ATF tried “downplaying” Fast & Furious scandal to Congress

posted at 11:50 am on July 22, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

And apparently did some high-fiving about it later, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times this morning.  When Senator Charles Grassley started putting together reports of weapons found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry with Operation Fast and Furious, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee started asking pointed questions about the ATF’s control of the gun sales it fostered for its tracking program.  ATF officials responded with deliberate obfuscation and evasiveness, reporter Richard Serrano writes:

Grassley started asking questions in late January, when he received tips that two of the weapons found near Terry’s body were Fast and Furious guns. He sent two letters to the ATF, saying that “this raises a host of serious questions that the ATF needs to address immediately.” He added that, if they were indeed Fast and Furious guns, then “the ATF may have become careless, if not negligent, in implementing” the program. …

Grassley asked whether the guns were “used” in the killing. According to agency emails obtained by the Tribune/Times Washington bureau, the Justice Department response to Grassley said that “these allegations are not true.” The response made no acknowledgement that the guns were even there.

ATF officials, speaking not for attribution because the inquiry is ongoing, said they saw a distinction between the guns being found at the scene and “used” in the killing. They said the FBI had determined that neither of the two AK-47 semiautomatics was the one that killed the agent.

The parsing of the response to Grassley fit a pattern of ATF and Justice Department officials seeking to minimize the depth of the problems with the sting operation run by the ATF’s Phoenix field office.

Be sure to read all of Serrano’s report; there is simply too much to excerpt under fair-use restrictions, but almost every paragraph is damning.  Go now.  I’ll wait.

Now that you’re back, the need for Congressional intervention at ATF, and likely the DoJ, is clear.  Not only did a supervisor arguably break the whistleblower protection law (as we noted earlier) to keep information specifically from Grassley, the effort to shield ATF from Congressional oversight looks systematic.  Officials at the ATF and the DoJ sent backslapping e-mails congratulating each other over their ability to defy Grassley’s legitimate request on their monumental screw-up.  That effort (although perhaps not the backslapping) appears to involve Assistant AG Ronald Weich, who wrote the misleading response to Grassley in early February.  E-mails also suggest that Kenneth Melson may have known more about efforts to keep Grassley in the dark than Melson admitted in his recent testimony, although it’s possible that both men simply relied on what the supervisors told them without checking further.

Congress needs to assert its authority with immediacy and enthusiasm, and start putting everyone involved under oath.

Update: In very-much-related news, the DoJ’s Inspector General has opened a probe into possible violations of the whistleblower protection law:

The Justice Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into possible retaliation against a whistle-blowing agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to two people briefed on the inquiry.

Watchdogs are examining whether anyone at the Justice Department improperly released internal correspondence to try to smear ATF agent John Dodson, who told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month that he repeatedly warned supervisors about what he called a reckless law enforcement operation known as “Fast and Furious.” …

Dodson and three other ATF agents told Congress in June that they had serious concerns about Fast and Furious, but they said they couldn’t get any of their supervisors to listen.

Now, the inspector general is looking into whether one of Dodson’s memos, written last year, may have been shared with reporters in an effort to raise doubts about the extent of his involvement in the operation and to discredit him.

PJM’s Bob Owens has followed this story closely since the beginning, and writes that Dodson wasn’t the only whistleblower who got shafted:

The Justice Department has been ruthless in dealing with the whistleblowers, who have blown the lid off an operation that saw the director-level involvement of every law enforcement entity within the DOJ, in addition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and likely the State Department.

In addition to retaliating against Dodson, the DOJ stands accused of firing 30-year ATF Agent Vince Cefalu for his role in bringing this and other illegal operations to light at a website he helped found: CleanUpATF.org.

Cefalu ran afoul of the DOJ for criticizing the ATF for previous questionable operations, but his termination seems to have been in response to his stating that those government entities that participated in Gunwalker should be tried as criminals for conspiring to traffic in firearms.

Cefalu also claims that an Obama administration meme that large-scale gun smuggling operations were supplying the cartels was false, which likely drew even more scrutiny.

We’re just getting the tip of the iceberg here.  This will end badly for the Obama administration, unless they start cutting people loose.

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Better known as “misleading.”

Also known as lying.

Didn’t they just put some baseball player on trial for allegedly lying to Congress during those stupid steroid hearings?

forest on July 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM

We’re just getting the tip of the iceberg here. This will end badly for the Obama administration, unless they start cutting people loose.

Absolutely wrong! This will end badly for the-one either way. His DOJ and he himself knew about this program and this is proven by official statements on DOJ websites and interviews from the whitehouse.

Impeach, Fire, Jail and Disband!

tx2654 on July 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM

HEY! LOOK OVER THERE! A UNICORN!

Good Lt on July 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Ah, the DoJ’s Inspector General has opened a probe. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Memo

From: White House
To: ATF

The next bus is leaving shortly. Be under it.

Drained Brain on July 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Washington DC……also known as LIETOWN!

PappyD61 on July 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM

I’m okay with it ending badly for our current little king.

Cindy Munford on July 22, 2011 at 11:57 AM

If there is any justice left in this country, this will end badly for our pompous POTUS personally, not just his marxist underlings.

flyfisher on July 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM

I think it is now time to have Congress drag in Eric Holder, slam his rear end into a chair and start asking him the type of questions designed to have him sweating big time!

pilamaye on July 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Lying. Again.

UnderstandingisPower on July 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Ooof.

BKeyser on July 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Ah, the DoJ’s Inspector General has opened a probe. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Drained Brain on July 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Actually, I know some people who work in the DOJ IG office. They came out of the US Secret Service and such, and are no pals or admirers of DoJ agencies at all. And they are someof the most ethical, professional, and dogged investigators I know.

Trafalgar on July 22, 2011 at 12:04 PM

holder and his bunch are busy with other things. They are looking into Murdoch’s business with subpoenas.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/07/22/us-justice-department-prepares-subpoenas-in-news-corp-inquiry/?test=latestnews
I just hope to goodness Issa and Grassley will get holder before them under oath on the F&F mess.
L

letget on July 22, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Lying.

Lying.

Lying.

Might as well say it.

Jim Treacher on July 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Good summary of Walkergate:

Obama, Holder Busted in Gunwalker Cover-up by Roger Hedgecock

At first, Justice Department spokesmen said it was a “sting gone wrong.” Then, when many pointed out that the ATF had no jurisdiction to follow the guns across the border to make arrests, the cover story fell apart.

The Mexicans are furious about all this. The Mexican congress has opened an investigation under the assumption that Obama’s operation was an act of war on Mexico. More than 200 Mexican law enforcement and military personnel have been killed in the last year by guns traced back to Gunwalker.

When statistics designed to show the cartels were armed primarily from American sources were proven false, the crisis had to be goosed a little. Operation Fast and Furious became the funnel for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Despite all these revelations of Obama regime complicity in this gunrunning operation, the gun control agenda lives on.

Just last Monday, the Justice Department announced that all gun shops in four Southwest states will have to report to the ATF purchases of two or more of some types of rifles by the same person in a five-day span. With a straight face, a Justice Department spokesman described this as an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico.

NMRN123 on July 22, 2011 at 12:09 PM

This will end badly for the Obama administration, unless they start cutting people loose

There must be a few mid-level ATF types they can dump the blame on – even better if they have been around since GWB days.

katiejane on July 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

I have confidence that NYT and WashPo will implore an army of their readers to read through the ATF’s emails.

faraway on July 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

I have no idea, but I do know that you guys come up with really cool names for your fake scandals.

crr6 on July 10, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Del Dolemonte on July 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Lying. Again.

UnderstandingisPower on July 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Still not again. Again implies there was a time he did not.

Grunt on July 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

This whole charade demonstrates how far Obama/Holder will go out of sheer ideology: subvert the Second Amendment. It was never an attempt to get Mexican kingpins or anything related to the drug/human trade. It was to use the border violence by flooding the cartels with guns traceable to U.S. gun dealers and justify draconian restrictions on long guns. Cast Texas, New Mexico and Arizona gun sellers as shady, greedy and despicable and squeeze them with heavier regulations then restrict long guns to conform to what the government defines as “sporting”, the only kind suitable for public ownership.

cartooner on July 22, 2011 at 12:12 PM

So what? Rupert Murdoch might have done something illegal. Focus on whats important.

ctmom on July 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Actually, I know some people who work in the DOJ IG office. They came out of the US Secret Service and such, and are no pals or admirers of DoJ agencies at all. And they are someof the most ethical, professional, and dogged investigators I know.

Trafalgar on July 22, 2011 at 12:04 PM

I know one too. He originally came from military intelligence, then went back to school and got a JD.

Del Dolemonte on July 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Lying and the coverup ??

Surely, somebody could interview Martha Stewart for an expert opinion…

/.

CaveatEmpty on July 22, 2011 at 12:14 PM

ATF officials responded with deliberate obfuscation and evasiveness felonious lies

jnelchef on July 22, 2011 at 12:15 PM

(PJM)Gunwalker: Testimony Reveals Eric Holder’s Obfuscation Tactics
ATF Acting Director Ken Melson’s testimony shows just how far the DOJ has gone to impede the investigation and to protect political appointees. by Patrick Richardson

The DOJ did not permit Mr. Melson to brief Senator Grassley. Instead, the Department devised a strategy to withhold information from the senator. Mr. Melson testified further:

I sat in [the office of the Associate Deputy Attorney General with responsibility for ATF] one day when they were writing the letter to Senator Grassley about him being only a ranking member and not the chair of the committee. I sat there across the desk from [him], as I recall, and said, this is really just poking [Senator Grassley] in the eye. What’s the sense of doing this? Even if you say you can’t give it to him, he’s going to get it through the back door anyhow, so why are we aggravating this situation.

NMRN123 on July 22, 2011 at 12:17 PM

It’s going to end bad for the Obama administration because this goes ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP.

“Some” field level supervisor did not take it upon himself to violate the laws of the US AND Mexico. A program like this would have involved the HIGHEST political levels in Washington.

GarandFan on July 22, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Send them all to jail!!!

Reality Checker on July 22, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Perp-walk his racist @$$!

CurtZHP on July 22, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Exclusive: Story of central ‘Operation Castaway’ figure in his own words
David Codrea, Gun Rights Examiner

NMRN123 on July 22, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Fwd: To: FBI

I believe we have located more Branch Dividians at the WH.
Please bring the tanks again this time.

Thx
ATF


Memo

From: White House
To: ATF

The next bus is leaving shortly. Be under it.

orbitalair on July 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM

Hmmm… can RICO be applied to the Executive Branch?

Time to call in a special prosecutor.

Droopy on July 22, 2011 at 12:40 PM

The Mexicans are furious about all this.

NMRN123 on July 22, 2011 at 12:09 PM

Who’s up for more unchecked immigration to appease them?

roy_batty on July 22, 2011 at 12:44 PM

This will end badly for the Obama administration, unless they start cutting people loose.

Start at the top, the highest level, and work down. Save time, money and the country.

Cody1991 on July 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

Actually, I know some people who work in the DOJ IG office. They came out of the US Secret Service and such, and are no pals or admirers of DoJ agencies at all. And they are someof the most ethical, professional, and dogged investigators I know.
Trafalgar

I know one too. He originally came from military intelligence, then went back to school and got a JD.
Del Dolemonte

That’s great. What’ll really convince me is if they hire J. Christian Adams to assist.

Drained Brain on July 22, 2011 at 12:48 PM

I think it is now time to have Congress drag in Eric Holder, slam his rear end into a chair and start asking him the type of questions designed to have him sweating big time!

pilamaye on July 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Start by asking if they understood that the weapons would inevitably end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Then ask if they believe the Mexican drug cartels to be friends or enemies of the United States.

And end with reading…

Article III, Section 3, Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

dominigan on July 22, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Big Sis has video that the guns were purchased and transported by a bunch of “white guys in hoodies“…

FEMA camps are being readied for “relocation of suspects“…

Kuffar on July 22, 2011 at 1:12 PM

There must be a few mid-level ATF types they can dump the blame on – even better if they have been around since GWB days.

katiejane on July 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Trouble is, they would have to make an agreement with little Bammie to shut up while accepting a sealed pardon. If they don’t they will have to come clean, because real criminal charges are quite possible here. If they disagree with being fired, they will turn into great witnesses for Issa.

It has to be the idiot Holder. No other scalp will assuage Issa, and rightly so. We can’t impeach little Bammie over this, but Holder will do.

slickwillie2001 on July 22, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Is it possible to cut one’s self loose to limit the damage?

Immolate on July 22, 2011 at 1:26 PM

this debacle is making me furious.

ted c on July 22, 2011 at 1:32 PM

If we actually had a Congress and a President that actually does care about the United States, heads would be rolling by now. With serious jail time, serious consequences, and serious investigations.

If we actually had a “Media”, this would be on the news 24/7, and “Reporters” would be investigating this, and working to uphold justice.

The fact that neither is happening, says all you need to know about the state of affairs in this country today.

KMC1 on July 22, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Congress needs to assert its authority with immediacy and enthusiasm, and start putting everyone involved under oath.

Under oath!

Hopefully, Grassley et al. are rightfully p*ssed.

petefrt on July 22, 2011 at 1:47 PM

And now, allegations of State Dept. operatives selling military-grade weps directly to the Zetas.

State, State… Whose bailiwick is that again? Oh yeah, Hillary.

How UNEXPECTED…

mojo on July 22, 2011 at 1:52 PM

If Murdock is responsible for the hacking;
Then Holder and Obama are responsible for Gun Running.

barnone on July 22, 2011 at 1:53 PM

Holder/Obama want to destroy Fox, ahead of 2012, Nov.

Schadenfreude on July 22, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Arizona is just one piece of the pie. There were gun sales in Texas and Florida. The ones in Florida were going to Honduras. This was a large scale attempt to take down the 2nd amendment.

red131 on July 22, 2011 at 2:34 PM

“If the ATF is supplying the Sinaloas (with Calderón’s tacit approval and/or help) and State is playing for the Zetas, where does that leave the rest of America?”

Terrorist Group Setting Up Operations Near Border

Akzed on July 22, 2011 at 2:40 PM

dominigan on July 22, 2011 at 1:06 PM

They have already tried that. He just lies through his teeth.

Time to waterboard the SOB.

novaculus on July 22, 2011 at 2:42 PM

It couldn’t happen here.

Akzed on July 22, 2011 at 2:57 PM

I have no idea, but I do know that you guys come up with really cool names for your fake scandals.

crr6 on July 10, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Del Dolemonte on July 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Good times. Thanks, crr6. Your ignorant comments never grow old!

GrannyDee on July 22, 2011 at 3:11 PM

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/worse-than-gunwalker-state-dept-allegedly-sold-guns-to-zetas/

Phil Jordan, a former CIA operative and one-time leader of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center, claims that the Obama administration is running guns to the violent Zetas cartel through the direct commercial sale of military grade weapons:

Jordan, who served as director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center in 1995, said the Zetas have shipped large amounts of weapons purchased in the Dallas area through El Paso.

Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot, told the Times he supported Jordan’s allegations, adding that the Zetas have reportedly bought property in the Columbus, N.M., border region to stash weapons and other contraband.

“From the intel, it appears that a company was set up in Mexico to purchase weapons through the U.S. Direct Commercial Sales Program, and that the company may have had a direct link to the Zetas.”

Del Dolemonte on July 22, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Holder is a disgrace as Attorney General. He is the most openly racist buffoon to have ever held the office.

volsense on July 22, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Whereas the phone-hack haters expect the blame to go all the way to Murdock…
wouldn’t it be likewise as fair for the bribed-cops links to lead into Parliament and Bucky Palace ??

And therefore, real accountability for F&F run right down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue…

**EQUAL JUSTICE** and all that, ya know…
/.

CaveatEmpty on July 22, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Only an absolute genius would ship guns to MS-13 in Honduras. Truly amazing. Machiavelli would bow with humility. Orwell is slitting his wrists. Chinaski pours another tall one…

Kenosha Kid on July 22, 2011 at 5:29 PM

Wow, just wow……………….

I am afraid impeachment won’t work. The senate would never convict a progressive democrat.

Of course it’s all good that these stories are all over the “news” outlets.

The country needs an enema badly.

FOWG1 on July 22, 2011 at 5:37 PM