Just days after Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Ken Melson was forced into a make-work job at the Justice Department and long-time Janet Napolitano confidant U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke abruptly resigned, the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious rapidly gained momentum with evidence of a coverup instigated within hours of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death.
Also, the Justice Department begrudgingly revealed that Fast and Furious guns were recovered at the scene of more than twice as many violent crimes as they has originally told congressional investigators.
And in the latest bombshell, emails reveal that the White House had indeed been briefed directly about Operation Fast and Furious while the operation was still walking thousands of guns to the Sinaloa cartel.
Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News reports that a coverup kicked in within hours of Brian Terry’s murder:
In a letter, Grassley and Issa say the lead prosecutor on Fast and Furious, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, learned almost immediately that guns allowed onto the street in his case, had been recovered at Terry’s murder. “(I)n the hours after Agent Terry’s death,” says the letter from Grassley and Issa, Hurley apparently “contemplated the connection between the two cases and sought to prevent the connection from being disclosed.” The Justice Department recently transferred Hurley out of the criminal division into the civil division.
An internal ATF email dated the day after Terry’s death reveals the quick decision to not disclose the source of the weapons found at the murder scene: “… this way we do not divulge our current case (Fast and Furious) or the Border Patrol shooting case.”
Another ATF email indicates that the justification both offices used to not charge the suspect with crimes related to the murder scene “was to not ‘complicate’ the FBI’s investigation.”
ATF whistleblowers revealed the link between the two cases to Congressional investigators and CBS News, saying their supervisors were attempting to cover it up.
Citing the documents in their possession suggesting the conspiracy, Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley demanded that the new U.S. attorney for Arizona, Ann Scheel, provide documentation — including emails, memos, and even handwritten notes from members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office — that may relate to the coverup. They also stated that they wanted to hear testimony from three more Justice Department officials: Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emory Hurley and Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Cunningham, chief of the DOJ Criminal Division.
The DOJ originally claimed that Fast and Furious weapons had been recovered at 11 crime scenes in the United States, but a Fox News investigation now reveals that a total of 42 Fast and Furious weapons were recovered at those crime scenes. Revised DOJ figures now also admit that an additional 21 Fast and Furious guns were tracked to violent crimes in Mexico.
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Richard Serrano reveals that the White House had been communicating about the gun-running operation, despite previous denials:
The supervisor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in Phoenix specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official.
But the senior administration official said the emails, obtained Thursday by The Times, did not prove that anyone in the White House was aware of the covert “investigative tactics” of the operation.
The White House response involves an interesting choice of phrasing, stating that these emails did not prove that the White House was aware of the tactic of allowing thousands of guns to “walk” to the cartels. Mike Vanderboegh, one of the bloggers most responsible for bringing Gunwalker to light, calls the White House response a “Nixonian ‘modified limited hangout,'” and states that the smoking gun evidence of more White House involvement does exist.
For now, congressional investigators are tightly focusing their probe into the actions of the Department of Justice and the ATF, and have spent very little time — publicly, at least — delving into the roles that the FBI and DEA have played in the scandal. Likewise, investigators have not yet focused their energies on the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney that just resigned as a result of his actions in the plot and coverup, was the long-time chief-of-staff for Napolitano while she was governor of Arizona. It is unlikely that a high-risk operation run on Napolitano’s “home turf,” where she had been both governor and state attorney general and was still responsible for national security, happened without her being personally briefed.