New Documents Show Senior DOJ Officials Were Informed of Gunwalking in Fast and Furious

June 6, 2012

Sealed applications for wiretaps – approved by senior DOJ officials and obtained by the Oversight Committee – detail gunwalking efforts

WASHINGTON—  Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa confronted Attorney General Eric Holder with new documents showing that senior Justice Department Officials in Washington were given specific information about reckless tactics in Operation Fast and Furious. In a letter, Issa rebuked the Attorney General for his continuing efforts to mislead Congress about both the contents of the wiretap applications and details of who knew about and gave approval for reckless tactics.  While refusing to produce the subpoenaed documents, Holder has previously denied knowledge of and cast doubt on the possibility that the wiretap applications contained information about reckless tactics.

The wiretap applications show that immense detail about questionable investigative tactics was available to the senior officials who reviewed and authorized them.  The close involvement of these officials – much greater than previously known – is shocking,” Issa wrote to Holder.  “Throughout the course of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the [Justice] Department has consistently denied that any senior officials were provided information about the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious.  The wiretap applications obtained by the Committee show such statements made by senior Department officials regarding the wiretaps to be false and misleading.  You have repeatedly either denied involvement by senior officials in Fast and Furious, or asserted that the wiretap applications do not contain rich detail about irresponsible investigative tactics.”

Wiretaps utilized in Operation Fast and Furious were intended to allow investigators in Arizona to listen to the phone calls of suspects as part of a strategy to reveal evidence of involvement by high level Mexican cartel associates.  The six applications for wiretaps, which have been sealed by a federal judge, detail specific actions taken by agents in Operation Fast and Furious.  This includes conscious decisions not to interdict weapons that agents knew were illegally purchased by smugglers taking weapons to Mexico.

The wiretaps, as required by federal law, were submitted to Washington for approval by senior Justice Department officials in the Washington based Criminal Division of the Justice Department.  They were approved under the authority of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division.  To justify the need for the invasive law enforcement tool, Justice Department officials use robust and detailed information to explain the evidence used to merit its use and why other tactics are not sufficient to achieve the goals of the operation.

Information contained in the wiretaps had been subpoenaed by the Oversight Committee, but the Justice Department had refused to turn them over to investigators.  Obtaining them answers some of the questions the Committee and House leadership have warned Attorney General Holder he must fully address to avoid contempt proceedings.  To date, Holder has not responded to this letter.  As the wiretaps have been sealed, the committee cannot publicly release them but copies have been sent to the committee minority and the wiretaps are available for review by Members of the Committee.

Click here for the letter from Chairman Issa to Attorney General Eric Holder

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