Saturday, September 10, 2011

Issa Statement on Resignation of Arizona U.S. Attorney, Reassignment of ATF Director

(WASHINGTON) House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today released the following statement regarding Department of Justice personnel changes involving Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley:

"While the reckless disregard for safety that took place in Operation Fast and Furious certainly merits changes within the Department of Justice, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation to ensure that blame isn't offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department.

There are still many questions to be answered about what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and who else bears responsibility, but these changes are warranted and offer an opportunity for the Justice Department to explain the role other officials and offices played in the infamous efforts to allow weapons to flow to Mexican drug cartels. I also remain very concerned by Acting Director Melson's statement that the Department of Justice is managing its response in a manner intended to protect its political appointees.

Senator Grassley and I will continue to press the Department of Justice for answers in order to ensure that a reckless effort like Fast and Furious does not take place again."

Issa Statement on the Transfer of Operation Fast and Furious Cases out of Arizona

(WASHINGTON) Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa released the following statement on the Department of Justice transferring cases related to Operation Fast and Furious out of the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office:

"Moving cases related to Operation Fast and Furious away from the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office is clearly in the best interest of achieving just outcomes and removes the apparent conflict-of-interest that Arizona prosecutors had in bringing cases from an operation they mishandled. The Oversight committee first urged the Justice Department to transfer these cases to an impartial prosecutor in May. This decision is also an important step in respecting the rights of victims of Operation Fast and Furious, including the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry who had expressed concern about how the cases were being handled in Arizona."


House Oversight Committee 

ATF Mexico gun scandal far from over

By Staff Writer
United Press International







A smoldering scandal is stalking the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama despite it being temporary obscured by budget battles and unemployment figures.

It's called Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-running sting along the Mexican border by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives that went decidedly wrong.

Wrong, as in a federal agent being killed by a weapon ATF allowed to be purchased by a gunrunner; wrong, as in dozens of crimes being committed with the trafficked firearms; wrong, as in what appears to be a botched attempt at coverup.

"The Justice Department has been less than forthcoming since Day One, so the revisions here are hardly surprising and the numbers will likely rise until the more than 1,000 guns that were allowed to fall into the hands of bad guys are recovered -- most likely years down the road," U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said after learning that 21 crimes in Mexico were apparently committed with the ATF trafficked weapons, not the 11 crimes the ATF previously conceded.

"What we're still waiting for are the answers to the other questions the attorney general failed to answer per our agreement. The cooperation of the attorney general and his staff is needed if we're ever going to get to the bottom of this disastrous policy and help the ATF and the department move forward."

Grassley, working with U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been holding the ATF and U.S. Justice Department to account with investigations and hearing, which have so far showed rank-and-file ATF agents opposed the program but were pressured by superiors to toe the line.

Operation Fast and Furious began in late 2009. The concept of the operation was to allow legal gun dealers near Arizona's border with Mexico sell firearms to suspected straw buyers, who could be traced to Mexican drug cartels so as to build large criminal cases against Mexican crime organizations.

Those crime organizations have launched a bloody battle for territory among themselves and against the Mexican government.

The ATF, which is under the control of the Justice Department, lost track of the weapons and traffickers. The situation then went from bad to worse. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed last December while trying to apprehend armed suspects. Attackers' guns found on the scene turned out to be among weapons the ATF allowed smugglers to purchase.

News reports later said it was learned that federal agents trying to apprehend gunrunners along the border had been told let them pass.

"I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest," an ATF agent said at a congressional hearing in June.
Amid the spotlight of congressional investigation, two top officials tied to Fast and Furious -- Dennis K. Burke, the U.S. attorney in Phoenix; and the ATF's acting chief Kenneth E. Melson -- resigned their positions.

The White House said it had no knowledge of the botched operation but e-mail messages obtained by news organizations last month indicated that three members of Obama's staff had received back-channel information on ATF anti-gun trafficking efforts.

The briefings were apparently given in July 2010 in e-mail to Kevin O'Reilly, director of North American Affairs at the National Security Council; Dan Restrepo, senior Latin American adviser and national security official Greg Gatjanis by ATF's Bill Newell, who at the time was the ATF special agent in charge of its Phoenix office, which ran Operation Fast and Furious.

To what extent the officials were eventually briefed specifically on Fast and Furious is unknown but disclosure of the e-mail messages is sure to fire suspicions on Capitol Hill that both the White House and the Justice Department knew more than they are disclosing.

Issa said his committee investigations on the program will continue to "ensure that blame isn't offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter than involved much higher levels of the Justice Department."

"We know we are being gamed and we think the time for the game should be up," he said.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Congress expands Fast and Furious probe to include White House

By Richard A. Serrano / Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON — Congressional investigators reviewing the failed gun-tracking program Operation Fast and Furious have formally asked the Obama administration to turn over copies of "all records" involving three key White House national security officials and the program, other ATF gun cases in Phoenix, and all communications between the White House and the ATF field office in Arizona.



The letter signed Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was sent to national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, a top aide to President Barack Obama.

The letter signed Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was sent to national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, a top aide to President Barack Obama.

It marks a significant step in the committee’s investigation into the failed gun-tracking operation, as the committee begins to broaden its investigation from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and targets White House and Department of Justice officials.

This material, Issa and Grassley said, "will enable us to determine the extent of the involvement of White House staff in Operation Fast and Furious."

White House officials, along with those at the Justice Department, said they have been cooperating in the widening probe, begun earlier this year when several ATF whistleblowers alerted congress that Fast and Furious weapons were found at the scene of the slaying of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Under the program, ATF agents allowed illegal gun purchases and hoped to track the weapons to Mexican cartel leaders. But most of the more than 2,000 firearms were lost. Hundreds have reportedly turned up in Mexican crime scenes, two at the shooting where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed, and a semi-automatic at an altercation and assault with police in Maricopa, Ariz.

The congressional letter comes after a series of emails surfaced last week showing that William D. Newell, the ATF field supervisor in Phoenix during Fast and Furious, was in routine contact with Kevin O’Reilly, then the White House director of North American Affairs for the National Security Council. The emails discussed a broad range of gun-trafficking investigations on the Southwest Border, and White House officials have since acknowledged that the cases were part of Fast and Furious.

The White House has said that O’Reilly forwarded the emails to two other White House officials — Dan Restrepo, special assistant to the president and senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the NSC, and Greg Gatjanis, director for Terrorist Finance and Counternarcotics, Counterterrorism Policy, also on the NSC.

In their letter, Issa and Grassley discussed a new email in which Newell told O’Reilly about a specific case that ATF agents had been aware of for three months involving a 22-year-old illegal gun purchaser whom the ATF allowed to buy nearly 700 firearms.

The purchaser was on food stamps and, Newell said in a follow-up email attachment to his boss, William G. McMahon, "when a 22-year-old kid on State financial assistance walks into a gun store and plops down $12,000 in cash to buy a tripod mounted .50 caliber rifle that’s a clue (even for us) that he’s involved in trafficking firearms for a Mexican DTO (cartel)."

According to Issa and Grassley, that exchange of information makes it "clear that the case Mr. Newell and Mr. O’Reilly were communicating about was Fast and Furious."

The letter requests all emails, documents, briefing papers and handwritten notes involving O’Reilly, Restrepo and Gatjanis during the Fast and Furious period, which ran for 15 months between the fall of 2009 and January 2011. The committee also wants to personally interview O’Reilly by the end of this month.

New crime tied to 'Fast & Furious'

This picture shows Peck Canyon near Nogales, Ariz. The ATF is under fire over a Phoenix-based gun-trafficking investigation called 'Fast and Furious,' in which agents allowed hundreds of guns into the hands of straw purchasers. | AP Photo
Through the program, around 2,000 weapons were allowed to be illegally purchased. | AP Photo Close
 
 
 
In the second crime in the U.S. linked to “Fast and Furious,” two Arizona undercover police officers were allegedly assaulted last year by men who had guns tied to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ botched program, according to a report Friday.

The incident occurred in the Phoenix suburbs, when the two officers attempted to stop two men in a stolen vehicle, according to a the L.A. Times said. The officers said that the suspects rammed their cars and tried to flee into the desert.


The stolen vehicle was later found to contain two firearms - a Beretta pistol and an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle - that were linked to the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program.

The alleged assault occurred in March 2010, five months after the “Fast and Furious” program began in November 2009, and nine months before the December 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Terry was killed south of Tucson in an incident where another two Fast and Furious firearms were discovered at the scene.

Officials at the ATF and the Department of Justice are currently sifting through records to see if there are more incidents that involved “Fast and Furious” firearms.

Through the program, around 2,000 weapons were allowed to be illegally purchased in the Phoenix area so that they could be tracked to gun traffickers and drug carter leaders. But the ATF lost track of the vast majority of these firearms.

The gun scandal has prompted a congressional investigation led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and a separate probe by the Justice Department’s Inspector General.
On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder for the first time denied that he and “the upper levels of the Justice Department” were aware of the program.




Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ATF scandal sends local prosecutors to Arizona

By Greg Moran, Reporter - Federal courts & Legal Affairs 


San Diego federal prosecutors will be handling some cases from the botched gun-trafficking investigation “Fast and Furious” in Arizona, perhaps including one against a Mexican man charged with murdering a Border Patrol agent with weapons connected to the controversial probe.

The Department of Justice said Wednesday that several cases tied to “Fast and Furious” will be transferred from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix to federal prosecutors in San Diego and Los Angeles.

The Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office oversaw the controversial operation, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tried to track small-time buyers suspected of buying weapons ultimately intended for Mexican drug cartels. They hoped to build a larger case against Mexican cartels and their leaders.

But the agency lost track of some 1,200 weapons, hundreds of which ended up in the hands of the cartels and many that turned up at crime scenes on both sides of the border. In December two AK-47 rifles tracked in the sting were found at the site of a shootout that claimed the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Critics in Congress and elsewhere demanded the Arizona prosecutors step aside since they had a conflict — prosecuting the cases while simultaneously defending their conduct in the operation. The Justice Department acquiesced to those demands.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in the best interests of these prosecutions, the United States Attorney’s office has asked that these cases be reassigned,” said department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.

The announcement came just days after the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, abruptly resigned amid a growing political furor. The director of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, was also reassigned.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Arizona could not say which cases would be handled by San Diego prosecutors. The Associated Press reported San Diego prosecutors would be put in charge of the case against Manuel Osorio Arellanes, who is charged with Terry’s murder. The U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego declined to discuss the case transfer.

Other cases that will be transferred involve several “straw purchasers” of guns who were arrested while the operation went on. Another case involves a U.S. citizen under arrest in Mexico on suspicion of smuggling grenade components to arm the cartels.

Attorney General Eric Holder seeks distance from gun sting

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder holds a news conference to deliver the results to date of the largest prosecution of an international criminal network organized to sexually exploit children, at the Justice Department in Washington August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON
 
(Reuters) - Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday sought to distance himself and other senior Justice Department officials from a botched operation to track guns smuggled to Mexican drug cartels, saying they were not involved.

The Obama administration has been under scrutiny after revelations that as many as 2,000 guns were sold to suspected gun traffickers, not properly tracked and ended up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico.

The operation, dubbed "Fast and Furious", was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona. Congressional Republicans have questioned who approved it and whether senior Justice Department officials were involved.

"The notion that somehow or other that this thing reaches into the upper levels of the Justice Department is something that, at this point, I don't think is supported by the facts," Holder told reporters.

The botched operation already has claimed the jobs of Ken Melson, acting director of the ATF, who was transferred to another Justice Department job, and the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, who resigned abruptly last week.

ATF officials and federal prosecutors had hoped the operation would help them follow the guns to cartel leaders. But ATF agents did not witness many of the purchases or track many of the guns after the initial purchaser resold them.

Holder questioned whether the congressional probe, led by Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate, was politically motivated.

He admitted it was a "flawed enforcement effort," but said, "my hope would be that Congress will conduct an investigation that is factually based and not marred with politics."

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley denied any partisanship to the investigation. "We need to know exactly what happened and why. Then people need to be held accountable to make sure something so stupid never happens again," he said.

Two guns from the operation were found at the scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot dead in a shootout with illegal immigrants last December.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

RUETERS WASHINGTON BUREAU 

American citizen in Mexican custody on arms-trafficking allegation

By Rafael Romo
CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor

Jean Baptiste Kingery Moinssonm



(CNN) -- Mexican authorities have an American citizen in custody who they say is suspected of trafficking firearms and grenades to a major Mexican drug cartel.

According to Mexico's attorney general's office, Jean Baptiste Kingery Moinssonm was allegedly smuggling firearm and grenade parts into the country. Once the goods were in Mexican territory, Moinssonm allegedly assembled and sold the weapons to the Sinaloa cartel.

Mexican federal police took Moinssonm into custody in Mazatlan, a beach resort in the Pacific state of Sinaloa, authorities said.

According to a news release Tuesday from the attorney general's office, Moinssonm was the target of a joint investigation by Mexico's Anti-Organized Crime Unit (SIEDO) and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on suspicion of smuggling grenade components and firearm parts through the border cities of Calexico, California; and Mexicali, Baja California.

ATF officials were not immediately available for comment on the attorney general's statement.

The statement said Moinssonm allegedly bought grenade components and firearm parts in gun shops in the United States and through the internet, and the weapons subsequently would be smuggled into Mexico for sale there.

A Mexican judge issued an arrest and search warrant targeting an address in Mazatlan, where the suspect was living. Mexican federal police said they seized a Hummer truck, three .22 caliber rifles and two collectible firearms.

Mexican federal police said they searched five other addresses in Mazatlan tied to the suspect and found an active fragmentation grenade, gunpowder, parts for high-caliber rifles, bullets and grenade parts.

Last April 13, Mexican police detained two Mexican suspects in the state of Baja California who were in possession of 192 inactive grenades, eight bullet-proof vests, and multiple firearm parts.

The two suspects detained in Baja California blew the whistle on another American citizen who was detained August 11 in Mexicali, Baja California. That suspect, identified by the Mexican attorney general's office as Habib Sayb Mujica, is being held under a 40-day detention order issued by a judge.

Tuesday's statement from the attorney general's office said Mujica gave police information later used to capture Moinssonm in Mazatlan.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New federal prosecutors called in for cases arising from flawed arms trafficking operation


WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors from Los Angeles and San Diego will take over cases arising from a flawed law enforcement operation in Arizona that is being investigated by Congress and the inspector general's office at the Justice Department.









The change comes at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, which was deeply involved with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in carrying out Operation Fast and Furious, the program aimed at taking down major arms traffickers.

A congressional investigation of the program has turned up evidence that ATF lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to the operation. Attorney General Eric Holder requested the inquiry now being conducted by the IG's office at the Justice Department.

One of the cases that the new prosecutors will handle accuses a man of second-degree murder in a shootout that left Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry dead near the Arizona-Mexico border. Two guns recovered from the scene of that shooting were involved in Operation Fast and Furious. A separate case is against 20 low-level gun buyers who were allegedly supplying weapons illicitly to major gun traffickers.

On Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the decision to switch prosecutors is clearly in the best interest of achieving just results and removes the apparent conflict of interest that Arizona prosecutors had in bringing cases from a mishandled operation. Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that is conducting the investigation of the operation.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that calling in outside prosecutors "is a step in the right direction."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Operation Fast and Furious: An Obama Foreign Policy Disconnect


During the past week, the U.S. and Colombia indicted and arrested more than 50 individuals charged with organizing maritime and aerial smuggling of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. via Central America and Mexico. The arrests again reflect the sustained nature of close law enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia. This cooperation has been nurtured patiently over more than a decade.

By stark contrast, cooperation between Washington and Mexico has been harmed as a result of Operation Fast and Furious, the botched law enforcement operation that allowed more than 2,000 guns to “walk” from straw buyers into the hands of criminals—Mexican and American. It also appears that an Arizona man believed to have supplied grenades to Mexican criminals may have slipped through the fingers of U.S. law enforcement.

As in the case of cooperation with Colombia, the rationale behind Operation Fast and Furious was to develop cross-border cooperation and prosecutions against higher-ups in criminal organizations. Defenders of Operation Fast and Furious say it was a way of getting around weak or ineffective U.S. laws regulating the sale and export of high-powered firearms, by going after gun-trafficking networks.

In a briefing paper in January 2010, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) explained:
The ultimate goal is…to identify and prosecute all co-conspirators of the DTO [Drug Trafficking Organizations] to include the 20 individual straw purchasers, the facilitators of the distribution cell centered here in Phoenix, the transportation cells taking firearms South, and ultimately to develop and provide prosecutable information to our Mexican law enforcement counterparts for actions.
Agents running the operation claimed they stood on the cutting edge of law enforcement.

Wrote a lead ATF agent, David Voth, in early 2010 to quiet doubters in the wisdom of the operation: “This is the pinnacle of U.S. law enforcement techniques. After this, the tool box is empty. Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day.”

On April 2, 2010, Voth again urged zeal in pressing ahead with the operation even when massive quantities of weapons seemed to be walking away:
Our subjects purchased 359 firearms during the month of March alone, to include numerous Barrett .50 caliber rifles. I believe we are righteous in our plan to dismantle this entire organization and to rush in to arrest any one person without taking in to account the entire scope of the conspiracy would be ill advised to the overall good of the mission.
The disconnect between “gun-walking” and effective law enforcement widened. The Mexican cooperation piece is still missing.

In hearings before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on July 27, Carlos Canino, ATF acting attaché in Mexico, painted a grim picture: “I have reason to believe that we were kept in the dark because the ATF leadership in Phoenix feared we would tell our Mexican partners.” Asked former ATF agent Darren Gil, “Why were ATF personnel in Mexico kept in the dark on this operation, which has now imperiled cooperation…at a time when that trust and cooperation is more essential than ever?”

Now it appears members of President Obama’s national security staff who deal with sensitive Mexican issues—Dan Restrepo and Kevin O’Reilly—were also in the loop but took no action. The Los Angeles Times reports that the supervisor of ATF in Phoenix “specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official.”

It is the National Security Council’s job to make sure domestic actions with foreign policy consequences—like the gun-walking of Operation Fast and Furious—are in sync with U.S. anti-crime and anti-drug efforts abroad.

As in the case of Colombia, the bottom line for Operation of Fast and Furious should have been building more effective cross-border cooperation with Mexico. Yet the opposite occurred. This foreign policy disconnect is worrisome and is another important reason for Congress to press its investigation to avoid a dangerous repeat.


Issa: 'Fast and Furious' Was a Crime

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa says federal authorities could have prevented the gunrunning operation known as “Fast and Furious,”  and if the debacle was thwarted, the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and other fatal crimes might never have happened.
 
“Well, there’s no question: Lying to Congress is a crime — telling us things that aren’t true, which have occurred are a crime — but the biggest crime was breaking faith with the American people,” Issa told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview broadcast Monday. “Now one of the biggest crimes is, if you will, a new set of rules along the border — they are forcing additional gun databases for weapons sold — justifying it based on gun violence that they helped create and that’s where you start looking and saying: I’m not going to promote a conspiracy.
 
“But you have to wonder: Couldn’t you find a better time to suggest that you need more guns reporting than when in fact we are looking at your helping so many guns promote gun violence including the loss of Brian Terry?” Issa said.
 
Issa said the technology to monitor gun shipments had existed for months before “Fast and Furious” was uncovered but went unused because the plan was to let the guns flow into Mexico so they could be tracked during drug crimes.

“Clearly that was fallacy and the arrests — the limited amounts of arrests — 19 out of 20 have been for the straw purchasers,” the California Republican said. “They never rolled up the kind of people they said they were going to because this particular program never could have lead to that.

“The FBI, the DEA and others — they don’t do business this way — this was an anomaly created maybe locally, but promoted by political appointees at a high level,’ Issa said. “They should have known better and should have never have allowed this to happen. Right now we have no faith they wouldn’t allow it to continue.”

© Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Botched U.S. Gun Smuggling Operation Let Grenades, IEDs 'Walk' Into Mexico

Grace Wyler

Amid brewing controversy over the ATF's botched Fast and Furious gunrunning operation comes new allegations that the Department of Justice also let off an Arizona man suspected of supplying grenades to Mexico's drug cartels.


The WSJ reports today that federal authorities are now investigating why the U.S. Attorney's office in Phoenix — the same office that oversaw Fast and Furious — released Jean Baptiste Kingery after he confessed to providing military-style weapons to the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Kingery, who was arrested and released in June 2010, confessed to manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using grenade components from the U.S. He also admitted to helping the cartel convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns. Mexican criminal organizations are increasingly using these military-style weapons as the cartels' escalate their wars against the government and one another.

Despite Kingery's confession, and over loud protestations from the arresting ATF officers, the U.S. Attorney's office let Kingery go within hours of his arrest.

Kingery's release is now the subject of an internal probe by the DOJ inspector general. The findings in the DOJ probe were a major catalyst in the recent staff shakeup that ousted Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennie Burke and Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson from their posts.

The Phoenix U.S. Attorney's office denies that it declined to prosecute the case, saying that it wanted to continue surveillance. The office alternatively told investigators that ATF agents wanted to make Kingery an informant, but lost contact with him within weeks of his release.

Prosecutors involved in the case also accuse ATF agents of devising a failed sting that allowed Kingery to take hundreds of grenade parts across the border in the months about six months prior to his arrest.

The Congressional Oversight Committee has also expanded its Fast and Furious investigation to include the Kingery case. The Committee is investigating who in the Obama administration knew about the gunrunning program, under which ATF agents allowed more than 2,000 guns to "walk" across the border. 
The Fast and the Furious case has escalated over the past weeks, with news that at least three White House national security officials knew about the gunrunning program.

Emails obtained by the Committee last week show contact between the head of the Phoenix ATF and Kevin O'Reilly, then-director of North American affairs, about the operation. The White House confirmed that O'Reilly briefed Dan Restrepo, senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Greg Gatjanis, director of counterterrorism and narcotics.

The emails, first reported by the LA Times, do not indicate that the White House aides knew about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns "walk." There is also no indication that the information went beyond those three officials.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Grassley questions if the White House tried to cover-up of ATF's ‘Fast & Furious’




By Erica Wisniewski - 09/02/11 02:31 PM ET

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned Friday whether high-ranking White House officials tried to cover up their knowledge of the "Fast and Furious" gun-trafficking operation.

“At the highest levels of government, who gave the OK to go ahead for this stupid operation [that] led to the death of [Border Patrol Agent Brian] Terry and who knows what else?” Grassley asked.

Grassley inquired with the Justice Department about details pertaining to a covert operation along the U.S.-Mexico border that resulted in Terry's death. The operation was nicknamed Fast and Furious because it was aimed at supplying Mexican drug cartels with U.S. guns so the cartels could be tracked by their firearms use.

Grassley spoke to Fox News via phone about developments in the case after several White House emails pertaining to the operation became public.


The Hill