News & Politics

Newly Released Fast & Furious Docs Show Obama Administration Efforts to Stonewall and Mislead Congress

A cache of seized weapons displayed in Phoenix. The ATF is under fire over a gun-trafficking investigation called "Fast and Furious," in which agents allowed hundreds of guns into the hands of straw purchasers in hopes of making a bigger case. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Long after it would have made any difference, President Obama finally turned over thousands of Fast and Furious documents to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, revealing a deliberate attempt by some in the Justice Department to keep secret details about the deadly gun-running operation. It’s an effort that continues to this day.

The docs were turned over late last week, hours before the court-ordered deadline, and only represented a fraction of the total number the committee had requested. An Obama-appointed federal judge struck down the president’s 2012 executive privilege claim back in January, giving the DOJ 60 days to hand over all information about its role in the 2009-2011 Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal.

Operation Fast and Furious was an ATF and Department of Justice program that purposely allowed the sale and trafficking of thousands of weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by Mexican bandits in December 2010 and guns from the operation were found at the murder scene. When Sinaloa cartel leader El Chapo Guzman was captured last year, guns from the operation, including a .50 caliber rifle that was used to shoot at a police helicopter, were found in his hideout. Hundreds of Mexican citizens have been killed as a result of the program and thousands of guns are still missing and being used to carry out violent crimes in Mexico and potentially in the United States.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz complained during an interview with Special Report Wednesday that the department was not complying with the law.

“They are breaking the law by telling us they’re only going to provide a couple of the documents,” he said

“When you have a duly issued subpoena, you must comply with it,” Chaffetz continued. “There was a concerted effort here to make sure the Congress never saw the light of day on these documents. They still owe us more.” He added that “if you’re going to withhold documents … there needs to be a consequence to that and the new administration I hope will go back and prosecute these people, because they’re clearly breaking the law.” But in order for there to be any consequences, we “have to have an administration with integrity,” Chaffetz said. “That’s why it’s time for us to have another election and get another administration in there.”

Only “a small subset” of the thousands of documents the Justice Department handed over have been analyzed by Oversight Committee staffers thus far.

The documents include quotes like these:

  • “We would suggest that you pull the sentence that notes how many weapons we’ve recovered. It squares poorly with how many we haven’t.”
  • “I think people will accuse us of playing with semantics when we say that you did not authorize Fast and Furious, but they find out that CRM [DOJ’s Criminal Division] did authorize wiretaps.”
  • DOJ Criminal Division Office of International Affairs Director Molly Warlow advised that the Inspector General’s review “shouldn’t have any interplay at all [with the Mexican government’s investigation], unless we wanted to (or needed to) invoke that as reason (even if disingenuously) to shelve the Mexican inquiry. I can see nothing but mischief (and headaches for us) in the mexicans pursuing this, so I would like to see if there is a way we can turn it off, and the sooner the better.”

Had this information come out four years ago, “it would have proven the falsity of many Obama administration assertions in the gunwalking case,” investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson notes. “It also would have been extremely damaging to the president’s re-election campaign.”

Chaffetz wrote in a memo to Oversight Committee Republicans on Thursday: “More than previously understood, the documents show the lengths to which senior department officials went to keep information from Congress.”