Oct 26, 2014
After years of partisan Congressional battles and political wrangling to obtain Fast and Furious documents, Judicial Watch, successfully procured the Vaughn Index that lists more than 15,000 pages of Fast & Furious related documents. It also marks the first full accounting of the documents being withheld by the President from the ill-fated gun-walking scheme.
The Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) scheme claimed the life of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010 and weapons from the operation have turned up on hundreds of Mexican murder scenes. A judge denied the Department of Justice’s latest request to release the index after the November elections and suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder’s department did not take the “court order seriously.” Two days after the ruling the Attorney General announced he was resigning
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Key findings in the index suggest the Attorney General was directly involved in crafting the flawed talking points and found that he may have used his wife’s and mother’s email accounts to conduct official business on more that 20 occasions, leading to speculation that the Attorney General may have been circumventing public scrutiny or violated the Federal Records Act.
Other cabinet level members of the Obama administration were forced to resign after alleged improper email account usage. Both Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Lisa Jackson resigned after government oversight committees determined they misused email accounts.
The Vaughn index also elucidated that the scandal elicited the attention of nearly every top official at the DOJ, ATF as well as the US Ambassador to Mexico’s office.
“Once again, Judicial Watch has proven itself more effective than Congress and the establishment media in providing basic oversight… This Fast and Furious document provides dozens of leads for further congressional, media, and even criminal investigations,” Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said.
Repeated requests by Congress to obtain the documents from the administration produced a partisan “dog and pony show” lead by GOP Congressman Darrell Issa that netted little evidence and resulted in a rare contempt of Congress charge against Mr. Holder that has yet to be resolved.
Judge John Bates ended the 16-month document delay and said no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s unprecedented executive privilege claims in the Fast and Furious matter. The judge also said voters deserved to review the documents before the November election.
After learning the news, the family of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry released a statement. “We urge President Obama to cooperate with Congress and release thousands of documents outlined in the Vaughn Index. Americans deserve the truth and deserve transparency from their government in this matter.”
Judicial Watch disclosed that the Vaughn index revealed:
• Numerous emails that detail Attorney General Holder’s direct involvement in crafting talking points, the timing of public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter.
• President Obama has asserted executive privilege over nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone. The administration also claims that the records are also subject to withholding under the “deliberative process” exemption. This exemption ordinarily exempts from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.
• Numerous entries detail DOJ’s communications (including those of Eric Holder) concerning the White House about Fast and Furious.
• The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.
• Many of the records are already publicly available such as letters from Congress, press clips, and typical agency communications. Ordinarily, these records would, in whole or part, be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Few of the records seem to even implicate presidential decision-making and advice that might be subject to President Obama’s broad and unprecedented executive privilege claim.
It’s also particularly ironic that the U.S. government operated a program that allowed firearms to be “walked” across the border to Mexico and used to further more criminal acts and not be held accountable, when U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi remains behind bars, in Mexico, for taking a wrong turn and admitting he had weapons in his possession.
Border Patrol shoots and kills a reportedly “rip crew” suspect
Details are emerging from a Friday shooting in which one alleged “rip crew” assailant was shot and killed by Border Patrol agents, south of Tucson in a known-drug trafficking corridor. The event is eerily similar to the death of Border Patrol Agent Terry.
“Agents recovered multiple weapons and no injuries to the agents involved have been reported,” Border Patrol spokesperson Nicole Ballistrea said. She also indicated that the search for the remaining suspects was ongoing. Agents say four suspects were involved in the shootout, that left one dead with three others escaping onto an Indian reservation near the Casino of the Sun.
The president of the Tucson Border Patrol union, Art del Cueto told the AP, “The shooting occurred as two agents conducted a standard surveillance effort known as sign cutting in which agents search for footprints in the desert.” The FBI is leading the investigation as well as CBP that will conduct an internal affairs report.
This story is developing, check back for further developments.
The Fast and Furious back story
The Fast and Furious gun-walking saga that claimed the lives of Federal agents Brian Terry and Jamie Zapata took another extraordinary turn today. In a surprising move by the White House, President Obama invoked executive privilege to shield his Attorney General, Eric Holder, from contempt of Congress charges for his refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas relating to the murders. Unfortunately, the President’s move to protect his long-time friend only leads to more questions.
During the last 18 months, Holder and DOJ officials have repeatedly said President Obama had no knowledge of Fast and Furious. However, if that statement were true, there would be no legal authority for President Obama to injected himself into the Fast and Furious scandal or assert executive privilege. His action now raises new concerns that Mr. Obama may have known more than he or Holder originally admitted.
“At no point in the last 18 months since I started asking questions has the Department of Justice hinted that there was a potential that the documents might be subject to executive privilege. That includes a face-to-face meeting with the Attorney General last night,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said. “If it were a serious claim, the administration would have and should have raised it last night, if not much earlier.”
Historically, executive privilege has been recognized as a presidential prerogative to protect national security and diplomatically sensitive issues, it has never been upheld to block the disclosure of evidence relating to criminal inquiries, as many of President Nixon’s henchmen learned in the 1970’s. [Nixon v. US. 418 US 683 707]
As cited by the Supreme Court in its 9-0 decision against President Nixon, no person is above the law.“… This presumptive privilege must be considered in light of our historic commitment to the rule of law. This is nowhere more profoundly manifest than in our view that “the twofold aim [of criminal justice] is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.” Berger v. United States 295 US 78, 88.”
Senator Grassley’s inquiries into the Fast and Furious whistleblower allegations were first made in January 2011 a couple of weeks after the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry. The ATF whistleblower alleged that the government had allowed the transfer of illegally purchased weapons to criminals and that those weapons were found at Agent Terry’s murder scene. “The Department of Justice denied the allegations to Grassley for 10 months before being forced to withdraw its denial in face of evidence to the contrary,” Grassley’s statement said.
“We owe no less to the family of Brian Terry than our best effort to get to the truth,” Grassley demanded. “That has been my primary goal all along. It is what motivated the whistleblowers to risk their careers, and it is why I will continue to insist on answers.”
It’s also very important to remember that ICE Agent Jamie Zapata, along with hundreds of Mexican citizens, have been executed in Mexico by cartel members using Fast and Furious guns purchased with taxpayer money.
The Republican-led investigation has been criticized by the minority Democrats repeatedly, but the GOP and Speaker John Boehner remain united and claim the Department of Justice’s contempt citation is “an important” procedural mechanism built into the Constitution as a system of checks and balances.
“Congress has a constitutional responsibility to determine what happened so that there’s accountability and this kind of disastrous government program never happens again.”
The Democrats see things differently. Publically, the Democrat leadership has called the GOP investigation a “witch hunt” and politically motivated. Senate leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the Republican investigation lacks merit, is only partisan and hopes to win back the White House by disgracing AG Holder.
“What we just witnessed was an extreme, virtually unprecedented action based on election year politics rather than fact,” Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) Ranking Member of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee said after the hearing. “Even in the face of an assertion of executive privilege, the Republicans didn’t even pause to consider the law and instead decided to take this extreme step. The House has never held an Attorney General in contempt, and the only precedent for what this Committee did today was in the 1990s when then-Chairman Burton held Janet Reno in contempt. It was so extreme that even then-Speaker Newt Gingrich refused to bring it the floor for a vote. If Speaker Boehner brings this contempt citation to the floor, he will be known as one of the most extreme Speakers in history.”
Boehner’s office countered, “Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding Fast and Furious were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed,” Michael Steel, the spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said. “The administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”
Yet, after countless Congressional hearings, whistle-blower statements and investigative reporting by dedicated journalists, an avalanche of facts have been placed front-and-center. The disastrous Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Project Gunrunner investigation “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking program will now make front page of most mainstream newspapers and broaden its audience.
Agent Terry’s family who will never hear Brian’s side of the story, have sought the truth from ATF/DOJ and really want to know- who knew what and when. Eighteen months later and the Terry family still is no closer to the truth. For those accustomed to DC politics, it is business as usual. Both parties play the same political games and both have similar outcomes. While Congress may have unleashed a circus-like hearing that makes for compelling political theater, the Terry family is left in the dark.
Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies across the country knew the results of a program like Fast and Furious were foreseeable someone would die. That’s what happens when guns “walk” into the hands of ruthless cartels- they have the propensity to kill people. Regrettably, Operation Fast and Furious successfully did exactly what it was designed to do- make headlines with the murder of a federal agent.
ATF agents have admitted time and time again that supervisors in the Phoenix office wanted to bring down the “bad guys” and make “headlines.” They did. In fact, ATF agents in the Phoenix office also said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was not only a part of Fast and Furious, but they too wanted to catch the “big fish.” If one looks back at the ATF press conferences, they will see ICE agents posing for pictures and talking up the flawed gun walking operation. So why has ICE escaped Congressional scrutiny?
It’s also true that this operation started under the Bush Administration with “The Southwest Border Initiative” and from that sprung “Operation Wide Receiver” another gun walking operation run by ATF in Arizona. Unlike Fast and Furious, Operation Wide Receiver worked closely with Mexican counterparts, attempted to trace weapons using RFID tracking devices embedded in the weapons and employed an aircraft to surveil and track the firearms to alleged cartels. But Operation Wide Receiver failed because cartels outsmarted law enforcement and discovered the tracking devices, allowing approximately 400 weapons into the hands of violent cartels. Also, unlike Fast and Furious, Operation Wide Receiver was shut down a short time later.
Conversely Fast and Furious involved much greater detail and left behind a significant paper trail. Arizona US Attorney Dennis Burke requested at least seven wiretap applications on behalf of ATF supervisors. Those applications exceeded 50-pages in length and it’s been alleged that they were recently leaked to Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA).
The aforementioned wire taps were approved after a Washington DC DOJ committee met to ensure ongoing investigations from other departments like the FBI, CIA, DEA and ICE did not interfere with each other or hinder ongoing operations.
At a previous hearing, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) affirmed that point by asking AG Holder directly if Fast and Furious would need approval from Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEF); the answer was “yes.”
Which brings us back to the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Nixon v. U.S. regarding the vital importance of the “rule of law.” When AG Holder became the nation’s top law enforcer he uttered these words: “It’s about trust…transparency and the rule of law for our administration.” Yet the self-described most transparent administration in U.S. history finds itself hiding behind executive privilege. Why?
Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) summed up the Obama Administration and Fast and Furious. “The President claims he knew nothing about Fast and Furious prior to Agent Brian Terry’s murder and no one at the Department of Justice has suggested the President was part of the drafting of a demonstrably false letter dated February 4, 2011, to a committee of congress.”
“So, my question to the President is: What are you asserting privilege over? Did you know about Fast and Furious before Brian Terry’s murder? Did you approve the operation? Did you participate in the drafting of a false letter to congress? Unless the answer to all of those questions is yes, there is no matter over which the President can assert privilege. It is merely the latest ploy to delay the investigation.”
As of now, the Speaker of the House has scheduled full Congressional floor vote next week, but stated the vote could be avoided if Attorney General Holder provides the documents Mr. Issa requested.
For previous border story: Congressman says Mexico facilitating terrorists entry into U.S: Link here
Previous drone story: Link Here
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