TOP JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: ATF SHOULD HAVE STOPPED OBAMA'S "GUN-STALKING" TACTICS
By Jordy Yager - 11/01/11 01:36 PM ET
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said top-ranking officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) should have taken action when he told them about controversial “gun walking” used in a gun-tracking operation.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism on Tuesday, Breuer attempted to take a large portion of the blame for allowing the tactics to be used in Operation Fast and Furious, saying that he regretted not taking more action.
But Breuer — the highest level Justice Department official to admit to knowing about the “gun walking” tactics before the press exposed them — stressed to the committee’s ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) that he failed to inform Attorney General Eric Holder about the controversial methods because he had told ATF leadership of the potential problem.
Before Tuesday’s hearing, Breuer acknowledged knowing that the ATF used “gun walking” — the practice of allowing criminals to take possession of firearms — in a previous operation, Wide Receiver, under President George W. Bush’s administration from 2006 to 2007.
“I wish that at that time that I had said clearly to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general that in this case Wide Receiver, we had determined that in 2006 and 2007, guns had walked,” said Breuer in testimony before the committee.
“At the time, I thought that dealing with the leadership of ATF was sufficient and reasonable … If I had known then what I know now, I, of course, would have told the deputy and the attorney general.
“I thought we had dealt with it by talking to the ATF leadership,” he said.
While largely refraining from naming who in the ATF leadership would have been involved, Breuer indicated the former ATF deputy director William J. Hoover would have taken part in conversations about whether action should be taken with regards to the tactics.
Hoover was reassigned within the ATF in response to his involvement with the Fast and Furious Operation, which oversaw the sale of thousands of firearms in the Southwest border region to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels.
Former Acting Director of the ATF Kenneth Melson was also reassigned in August, and former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, who oversaw many of the legal aspects surrounding the operation, stepped down from office.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been investigating the botched gun tracking operation for most of the year. Issa has long pointed to Breuer as one of the top-ranking DOJ officials who knew about the controversial tactics used in Fast and Furious.
Holder is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and will likely be asked a series of detailed questions regarding his role in the operation, which may have contributed to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Holder is also scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee next month.
Fast and Furious and its predecessor Wide Receiver were launched in an attempt to track and dismantle gun trafficking routes and rings that brought firearms purchased in the U.S. into Mexico.
Breuer said about 350 guns were allowed to "walk" under Operation Wide Receiver, which resulted in nearly a dozen prosecutions and no known U.S. deaths.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday pointed to U.S. gun laws as the largest impediment to the ATF and the DOJ combating illegal firearms trafficking.
“I think this hunt for blame doesn't really speak about the problem,” said Feinstein, referring to Congress’s investigation of Fast and Furious.
“And the problem is anybody can walk in and buy anything — .50 caliber weapons, sniper weapons — buy them in large amounts, and send them down to Mexico.”
Breuer agreed and said that “the number one tool would be if ATF were given the ability to know when guns are purchased.” Breuer also recommended that Congress grant the ATF and DOJ the ability to require gun dealers who knowingly sell firearms to criminals to forfeit their weapons and inventories.
“If I go into a dealership today and I want to buy 50 or 60 semiautomatic weapons, there is nothing that requires that to be in any way notified to ATF,” said Breuer.
28 GOP Reps Join Call for Holder's Resignation
Tuesday, 01 Nov 2011 01:14 PM
By Martin Gould and Michelle Lopata
The White House is moving to shore up support for embattled Attorney General Eric Holder as calls for his resignation continue to grow in the light of the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.
Eleven Republican congressmen piled on Holder on Monday, demanding that he quit, adding to 17 others who had already said it is time for him to go.
Others held off on calling for his immediate resignation, but said he has one last chance to redeem himself, when he appears before the House judiciary committee on Dec. 8.
Holder has come under increasing fire for stonewalling on Fast and Furious.
On Monday he released 652 pages of documents to congressional committees that are probing the scandal. Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee are now combing through the documents for evidence of wrongdoing.
The documents are understood to draw a parallel between Fast and Furious and a similar scheme called Operation Wide Receiver that was in operation during the George W. Bush presidency. This is providing some cover for Holder who can claim that he wasn’t in office when such programs started.
But Grassley said, “At first glance the documents indicate that contrary to previous denials by the Justice Department, the criminal division has a great deal of culpability in sweeping the previous Operation Wide Receiver strategy under the rug and then allowing the subsequent Operation Fast and Furious to continue without asking key questions.”
Once the documents were sent to Congress it became clear that Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s criminal department, was being set up as the administration’s fall guy. Breuer admitted that he failed to connect the dots between Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious, both schemes run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
“Knowing what I now know was a pattern of unacceptable and misguided tactics used by the ATF, I regret that I did not alert others within the leadership of the Department of Justice to the tactics used in Operation Wide Receiver when they first came to my attention,” Breuer said in a statement issued after the document dump.
“When the allegations related to Operation Fast and Furious became public earlier this year, the leadership of ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona repeatedly assured individuals in the Criminal Division and the leadership of the Department of Justice that those allegations were not true,” said Breuer.
“As a result I did not draw a connection between the unacceptable tactics used by the ATF years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver and the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious, and therefore did not, at that time, alert others within Department leadership of any similarities between the two.”
Breuer described it as a “mistake” that he had not pointed out the similarities between the two gunrunning schemes, saying he did not immediately make the connection because federal prosecutors and ATF leaders in Phoenix – the epicenter of both schemes – had told him accusations about Fast and Furious were baseless.
Breuer was due to give evidence before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, keeping the spotlight on him and away from Holder. But his mea culpa failed to ease the pressure on his boss. Now a total of 28 Republicans in Congress have gone on record saying Holder must go.
Rep. Michael Grimm of New York, one of the 11 who added his voice to the growing chorus on Monday, told Newsmax, “Attorney General Holder has a repeated pattern of misleading members of Congress under oath and Fast and Furious appears to be no exception. In this case, his claims don’t add up.
“As a consequence, I believe he has lost all credibility with Congress and the American people, which is why I am calling for his resignation.”
Under Fast and Furious, ATF agents were told not to intervene to prevent guns being sold even when they suspected they would end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The plan was to track all the weapons, but hundreds went missing and have been used in hundreds of crimes south of the border and at least 12 in the United States, including the murder of border agent Brian Terry in December last year.
The scandal has already cost the jobs of acting ATF director Kenneth Melson and U.S. Attorney for the Phoenix District, Dennis Burke, and many Republicans feel that Holder has to be next.
Grimm said he found it “unbelievable” that Holder was unaware of the details of Fast and Furious. “As a former federal law enforcement agent, I take the rule of law very seriously, especially when it concerns the death of a federal agent,” said Grimm, who worked as an FBI agent for nine years.
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said Fast and Furious is the last straw and cited other reasons such as the decisions to sue states over immigration laws, failure to prosecute the New Black Panthers over voter fraud and delays in bringing the alleged 9/11 conspirators to trial, as his reason for calling for Holder’s resignation.
“The list goes on and on,” said Gohmert, who said he had also joined in the calls for the resignation of George W. Bush’s attorney general Alberto Gonzales. “This is not political. It’s simply time for him to go,” he said.
“And if Eric Holder lets Lanny Breuer take the fall for Fast and Furious that would make it even more imperative that he should go,” Gohmert told Newsmax.
Fellow Texan, Rep. Ted Poe told Newsmax, "The American people have lost confidence in the Justice Department to investigate itself. The Attorney General should resign immediately, and the President should appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Fast and Furious."
Another one of the 11, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, told the Daily Caller that Holder “owes it to the country and to the president to resign immediately.”
Grimm, Gohmert, Poe and Coffman were joined by Republican Reps. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana, Paul Broun of Georgia, John Culberson of Texas, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Sam Graves of Missouri, Andy Harris of Maryland and Randy Hultgren of Illinois in calling for Holder's resignation
Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri was one of those holding off on an immediate call for Holder to go, but he told Newsmax, “Barring any major revelation in his upcoming Congressional testimony, his resignation would go a long way in helping to restore credibility to the office he now holds.”
Holder insists he knew nothing about Fast and Furious until this spring even though five emails turned up in by the investigators show that he was told of its existence in July last year. He says he had not read the emails which were routine weekly reports sent by Michael Walther, the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center.
Read more on Newsmax.com: 28 GOP Reps Join Call for Holder's Resignation
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