When Fast and Furious was conceived, it was the perfect crime. Guns purchased by straw purchasers would be allowed to walk into the hands of Mexican drug cartels with the blessing of the DOJ, which developed and ran the operation. There were no tracking devices (RFIDs) attached to the guns, the Mexican Government was not informed, and US law enforcement personnel were ordered not to interfere with movement of the weapons. All actions that could have made this a legitimate operation were ignored or countermanded. More likely it was an effort to generate publicity when the “walked” guns from the
Things began to unravel at Justice with the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and when Republicans took the House in the November 2010 elections. Early the following year Issa began his investigation but soon much of the evidence was out of reach, placed under seal by the Inspector General at Justice. It remains so and will remain so as long as the IG’s slow moving investigation continues. And now President Obama has claimed executive privilege for documents published after the close down of the Fast and Furious operation.
In particular Issa has sought information through subpoena powers that senior Justice officials knew of the of the gun running operation. He wanted the sealed wiretap applications which can only be authorized at the senior level at Justice. That was denied. But it turns out Issa was in possession of several of these documents, leaked to him by persons unknown. How Issa placed this information into the public domain is unique and legal, and no doubt has Holder and others in the administration squirming.
On Friday June 29 Issa referred on the floor to a letter he had written a month earlier to Elijah Cummings, the ranking (Democrat) member of Issa’s Oversight Committee. The letter was a response to one Cummings had written him asserting there was no evidence to support the claim that senior Justice officials knew of guns being “walked” to straw purchasers. Issa in is letter quotes information obtained in six leaked wiretap applications, documenting that they indeed were aware of the gun walking operation. He then had his letter, containing portions of the sealed wiretap applications, read into the Congressional Record. It is available here. Members of Congress are constitutionally protected from libel suits and prosecution for statements made from the floor. In practice they are protected when making statements in the course of their work, when Congress is in session. Issa played it safe and did it all from the floor. And it must have Holder and other Democrats fuming.
Undoubtedly, there is more to come. Issa likely has more leaked documents from his mole. And he now has a channel to place them before the public.