Saturday, July 23, 2011

Project Gunrunner/Operation Fast and Furious update

Emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee show a federal agency attempting to evade and obfuscate the investigation into its Fast and Furious operation.

From the L.A. Times:

After the death of Terry and Grassley's inquiries, the agency sought to close ranks. In an email on Feb. 3, Justice Department officials told ATF supervisors that "you are in no way obligated to respond to congressional contacts or requests for information.... You are not authorized to disclose non-public information about law enforcement matters outside of ATF or the Department of Justice to anyone, including congressional staff."

In addition, in a series of emails to William J. Hoover, the ATF's acting deputy director, bureau officials discussed what steps to take to throw Grassley and congressional investigators off the trail.

Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, are investigating who in Washington approved the program and why it was not shut down months before ATF ultimately halted it.

And potential retaliation against whistle-blowers:

After Grassley's inquiries, Hoover received an internal email alerting him that the bureau was "receiving reports that Grassley's staff is contacting current and former ATF field agents to inquire about the open investigation into the Brian Terry murder" and Fast and Furious. According to one email, ATF officials believed that Grassley was growing more suspicious because "ATF is not answering" his concerns.

They seemed further alarmed when they learned that a mid-level ATF supervisor "called to the carpet" an employee who had spoken with Grassley's staff. The employee "was ordered to write a memorandum disclosing everything" he told the senator's staff. The email said Grassley's office had expressed concern that the ATF supervisor may have violated federal laws intended to protect whistle-blowers.
(italics, ours)

We're pressed for time but do read the entire article by Richard Serrano at the link where a scheme is concocted at the highest levels of ATF to issue a "watered-down" response to the Committee's inquiries, downplaying the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and where much back-slapping among ATF higher-ups ensues.

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