast and Furious cases other than the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is under two investigations into why it allowed at least 2,000 firearms to be illegally purchased and then lost track of the guns’ whereabouts.
Leonhart’s letter, dated July 22, insists that the DEA is conducting a review of the documentation that the congressional investigators have asked for, even though the agency has not turned over any of the communications at this time.
Leonhart claims that the DEA agents in El Paso and Phoenix were only “indirectly involved in the ATF operation through DEA-associated investigative activity,” and further absolves her agency by claiming that “DEA personnel had no decision-making role in an ATF operations” associated with Fast and Furious.
This claim appears to stand in stark contrast to claims made by the ATF special agent in charge (SAC) of the operation, William Newell, who stated in congressional testimony that the ATF, DEA, FBI, and IRS were all “full partners” in the operation.
It now appears that the “full partners” may be on the verge of a internecine feud to deflect responsibility from their agencies. Unfortunately, it is going to be very difficult for DEA Administrator Leonhart, FBI Director Mueller, and other directors in Eric Holder’s Justice Department to claim they had little or no knowledge of the operation when email records show that they were informed about the program in one or more briefings from ATF’s Newell.