OCTOBER 14, 2011
October 14, 2011
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Holder on Hot Seat, JW Sues Justice for Fast and Furious Documents
The Fast and Furious scandal may be the final undoing of Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. Fast and Furious is a Department of Justice (DOJ)/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” operation in which guns were sold to Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would end up at crime scenes! Well, they did, such as the crime scene of the murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry – and countless others in Mexico.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a subpoena Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder as part of his investigation into the gun trafficking operation known as “Fast and Furious.”
“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” the California Republican said in a statement. “The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.
And why would Rep. Issa have reason to believe Holder and his minions at DOJ have been less than truthful?
Late last week, new allegations emerged that Holder lied to Congress about what he knew and when he knew it concerning the operation, prompting calls for a special counsel to investigate.
Here’s how Holder got himself into trouble.
On May 3, 2011, in a House Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) Holder testified: “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” But newly released documents show he was receiving weekly briefings on Fast and Furious as far back as July 5, 2010! (See the documents here.)
Holder subsequently said he misunderstood the question. Not many are buying that excuse. It is now up to Holder to explain how his own Justice Department can credibly investigate him for lying to Congress.
Reps. Issa and Lamar Smith and others in Congress, including Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), should be congratulated for taking Fast and Furious so seriously. But, at the same time, if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of this we need an independent investigation. And that’s where your Judicial Watch comes in.
On Tuesday, we sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain Fast and Furious records. Back on July 13, our investigations team submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking:
- All records of communication, contracts and correspondence between ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson and any official, officer, or employee of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) regarding ATF Phoenix Operation Fast and Furious.
- All records regarding, concerning, or related to, the October 26, 2009 meeting/telephonic conference call between DAG David Ogden, Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Lanny Breuer, ATF Director Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michelle Leonhart, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller, and other DOJ officials regarding the Southwest Border Strategy (including, but not limited to, any agendas, minutes, transcripts, notes, or presentations).
- All records prepared for, or submitted to, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding, concerning, or related to, ATF Operation Fast and Furious.
(Judicial Watch filed a similar FOIA request with ATF on the same day. Neither agency responded within the time the law requires – prompting our lawsuits.)
With these lawsuits we’re trying to get to the genesis of the Fast and Furious operation, which was reportedly discussed during that October 26, 2009, telephonic conference call, as well as information being provided to and/or withheld from Congress by the Obama administration.
The requests we’ve made are very basic, and yet we haven’t received one document from the DOJ or ATF regarding Fast and Furious. Given their dissembling, DOJ and ATF are apparently in cover-up mode. Now they’ll have to answer to a federal court for their obfuscation.
Make no mistake; this seems to be one of the most egregious examples of corruption and malfeasance inside of the Obama administration we’ve seen yet.
In Fast and Furious, the ATF, with the full approval of the DOJ, allowed guns to be sold and sent to the Mexican drug cartels.
It’s called letting guns “walk.” And it remained a well-kept Obama administration secret until the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Terry was killed in a shootout with Mexican criminals who were armed with Fast and Furious guns found at the crime scene. After Terry’s murder, “ATF agent John Dodson blew the whistle on the operation,” CBS News wrote.
These same Mexican drug cartels seem now to be available for hire for terrorist operations here in the United States.
Once Fast and Furious splashed into the news, the man at the head of ATF, Kenneth Melson, reportedly told Rep. Issa that the senior officials at the DOJ were trying to suppress information about the scandal – an admission that surely earned Melson a transfer to a make-work position at DOJ. The U.S. Attorney in Phoenix who helped run the operation was forced to resign. And the Los Angeles Times reported that two more high ranking ATF officials have been demoted as the DOJ attempts to clean up the mess.
So how is it that Holder, the supervisor of all these men, has kept his job?
Remember, we saw similar behavior from Holder’s DOJ regarding the Black Panther scandal. At least one Obama administration official testified to Congress that no political appointees were involved in the decision at the DOJ to abandon the voter intimidation lawsuit against the Black Panthers. Judicial Watch obtained the evidence proving this was a bald-faced lie. Even Holder himself was a recipient of email updates on the Black Panther case.
Again, a discrepancy between what an Obama administration official said and what the evidence shows.
By now you know my thoughts on Holder. He should resign. In the meantime, we’re going to do our part to uncover the truth behind Fast and Furious.
On this point, Judicial Watch is hosting a special discussion next Tuesday, October 18, with special guest Senator Grassley here at Judicial Watch’s headquarters in DC to discuss Fast and Furious and other current challenges to the rule of law (such as stealth amnesty). Join us in Washington, DC, or watch live online on Tuesday beginning at 8 a.m. EDT, at https://www.judicialwatch.org/live.
Judicial Watch Uncovers Intelligence Document on Beslan Terrorist Attack
As the old saw goes, past is prologue. And one way to see what terrorists have in store for their enemies around the world today, including the United States, is to analyze their past operations. That includes a shockingly brutal terrorist attack that occurred in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, in September 2004, in which 380 of the 1,100 hostages (children, parents, teachers, and visitors) held captive for three days were murdered.
Judicial Watch recently uncovered an intelligence document providing a detailed analysis of the Beslan attack in response to a FOIA request we filed all the way back on August 26, 2005. The document, jointly released by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and dated October 12, 2004, analyzes the Beslan terrorist attack with a view toward gleaning lessons for potential attacks on schools in the United States.
While the ultimate conclusion of the report is that such attacks posed no immediate threat to the U.S., the bulletin details “several items that law enforcement, school administration and security personnel may consider when developing school security and emergency response plans.”
What are these recommendations? We do not know. The “transparent” Obama administration redacted these recommendations under “deliberative process” exemption, a decision which Judicial Watch is appealing.
While key recommendations were blacked out, the intelligence bulletin discusses a long list of operational details of the raid on the Beslan school, including transportation, techniques for overcoming security, prepositioning of weapons and explosives, terrorist surveillance and planning, controlling hostages by separating children from parents and teachers, and terrorist efforts to thwart Russian government counterterrorism techniques and teams.
The bulletin also highlights Russian failures at the scene, which include failing to implement a comprehensive response plan and failing to establish an effective cordon around the school during the incident. The bulletin closes with the observation that “[e]mergency medical treatment for children is significantly different from adults and should be factored into any plan or exercise.”
Importantly, many of the terrorist techniques that became widely adopted elsewhere, such as IEDs and the use of female suicide bombers were used by terrorist groups in Chechnya. (See this report from The National Academies entitled, “Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States” for more information on this point.)
Judicial Watch also previously uncovered a Defense Intelligence Agency document detailing al-Qaida’s 1998 activities in Chechnya, which included a “direct route to Chechnya from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Turkey and Azerbaijan.”
So there is clearly an al-Qaida link in Chechnya, and much to learn from terrorist operations in that country, if the Obama administration would only let the American people in on the secret.
The alleged purpose of the intelligence briefing was to glean information to help protect school children from a potential terrorist attack. What sense does it make for the Obama administration to keep secret the bulletin’s important recommendations for schools and emergency responders?
Apparently everything is a secret for the Obama administration – even recommendations for saving school children from a terrorist attack.
Judicial Watch Staff Members Angel Azar and Irene Garcia Honored by Congress
If you’ve been reading the Update for any length of time, you know that Judicial Watch has become the nation’s largest and most effective government watchdog organization. This is due to the hard work and dedication of a great many professionals who serve on Judicial Watch’s staff.
This week I would like to close by congratulating two of them: Angel Azar and Irene Garcia.
On Thursday, October 13, Angel and Irene received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for “outstanding and invaluable service” to the community as “successful Hispanic leader[s] in South Florida.” This awards ceremony was part of an effort by Congress to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. They are both very deserving of this honor.
Let me tell you just a little bit about Angel and Irene.
Angel is the Southeastern regional fundraising director for Judicial Watch. He is a Dominican-born, retired U.S. Army Veteran who has worked for a number of corporations worldwide. Angel also speaks Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian. Angel has done good work in the important area of helping Judicial Watch raise support for all its programs.
Irene writes Judicial Watch’s daily blog, Corruption Chronicles, and is the group’s Spanish media liaison. Before joining the organization in 2001, Irene spent 13 years as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times where she covered sports, entertainment, breaking news and politics. Irene, who is Cuban-American, has a journalism degree with a minor in Spanish literature from California State University Northridge. Irene’s journalistic skills in Corruption Chronicles make our site one of the most influential on the Internet.
Angel and Irene are valued members of the Judicial Watch team who continue to work diligently to help our organization confront government corruption and secrecy. I could not be more proud of their accomplishments at Judicial Watch and in their communities.
Until next week…
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