Can a federal agency trying to cover up wrongdoing lawfully withhold documents under executive privilege—reserved for the president of the United States—when the records don’t even involve the commander-in-chief?
That’s the question being argued before a federal court in Washington D.C. and the ruling could have a widespread impact on how government unscrupulously hides information from the public as well as Congress. The feud involves a congressional committee investigating a disastrous Obama administration experiment that allowed Mexican drug traffickers to obtain U.S.-sold weapons that later ended up in a multitude of crime scenes, including the murder of a Border Patrol agent.
Run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which works under the Department of Justice (DOJ), the secret operation was known as Fast and Furious and it allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons used in violent crimes on both sides of the border. High-ranking officials in the Obama administration, including Attorney General Eric Holder who heads the DOJ, insist they knew nothing about the reckless operation.
Judicial Watch has sued the DOJ for records involving Fast and Furious and has been repeatedly stonewalled by the administration. In fact, last year the DOJ filed a motion to indefinitely delay consideration of JW’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking access to Fast and Furious records withheld from Congress by President Obama under executive privilege. A congressional panel investigating the matter, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has also been stonewalled and forced to take legal action.
The House committee duked it out with the DOJ in federal court this month, arguing before a D.C. Circuit judge that executive privilege doesn’t apply in this case because the documents it is seeking don’t even involve communications with the president or the performance of his core constitutional functions. Amusingly, the DOJ attorney representing the agency countered that if the records were requested under FOIA (as Judicial Watch has done), they would most likely be subject to disclosure. However, because Congress requested the records, the DOJ lawyer argued, the standard is somehow different and the information essentially doesn’t have to be handed over.
It’s an insane logic and an obvious stall tactic since the DOJ clearly has no intention of releasing what is most likely very damaging information to anyone, not even Congress, and certainly not to a government watchdog like Judicial Watch. Remember that the agency filed a motion, which JW has appealed, to indefinitely delay even considering our Fast and Furious FOIA request. JW is used to these sorts of stall tactics from the government but this seems to be a new level of stonewalling that could very well be interpreted as a cover-up.
Recently, we saw the success of FOIA vs. Congress involving explosive Benghazi records uncovered by JW. The Obama administration essentially blew Congress off, failing to provide crucial documents about the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Libya. Through a FOIA lawsuit, JW was able to obtain the records that show the White House was directly involved in misleading the public about the attack to protect President Obama’s image. The administration specifically withheld the records from Congress, but turned them over the JW because a federal court ordered it. This proves the importance of groups like JW because, let’s face it, when Congress asks any agency for records, it’s political theater with no official system in place to assure the information is handed over.
JW Attorney Michael Bekesha, who’s handling JW’s Fast and Furious lawsuit, was in court during the recent hearing between the DOJ and the House investigative committee. For those who find the lengthy transcript too boring, here’s a layman’s synopsis from Bekesha: “They basically argued that, in the olden days, when Congress asked for documents and they said ‘no,’ they just went away.” That isn’t happening here.” How convenient that a government agency can swat away a congressional request for documents as if it were an annoying fly.
Judicial Watch has sued the “most transparent administration” in history for details of Attorney General Eric Holder’s efforts to settle contempt charges filed against him for refusing to give Congress documents related to a scandalous gunrunning experiment that let Mexican drug traffickers obtain U.S.-sold weapons.
The goal behind this disastrous Obama administration plan— known as Fast and Furious—was to then trace the guns back to Mexican cartels. Instead the agency responsible for monitoring the guns, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), lost track of hundreds of weapons that later surfaced in a number of crimes, including the murder a U.S. Border Patrol agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona.
Judicial Watch has an ongoing investigation into this huge Obama administration scandal and has filed a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with various agencies. JW has been forced to sue both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the ATF for failing to provide records in a timely manner allotted by FOIA laws. Undoubtedly, the administration is in full cover-up mode and that includes blowing off a congressional probe.
In fact, last June President Obama made a highly controversial decision to assert Executive Privilege to shield the DOJ’s Fast and Furious records from disclosure. Executive privilege is reserved to “protect” White House records, not the records of federal agencies, which must be made available, subject to specific exceptions under FOIA. None of this seems relevant to the commander-in-chief who has repeatedly broken his promise to run the most transparent administration in history.
The stonewalling continues and this month JW filed a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to shed light into the closed-door proceedings where the DOJ tried to settle a contempt of Congress citation against Holder. JW is seeking access to all records of communications between the DOJ and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which issued the citation.
In August 2012 the House Oversight Committee sued Holder to enforce subpoenas in its probe of the Fast and Furious operation. The Attorney General essentially flipped the finger at Congress and in its complaint the investigative congressional committee accuses Holder of obstruction and a “contumacious refusal to comply” with a subpoena and produce documents involving Fast and Furious. In March a federal judge ordered the two sides to enter mediation but it has done little to solve the matter because the DOJ is apparently dragging it out. Holder continues using his legal battle with Congress to keep the American people from knowing the truth about the Fast and Furious.
The fallout from the Obama Administration’s disastrous Mexican gun-running operation continues, with a second federal audit in just weeks blasting Department of Justice (DOJ) hierarchy for covering up the scandal and lying to the family of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the once-secret program known as Operation Fast and Furious that allowed thousands of guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes.
The lost guns have been linked to violence on both sides of the border, including the murder of a federal agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona. In that case, the guns—assault weapons known as AK-47s—were traced through their serial numbers to a Glendale, Arizona dealer that led to a Phoenix man the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico.
While this illegal government operation spiraled out of control, high-ranking officials at the DOJ were “absentee managers” who failed to provide leadership, according to congressional investigators. In a lengthy report made public this week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee outlines a shameful management breakdown at the DOJ, which is responsible for supervising the ATF. “In fact, Fast and Furious had many enablers among the senior levels of the Justice Department,” the report says.
Making things worse, high-ranking DOJ officials with inside knowledge of the flawed gun-running scheme have refused to provide Terry’s family with accurate information. “Brian Terry’s family is still seeking answers 21 months after his death,” the report says, yet “two senior officials very close to the Attorney General who each had detailed knowledge of Fast and Furious, have been unable and unwilling to provide the Terry family any answers.”
Specifically, the report names Attorney General Eric Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Monty Wilkinson, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel as well as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke. On dozens of occasions they repeated these lines when asked about the gun-running operation: “Did not recall” or “did not know.”
Last month the DOJ Inspector General issued its own 512-page report finding that four high-ranking agency officials, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, knew about Fast and Furious yet took no action. Weinstein quickly resigned after the IG’s report was released, but Breuer remains in his office.
During testimony before a congressional panel, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that the Obama White House obstructed his investigation into the botched gun-running sting by, among other things, refusing to provide internal communications crucial to the probe. Horowitz also blasted senior leadership at both the DOJ and ATF for doing “little in the immediate aftermath of Agent Terry’s shooting to try to learn how two weapons that had been purchased 11 months earlier by a previously identified subject of Operation Fast and Furious ended up at the murder scene.”
Judicial Watch launched an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious last summer and this month JW sued the DOJ and ATF for records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) back in mid-July, 2011. Last fall JW obtained internal government documents that show the number of crimes connected to the gun-running experiment is significantly higher than the administration has chosen to disclose.
On the same week that the U.S. House of Representatives found him in criminal contempt, the nation’s embattled Attorney General professed solidarity with a radical leftist Latino group, proudly celebrating its socialist mission of “uno para todos, todos para uno” (all for one and one for all).
It wasn’t enough for Eric Holder to earn the accolade of being the nation’s first sitting Attorney General to be found in criminal contempt by Congress for stonewalling the investigation of a disastrous experiment conducted by his office. Known as Operation Fast and Furious, the project allowed Mexican drug traffickers to obtain U.S.-sold weapons. Many of the guns have been linked to serious crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
Judicial Watch has sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the various agencies that operate under it for records related to the Fast and Furious. As part of that ongoing investigation, last fall JW obtained internal government records that show the number of crimes connected to the failed gun-running venture is significantly higher than previously disclosed. This led to the broader congressional probe that Holder has impeded.
As the House publicly admonished him, Holder was at a fancy Disney resort in Florida praising a Latino civil rights group—League of United Latin American Citizens LULAC— best known for accusing a Mexican fast-food eatery of a “hate crime” for using a Chihuahua in a commercial. In the 1990s a top LULAC official accused the food chain of the hate crime by saying that “Mexican Americans are treated like dogs, they have to work like dogs, and now they’re being portrayed as dogs.”
Yet there was the country’s top law enforcement officer praising about 1,000 LULAC delegates at an upscale Disney resort, repeatedly chanting “all for one and one for all” in both English and Spanish. Holder bragged that his DOJ has filed more civil rights cases than in any previous period in the nation’s history and he highlighted an ongoing witch hunt against an Arizona sheriff known for cracking down on illegal immigration.
“I want to assure communities in Arizona and around the country, and you, that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce federal prohibitions against racial profiling and ethnic discrimination,” Holder told the crowd. He also assured that his department is pursuing “careful, thorough and independent” assessments of voter identification laws that Democrats assert discriminate against minorities.
He continued: “On these and other critical issues, you’ve succeeded in bringing a diverse range of partners together. You’ve proven the power of unity – and the virtues of diversity. And you’ve breathed new life into the old adage that – more than 80 years ago – gave voice to LULAC’s mission and vision: Uno para todos, todos para uno.
This enduring ideal – of all for one, and one for all; and the common understanding – that, here in the United States, we rise and fall as one people, and that we will only succeed if we work together as one nation – has been at the heart of the success we’re gathered to celebrate today – and to advance. “
In what appears to be the latest of many crimes resulting from the Obama Administration’s disastrous Mexican gun-running operation, a federal agent has been indicted for trying to smuggle high-powered weapons and large amounts of ammo south of the border.
The U.S. Border Patrol agent undoubtedly got his idea from a failed government project, dubbed Fast and Furious, that put U.S.-sold weapons in the hands of Mexican drug traffickers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the once-secret program that allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes.
The lost guns have been linked to violence on both sides of the border, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona. In that case, the guns—assault weapons known as AK-47s—were traced through their serial numbers to a Glendale, Arizona dealer that led to a Phoenix man the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico.
Judicial Watch has sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the ATF for Fast and Furious records and has already obtained internal government documents exposing a high number of crimes connected to the experiment. For instance, a Fast and Furious firearm (7.62mm Romarm/Cugir) was involved in aggravated assault against a police officer in Arizona and in Mexico the weapons have been used in a number of violent crimes.
This week’s news of a Homeland Security agent getting busted only adds insult to injury. The Border Patrol officer (Ricardo Montalvo) from El Paso was arrested and charged for buying ammunition and firearms, such as AK-47 pistols, favored by Mexican drug cartels. The idea, according to a federal indictment cited in a news report, was to smuggle the goods to Mexico.
Ironically, the case is being investigated by the ATF, the same federal agency that masterminded the shameful Mexican gun-running operation in the first place. Issued by a grand jury, the 20-count indictment says Montalvo and his girlfriend were engaged in a conspiracy as “straw purchasers” who bought nine firearms, 20,000 rounds of ammunition and four flare launchers.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all involving the Obama Administration’s disastrous Mexican gun-running experiment, new details surface to illustrate a new level of negligence and incompetence on the part of federal authorities orchestrating the scandalous program.
Known as Fast and Furious, the federal experiment allowed Mexican drug traffickers to obtain U.S.-sold weapons so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead federal law enforcement officers lost track of more than 1,700 guns which are believed to have been used in an unknown number of crimes.
In the past year lost guns have been linked to violence on both sides of the border while top administration officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, insist they knew nothing about the reckless operation. Among the first reports to surface; that Fast and Furious weapons were used to murder a U.S. Border Patrol agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona. The assault weapons known as AK-47s were traced through their serial numbers to an Arizona dealer the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico, according to a mainstream newspaper.
This week the same publication published a scathing article that paints a clown-like portrait of the agency—Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—charged with running the program. It turns out that the ATF stumbled upon a top drug-cartel suspect targeted by its unscrupulous gun operation but let him go after he “pledged to cooperate and keep in touch with investigators.”
It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. Seven months after launching the Fast and Furious operation, federal agents caught their main suspect in a remote Arizona outpost on the Mexican side, according to internal documents obtained by the newspaper. The drug lord, Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta, had 74 pounds of ammunition and nine cell phones hidden in his German-made sports car.
So what did the feds do? The top Fast and Furious investigator, Special Agent Hope MacAllister, scribbled her phone number on a $10 bill after Celis-Acosta promised to cooperate and keep in touch with investigators. Then Celis-Acosta disappeared into Mexico and later slipped back and forth across the border, illegally buying more American weapons and financing others. It’s all in the government records. You can’t make this stuff up.
Eventually Celis-Acosta got arrested, but the damage had been done and the government gun operation had spiraled out of control. Nearly 2,000 firearms have disappeared and scores have surfaced in Mexican crime scenes. Not surprisingly, the ATF refuses to explain why it didn’t arrest this drug lord when it had him the first time. An ATF spokesman quoted in this week’s story said: “Due to the fact that the criminal case is still ongoing in the courts, and the inspector general’s office is still investigating, we cannot comment about this.”
Judicial Watch is investigating the genesis of the Fast and Furious operation and has sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the ATF to obtain records. Both agencies have refused to provide even the most basic information about the program and neither has responded by the statutorily mandated deadline.
The number of crimes connected to a disastrous federal experiment that allowed Mexican drug traffickers to obtain U.S.-sold weapons is significantly higher than previously disclosed, according to internal government documents obtained by Judicial Watch.
Known as Fast and Furious, the failed program was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which are believed to have been used in an unknown number of crimes.
In the past few months several media reports have linked the lost guns to violence on both sides of the border while high-ranking officials in the Obama Administration, including Attorney General Eric Holder, insist they knew nothing about the reckless operation.
Among the first reports to surface; that Fast and Furious weapons were used to murder a U.S. Border Patrol agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona in mid December. The guns—assault weapons known as AK-47s—were traced through their serial numbers to a Glendale, Arizona dealer that led to a Phoenix man the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico.
But details like these have surfaced slowly as the administration scrambles to decide what version of facts it chooses to give Americans. What’s certain is that federal agents lost track of high-powered rifles and other guns, which have been recovered in violent crimes, both in the U.S. and Mexico. A few days ago, the nation’s Assistant Attorney General (Ronald Weich) admitted that Fast and Furious weapons had been used in at least three violent crimes in the U.S. and eight others in Mexico.
The crimes were outlined by Weich in a letter, obtained by Judicial Watch this week, to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. It was a response to the Vermont Democrat’s months-old request for details of crimes associated with guns from the now infamous operation. Besides the Border Patrol agent’s murder, a Fast and Furious firearm (7.62mm Romarm/Cugir) was involved in aggravated assault against a police officer in Arizona, Weich tells Leahy in the letter.
In Mexico the ATF has reported eight events in which guns purchased under Fast and Furious have been recovered in violent crimes, Weich writes. Among them were four firearms used for “kidnap/ransom,” two in homicides and one used during a violent exchange between cartels. A separate stash of Fast and Furious weapons was recovered in various parts of Mexico after being involved in “non-violent crimes,” according to Weich’s assessment.
For instance, 10 guns were retrieved in Atoyac de Alvarez after the Mexican military rescued a kidnap victim. Another 10 Fast and Furious weapons were also identified in Durango following a confrontation between Mexico’s military and an “armed group.” An additional 10 rifles were found in Chihuahua after the kidnapping of two people and the murder of a Mexican public official’s family member.
More than likely, this is only the tip of the iceberg. House investigators have formally asked the Obama Administration to hand over “all records” involving the scandalous gun program and the White House and Justice Department’s role in the matter, including that of top administration security officials. Expect some serious stalling on the part of the “most transparent administration in history.”
In June a congressional oversight committee offered a snippet of what those records may expose. In a report titled “The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious: Accounts of ATF Agents” the committee includes alarming testimony from ATF agents directly involved in the operation. For instance, ATF agents predicted the gunwalking experiment would lead to deaths and that one operation supervisor was “delighted” that walked guns showed up at crime scenes in Mexico.