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Posts tagged ‘Operation Fast and Furious’

Brian Terry’s Final Moments Detailed in Court Papers.


A slain federal agent’s last moments alive after a face-off with bandits in a dry, desert creek in southern Arizona have come to light as federal prosecutors prepare to sentence one of the Mexican nationals at the scene.

Border Patrol agent Brian Terry died in a shoot-out with drug cartel gunmen in December 2010 in a case tied to a flawed bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gun-running operation known as “Fast and Furious” that embarrassed the Obama administration and strained relations with Mexico.

Documents filed by prosecutors in U.S. District Court on Monday paint the clearest picture yet of Terry’s final moments and his death’s links to “Fast and Furious,” which allowed some 2,000 weapons to slip into Mexico from the United States.

“I’m hit!” Terry yelled after being struck, according to a declaration filed by fellow Border Patrol agent William Castano.

Castano said in the declaration that Terry did not know where he had been struck but said: “I can’t feel my legs. I’m paralyzed!”

“Agent Terry soon lost consciousness and died at the scene,” Castano said in the declaration, adding that he rushed to render first aid but to no avail.

The bungled operation, triggered by gun purchases made in the Phoenix area, was envisioned as a way to track weapons from the buyers to senior drug cartel members.

Federal agents who ran the operation focused on building cases against the leaders of a trafficking ring, and did not pursue low-level buyers of those firearms.

Two of those guns were discovered at Terry’s murder scene, but it was not clear if the fatal bullets came from the weapons. The court documents offer no answer.

Prosecutors revealed a glimpse into what happened that night north of Nogales, Ariz., some 11 miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border, as part of the case against Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October 2012 in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.

Osorio-Arellanes is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday. Prosecutors are asking that he receive 30 years in prison. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Four other men have been charged in the slain border agent’s death. Two have been arrested and await extradition, two others remain at large.

In court papers, prosecutors said that Terry and three other agents were stationed atop a small hill above a dry creek, in an area well-known for so-called “rip crews” who steal drug loads and rob illegal entrants. A ground sensor was tripped.

Soon the agents could see multiple people coming at them, some toting weapons in the “ready” position, documents showed. The two sides exchanged fire as the border bandits passed through the area and agents announced their presence.

“A single bullet fired by the co-defendants struck Agent Terry,” prosecutors wrote.

Osorio-Arellanes was struck in the torso, while the others fled back to Mexico. An assault rifle was found next to Osorio-Arellanes, who has consistently denied firing any shots.

He said another member of the group fired the fatal shots.

The encounter came less than an hour before the agents were to be relieved for the night, said Castano, in documents filed along with the other two agents at the scene.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Fast and Furious Scandal: New Details Emerge on How the U.S. Government Armed Mexican Drug Cartels.


Pools Of Blood On The Streets Of Villas De Salvarcar After A Massacre In Which Operation Fast And Furious Guns Were Allegedly Used
Univision Investigation Reveals Additional Weapons Found In Fast And Furious Scandal
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On January 30, 2010, a commando of at least 20 hit men parked themselves outside a birthday party of high school and college students in Villas de Salvarcar, Ciudad Juarez. Near midnight, the assassins, later identified as hired guns for the Mexican cartel La Linea, broke into a one-story house and opened fire on a gathering of nearly 60 teenagers. Outside, lookouts gunned down a screaming neighbor and several students who had managed to escape. Fourteen young men and women were killed, and 12 more were wounded before the hit men finally fled.

Indirectly, the United States government played a role in the massacre by supplying some of the firearms used by the cartel murderers. Three of the high caliber weapons fired that night in Villas de Salvarcar were linked to a gun tracing operation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), according to a Mexican army document obtained exclusively by Univision News.

Univision News identified a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation Fast and Furious, and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings, and at least one other massacre.

Pools Of Blood On The Streets Of Villas De Salvarcar After A Massacre In Which Operation Fast And Furious Guns Were Allegedly Used
Univision
Pools Of Blood On The Streets Of Villas De… View Full Size

As part of Operation Fast and Furious, ATF allowed 1,961 guns to “walk” out of the U.S. in an effort to identify the high profile cartel leaders who received them. The agency eventually lost track of the weapons, and they often ended up in the hands of Mexican hit men , including those who ordered and carried out the attack on Salvarcar and El Aliviane, a rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez where 18 young men were killed on September 2, 2009.

In Mexico, the timing of the operation coincided with an upsurge of violence in the war among the country’s strongest cartels. In 2009, the northern Mexican states served as a battlefield for the Sinaloa and Juarez drug trafficking organizations, and as expansion territory for the increasingly powerful Zetas. According to documents obtained by Univision News, from October of that year to the end of 2010, nearly 175 weapons from Operation Fast and Furious inadvertently armed the various warring factions across northern Mexico.

“Many weapons cross the border and enter Mexico, but that [Fast and Furious] number, quantity and type of weapons had quite an impact in the war in this area” Jose Wall, an ATF agent stationed in Tijuana from 2009 to 2011, told Univision News.

Following the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry at the hands of Mexican bandits on December 14, 2010, media and Congressional investigations prompted hearings. On September 20, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report, which opened the door for sanctions of 14 ATF and DOJ officials.

In Washington, the Fast and Furious scandal became politicized, diverting the attention from the human cost in Mexico to political battles on Capitol Hill. In June, a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt ignored the real tragedy in Mexico.

“Americans are not often moved by the pain of those outside [their country]…” Javier Sicilia, a Mexican poet whose son was killed in the midst of the violence, told Univision News. “But they are moved by the pain of their own. Well, turn around and watch the massacres.”

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By GERARDO REYES and SANTIAGO WILLS

57 Previously Undiscovered Fast and Furious Guns Used in Mexican Crimes.


Univision found new evidence of weapons linked to ?Fast and Furious Operation? used in Mexican crime scenes.
Univision Investigation Reveals Additional Weapons Found In Fast And Furious Scandal
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Fifty seven previously unidentified firearms linked to Operation Fast and Furious were recovered in sites associated with murders, kidnappings, and at least two gruesome massacres.

Univision News obtained the list of Fast and Furious weapons and a list containing almost 60,000 recovered firearms compiled by Mexico‘s Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA). A cross-reference of the serial numbers of the guns resulted in 96 full matches (several partial matches were discarded). The 96 firearms linked to Operation Fast and Furious all turned up at crime scenes in Mexico from 2009 to 2010.

In a report published on July 26, Congress mentioned there were “at least 48 recoveries involving 122 weapons [in Mexico] connected to Operation Fast and Furious.” To check whether those were the same guns pinpointed by the data cross-reference, Univision News contacted congressional investigators asking for the serial numbers of the 122 guns in Congress’ report. After an initial request by Univision News in mid-September and despite numerous phone calls and emails, there was no further response.

Univision found new evidence of weapons linked to ?Fast and Furious Operation? used in Mexican crime scenes.
The Associated Press
Univision found new evidence of weapons… View Full Size
Who are the human faces of the U.S. government’s botched Fast and Furious gun-walking operation?Watch Video

Univision News then gathered all the serial numbers available in the evidence appendixes of the major congressional investigation released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley last July. Another data analysis showed that five of the weapons in the list of 96 were already mentioned in the hundreds of emails and the 4473 forms that the Department of Justice had given to Congress. (The 4473 forms, also known as Firearm Transaction Records, are the documents that people who are purchasing guns from a Federal Firearm Licensee must fill.)

A search of SEDENA’s press releases, which often include the serial numbers of seized firearms, resulted in one more firearm whose serial number matched one of those already in Congress’ list.

Finally, Univision News compared the recovery dates and locations highlighted in The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence, with those found in the remaining list of 90 weapons. For the cross-reference list and Congress’ list, we divided each year’s recovered guns by state. After that, we compared the number of weapons found in each state on both lists. That is, we compared the number of guns recovered, say, in 2009 in Baja California, according to lists by Congress and by Univision News.

For instance, if Congress had identified seven Fast and Furious weapons recovered in Baja California in 2009, and our list mentioned 24, then we concluded that our list included at least 17 new weapons. In the end, the state-by-state analysis showed that 57 of the firearms in the cross-reference were not included in Congress’ report.

Univision News started looking for unreported Fast and Weapons after discovering a SEDENA document, which said that three guns from an ATF gun-tracing operation were used in the massacre in Villas de Salvarcar, Ciudad Juarez.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

BY GERARDO REYES and SANTIAGO WILLS

Obama Flat-Out LIES About ‘Fast And Furious’ Tries Blaming Bush.


Asked about the Fast and Furious program at the Univision forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush.

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said.

“When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned a inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”

In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.

Previous programs involving ATF agents allowing guns to “walk” across the border so as to trace them were run during the Bush presidency, but not this particular “field-initiated program.”

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment after the falsehood was pointed out to them.

As for President Obama’s discussion about the Justice Department Inspector General’s report on Fast and Furious, it’s true the Inspector General “concluded that although Attorney General Holder was notified immediately of (Border Patrol) Agent (Brian) Terry’s shooting and death, he was not told about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious.

We determined that Attorney General Holder did not learn of that fact until sometime in 2011, after he received Sen. Grassley’s January 27 letter. Senior Department officials were aware of this significant and troubling information by December 17, 2010, but did not believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding this development.”

But this was not entirely an exoneration of the Justice Department run by Mr. Holder. “We found it troubling that a case of this magnitude, and one that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General,” the report stated.

In addition to specific disciplinary measures, the Inspector General “made six recommendations designed to increase the Department’s involvement in and oversight of ATF operations, improve coordination among the Department’s law enforcement components, and enhance the Department’s wiretap application review and authorization process. The OIG intends to closely monitor the department’s progress in implementing these recommendations.” source – Yahoo News

 by NTEB News Desk

‘Fast and Furious’ Probe Clears Holder, Faults ATF and Justice.


  • 'Fast and Furious' Probe Clears Holder, Faults ATF and Justice (ABC News)Enlarge PhotoABC OTUS News – ‘Fast and Furious’ Probe Clears Holder, Faults ATF and Justice (ABC News)

Operation “Fast and Furious,” the controversial undercover operation that allowed U.S. guns to be walked into Mexico, was a “risky strategy” that did not “adequately take into account the significant danger to public safety that it created.”

That was the conclusion today from the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, after an investigation that spanned more than a year and a half.

The OIG investigation found that Attorney General Eric Holder was not aware of the strategy and tactics used in “Fast and Furious,” and turned up no evidence that Holder or other top DOJ officials tried to cover up the operation, or mislead Congress about it. Holder was held in contempt of Congress earlier this year for allegedly withholding documents about DOJ’s “Fast and Furious” investigation from congressional investigators.

In a statement today, Holder said, “It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations — accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion.”

The political combat triggered by the flawed undercover operation played out in a series of contentious hearings on Capitol Hill in the past year. Behind the battles, the OIG found, was an undercover operation to catch gun-runners on the Southwest border that quickly turned bad.

Some of the 2,000 guns that made their way into Mexico as a result of “Operation Fast and Furious” were later recovered at crime scenes, including two found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

The “Fast and Furious” strategy called for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to conduct surveillance and review phone and financial records to track guns they believed to be going to Mexican drug lords, who could then be arrested. But ATF lost track of most of the guns, few arrests were made, and yet “the purchasing activity by Operation Fast and Furious subjects continued unabated, individuals who had engaged in serious and dangerous criminal conduct remained at large, and the public was put in harm’s way.”

The OIG investigation “revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and at the Headquarters of the Department of Justice.”

The report also details serious mistakes in DOJ’s response to congressional inquiries about “Fast and Furious.”

The Inspector General‘s review has recommended 14 Justice Department and ATF officials for disciplinary and administrative review, including the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

As a result of the OIG findings, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned his post today. The OIG report charged that Weinstein, a senior aide to Breuer, did not adequately share critical information about “Fast and Furious,” and its predecessor operation, “Wide Receiver,” with top DOJ officials.

Because that information did not reach the attorney general, more aggressive oversight of the operation did not occur, and misinformation was passed on to Congress, according to the OIG report. Weinstein and his attorney vigorously denied any wrongdoing, saying Weinstein did not receive the key information he needed from the agents carrying out the operation. The former acting director ofATF during the operation, Kenneth Melson, today retired from the Department of Justice, effective immediately.

The report was highly critical of William Newell, the former special agent in charge of the Phoenix field office. “Newell also bore ultimate responsibility for the failures in Operation Fast and Furious,” the review found, citing his leadership position and involvement in the case.

Newell is working at ATF Headquarters in Washington.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the leading congressional critics of DOJ’s handing of “Fast and Furious,” issued a statement today, saying, “Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters. And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General. It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious.”

The OIG report also detailed the mistakes that lead to the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry: “On January 16, 2010, one of the straw purchasers purchased three AK-47 style rifles from a Phoenix-area gun store. ATF agents learned about that purchase 3 days later and, consistent with the investigative strategy in the case, made no effort to locate (the purchaser) or seize the rifles although ATF had identified the suspect in November 2009. Two of the three rifles purchased by (the suspect) on January 16 were recovered 11 months later at the scene of the murder of Agent Terry, who was shot and killed on December 14, 2010, as he tried to arrest persons believed to be illegally entering the United States … “

The day after Agent Terry’s death, ATF agents arrested that suspect, Jaime Avila, and later 20 more alleged gun buyers and traffickers. As of Sept. 1, 2012, 14 defendants, including Avila, had entered guilty pleas to one or more counts of the indictment. In all, “Fast and Furious” identified more than 40 subjects believed to be connected to a trafficking conspiracy responsible for purchasing more than 2,000 firearms for about $1.5 million in cash. The vast majority of the firearms purchased by Operation Fast and Furious subjects were AK-47 style rifles and FN Herstal 5.7 caliber pistols.

The OIG report also noted, “what began as an important and promising investigation of serious firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border that was developed through the efforts of a short-staffed ATF enforcement group quickly grew into an investigation that lacked realistic objectives, did not have appropriate supervision within ATF or the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and failed to adequately assess the public safety consequences of not stopping or controlling the alarming purchasing activity.”

The report indicates that the OIG reviewed more than 100,000 documents and interviewed more than 130 witnesses, many on multiple occasions.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said, “We operated with complete and total independence in our search for the truth, and the decision about what to cover in this report and the conclusions that we reached were made solely by me and my office.”

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By PIERRE THOMAS, JACK CLOHERTY and JASON RYAN | ABC OTUS News

Feds name 4 suspects linked to Fast and Furious.


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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities made a rare disclosure Monday linked to the botched gun-smuggling investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious, revealing identities and requesting the public’s help in capturing four fugitives accused in the shooting death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent 18 months ago.

The announcement comes in the wake of pressure from U.S. House Republicans who led a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, criticizing the nation’s top prosecutor for withholding information related to the probe.

“We believe it’s in the best interest of this ongoing investigation to unseal the case at this point in time and to enlist the assistance of the general publics in both Mexico and the United States,” said federal prosecutor Laura Duffy. She said the decision to release the information came independently and would not discuss the recent congressional action against Holder.

Operation Fast and Furious was launched in 2009 to catch trafficking kingpins, but federal agents lost track of most of the weapons they were trying to trace. Some of the guns purchased illegally with the government’s knowledge were later found at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S.

Critics have hammered federal authorities for allowing informants to walk away from Phoenix-area gun shops with weapons, rather than immediately arresting suspects and seizing firearms.

Since the fatal shootout near the U.S.-Mexico line in December 2010, deep flaws in the government’s weapons trafficking case have come to light, and federal authorities have repeatedly declined to disclose information related to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, such as what became of the gun used to kill him.

Operation Fast and Furious focused on an accused smuggling ring suspected of purchasing guns for the brutal Sinaloa cartel.

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents lost track of about 1,400 of the more than 2,000 weapons — including AK-47s and other high-powered assault rifles — which authorities believed were headed for drug cartels in Mexico.

Smuggling operations often seek out firearms in the U.S. because they have limited access to weapons in Mexico, due in part to very restrictive laws there.

Border bandits have operated in the region for decades, running weapons and drugs and robbing and sexually assaulting illegal immigrants.

The release of the suspects’ identities in a newly unsealed indictment Monday came with the offer of a $1 million reward for information leading to their capture.

It marked the first time all five people accused of being involved in the shooting were named by authorities.

The FBI says it is seeking information related to 31-year-old Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, 34-year-old Ivan Soto-Barraza, 34-year-old Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza.

Portillo-Meza’s age and birthplace were unavailable. The other three fugitives were born in Mexico, but their hometowns were not available.

Authorities had previously released the identity of the fifth suspect, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, of El Fuerte in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. His age was not immediately available.

All five have been charged with murder. They also face charges of assaulting four federal agents.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since the night of the shooting. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was shot during the gunfight. He told investigators that he raised his weapon toward the agents during the shootout but didn’t fire, the FBI said in records.

FBI agents declined to discuss which fugitive is suspected of firing the shot that killed Terry. They also would not comment on whether the weapon was linked to an Operation Fast and Furious purchase.

Much of the information in the Manuel Osorio-Arellanes case has been kept from public view after a judge sealed records in spring 2011. Six news organizations, including The AP, asked for the documents to be uncovered, and earlier this year prosecutors agreed.

However, the information released has revealed little about the circumstances of Terry’s death.

The indictment unsealed Monday says the five men, plus another who faces lesser charges in the case, came to the U.S. from Mexico in order to rob marijuana smugglers.

The other suspect, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, was in custody before the shootout. He does not face murder charges.

The disclosures are among the few details released by authorities despite repeated requests from congressional leaders and news organizations, including The Associated Press. The FBI, ATF, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have all denied Freedom of Information Act requests that seek reports and other documents in the investigation of the shooting.

FBI Special Agent James Turgal said in announcing the reward that “we stand in support of the Terry family and our partners in Border Patrol.”

Patrick McGroder, an attorney for the Terry family, said in a statement that Monday’s information shows that the prosecution is moving forward, but efforts to hold federal officials accountable for the flawed investigation remain stalled.

McGroder says Holder’s office should release the documents sought by members of Congress.

Agent Terry “and his family rightly deserve a full and thorough explanation of how Operation Fast and Furious came to be,” McGroder said.

The information released Monday was the first update in the case since the contempt vote against Holder in June.

Also, it was the first public development in the case since April when a straw buyer who purchased two rifles found at the scene of the shootout pleaded guilty to firearms charges. Jaime Avila faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in September.

So far, 11 people in what the government says was a 20-member smuggling ring have pleaded guilty to various charges.

Terry, a former Marine and Michigan police officer, was part of an elite squad similar to a police SWAT team that was sent to the remote areas north of Nogales known for border crime, drug smuggling and violence.

___

Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud contributed from Phoenix.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Associated PressBy WHITNEY PHILLIPS | Associated Press

Holder: GOP has made me a ‘proxy’ to attack Obama.


(AFP Photo/Chris Graythen) Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the media following …In his first interview since the House of Representatives voted to hold him in contempt of Congress on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder told the Washington Post that Republicans have made him a “proxy” to attack President Barack Obama.

“I’ve become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken,” Holder told the paper. “I am also a proxy for the president in an election year. You have to be exceedingly naive to think that vote was about . . . documents.”

The contempt vote against Holder was over the Justice Department’s decision not to turn over documents tied to the failed Fast and Furious gun-walking operation. It was the first time a Cabinet member was held in contempt of Congress.

Holder also told the Post that he was angry, but not surprised, by the vote. But he said he’s not considering stepping down because of it.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Laura E. Davis, Yahoo! News | The Ticket 

White House denies Fast and Furious ‘cover up,’ Obama has ‘full confidence’ in Holder.


President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder (Susan Walsh/AP)

President Barack Obama has “full confidence” in Attorney General Eric Holder, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday, brushing aside a growing Republican chorus of calls for the nation’s top law-enforcement official to resign or be ousted over the botched Fast and Furious gun-smuggling investigation.

And Carney flatly denied that Obama had invoked executive privilege in order to hide damning documents from Republicans in Congress. “This is entirely about principle,” he told reporters at his daily briefing.

The spokesman accused Republicans of using the failed operation to “damage the president politically” and said the escalating constitutional conflict was “political theater.”

“What this is about, after all this time and all these documents and all the testimony, is an attempt to score political points,” Carney said. “It is this approach I think that explains at least in part why this Congress has the lowest public approval ratings of any in memory, if not history. So that is our view of the matter.”

On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted straight down party lines to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding documents related to the Justice Department’s handling of the operation’s aftermath. Obama invoked executive privilege to shield the documents from Congress. And Republican House Speaker John Boehner said the full House of Representatives would vote next week on the issue unless an accommodation can be found.

“We have been and will continue to be engaged in an effort to resolve this, and await a demonstration of an interest to resolve this in a way that isn’t all about political theater,” Carney said.

If the full House approves finding Holder in contempt, the matter would be referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. That is unlikely. But the House could take the Administration to court over the issue, which could land the volatile dispute before the Supreme Court. In the past, such constitutional disputes have been settled with compromises hashed out behind closed doors.

In invoking executive privilege, the Administration asserted that giving lawmakers the requested documents would compromise ongoing investigations and reveal internal executive-branch deliberations. The latter argument turns on the idea that future officials will not offer their best, candid advice to future attorneys general or presidents if they worry that their views can easily be made public. Republicans have darkly insinuated that Obama must be involved, but have provided no evidence for that charge. Past presidents have invoked executive privilege — though not always successfully — to shield internal documents not directly tied to the White House.

The Fast and Furious operation, run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), aimed to track the flow of guns from the United States into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. But many firearms went missing and two turned up at the scene of the killing of Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Both political parties agree that Fast and Furious is a stain on the ATF.

But Republicans have accused Holder of misleading them on what he knew about the operation and when. The Justice Department has already had to retract some misleading information it provided to Congress about Fast and Furious. But the attorney general has blamed Republicans for playing politics by rejecting his offers to make available some of the requested materials. And Obama has rejected Republican calls to dismiss Holder.

Carney worked hard Thursday to distance the White House from Fast and Furious. On five occasions, he noted that the operation had begun in the “field,” not Washington. He also insisted that the “tactic” known as gun-walking had originated under President George W. Bush (the operation itself began in late 2009, under Obama).

“The problem of gunwalking was a field-driven tactic that dated back to the previous administration, and it was this administration’s Attorney General who ended it,” Carney said at one point.

The spokesman said Americans hoped for action from lawmakers to help create jobs. “They do not expect Congress to waste time on politically motivated fishing expeditions, which this has clearly become,” he said.

Carney also noted that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General was conducting an independent investigation into Fast and Furious.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News | The Ticket

Boehner takes hard line on Holder contempt vote.


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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner demanded Thursday that the Obama administration give in and turn over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation, insisting that’s the only way to stop a House vote to hold the attorney general in contempt.

Boehner took a hard line against the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder despite a willingness by House Republicans and Holder to negotiate a settlement before the matter becomes a constitutional crisis. The president has invoked executive privilege, a legal principle used to avoid disclosure of internal presidential documents.

While a confrontation between the legislative and executive branches of government would be an academic dispute to most voters, Boehner on Thursday injected a human element into the battle over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. He said the family of slain border agent Brian Terry deserved answers about the guns that killed him.

Two guns that were allowed to “walk” from Arizona to Mexico in the failed effort to track weapons were found near Terry after he was killed.

“The Terry family deserves answers about why their son was killed as a result of an operation run by the United States government,” Boehner told his weekly news conference.

During the year and a half investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Justice Department turned over 7,600 documents about details of Operation Fast and Furious. But because the department initially denied and then admitted it used a risky investigative technique known as “gun-walking,” the committee has turned its attention to how the department responded to the investigation. The additional documents it seeks are about that topic.

Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency’s usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers who had long eluded prosecution and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking has long been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level “straw purchaser” was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.

The agents in Arizona lost track of several hundred weapons in Operation Fast and Furious.

Boehner renewed his allegation that President Barack Obama’s decision to assert executive privilege to withhold the documents “is an admission the White House officials were involved in the decision that misled the Congress and covered up the truth.”  In fact, historically, several presidents have invoked executive privilege over Cabinet department documents that did not directly involve White House officials.

In an election year, each party leveled charges against the other.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Republicans of pursuing Holder to retaliate against his effort to stop suppression of voters in the upcoming elections. “I’m telling you, this is connected,” she told reporters.

In an effort to back up her assertion, Pelosi’s office emailed Democratic reports from 2007, when the party accused Republicans of an ongoing effort to deprive people of the right to vote.

Meanwhile, the liberal People for the American Way distributed a video in which Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested a motive for the Obama administration’s initial support of the gun-walking fiasco.

“Could it be that what they really were thinking of was in fact to use this walking of guns in order to promote an assault weapons ban?” said Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Many think so. And they haven’t come up with an explanation that would cause any of us not to agree,” Issa said.

Issa commented in an interview during the National Rifle Association convention in April.

His spokesman, Frederick Hill, said, “Emails from officials who worked on Fast and Furious clearly show that they wanted to use aspects of the operation to justify new restrictions on gun sales.” Hill provided several documents on the subject from Fast and Furious officials.

Holder, in Copenhagen, Denmark, for meetings with European Union officials, said Thursday the administration had given the committee a proposal to negotiate an end to the conflict.

“I think the possibility still exists that it can happen in that way,” Holder said. “The proposal that we have made is still there. The House, I think, the House leadership, has to consider now what they will do, so we’ll see how it works out.”

But he called the contempt vote “unwarranted, unnecessary and unprecedented.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said there was “absolutely” no cover-up on the Fast and Furious controversy. He said executive privilege was asserted only on internal deliberations and “that is separate from trying to find out the truth about this operation.”

Democrats contended that a 23-17 party-line contempt vote in the House Oversight committee Wednesday was just political theater.

On Tuesday, Holder offered to give lawmakers a briefing on the withheld documents but insisted that this action satisfy Issa’s subpoena for the records and negate the need for a contempt vote.

Boehner on Thursday rejected Holder’s approach.

“The negotiation that was proposed by the attorney general is, we should accept some documents of his choosing and, as a result of him turning over some documents of his choosing, that we would never ever pursue contempt,” Boehner said. “Now this is not hardly a rational basis for a negotiation, nor is it a reasonable attempt at turning over the documents we’ve been asking for.”

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Associated PressBy LARRY MARGASAK | Associated Press 

Obama invokes executive privilege as Holder faces contempt vote.


Click image to see more photos. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill. (Susan Walsh/AP)

President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege on Wednesday for the first time since taking office to withhold certain Justice Department documents tied to the flawed “Operation Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling investigation from lawmakers demanding them. Obama’s 11th-hour decision, revealed in a letter from the Justice Department to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, did not derail the California Republican’s plans to hold a vote declaring Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

“I write now to inform you that the President has asserted executive privilege” over the documents, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told Issa in a letter released by the White House.

“Although we are deeply disappointed that the Committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the Department remains willing to work with the Committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues,” Cole wrote in the letter.

[Related: Reaction fast, furious over Obama decision]

Issa read from Cole’s letter as his committee opened the hearing, and said he was “evaluating” the situation but would not hold off on the contempt vote. If the panel votes to hold Holder in contempt, it could lead to a full House vote on the issue, which would refer the matter to a Justice Department prosecutor. The attorney general had recently warned of a “constitutional conflict” on the issue.

Obama’s decision is sure to ramp up election-year political warfare between the president and his Republican critics in Congress, and the fight could conceivably land in the Supreme Court.

Issa met with Holder late Tuesday to find a last-minute path out of the expanding constitutional conflict, but said afterward that they had failed to reach a satisfactory arrangement regarding lawmakers’ access to documents connected to Fast and Furious. The operation aimed to track the flow of guns from the United States into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, but many firearms went missing and two turned up at the scene of the killing of Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Republicans have accused Holder of misleading them on what he knew about the operation and when. The attorney general has blamed Republicans for playing politics by rejecting his offers to make some of the materials available. Obama has rejected Republican calls to dismiss Holder.

The White House, in an email to reporters announcing the move, noted that Obama’s Republican predecessor President George W. Bush had invoked executive privilege six times, and former President Bill Clinton relied on the doctrine 14 times. Republicans hit back by sending reporters a snippet from a March 2007 interview in which Obama condemned the Bush administration’s use of executive privilege “every time there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place” and urged that administration to “come clean.”

By invoking executive privilege, the administration is essentially asserting a right to withhold documents that Issa’s committee has sought using a congressional subpoena. The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that the privilege has its roots in the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. At issue is whether disclosing the documents could imperil ongoing investigations or reveal internal deliberations—something officials of both parties have warned could make it hard for future officials to offer candid advice for fear it could be made public.

“In brief, the compelled production to Congress of these internal Executive Branch documents generated in the course of the deliberative process concerning the Department’s response to congressional oversight and related media inquiries would have significant, damaging consequences,” Cole wrote to Issa.

“As I explained at our meeting yesterday, it would inhibit the candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight,” Cole said.

“Such compelled disclosure would be inconsistent with the separation of powers established in the Constitution and would potentially create an imbalance in the relationship between these two co-equal branches of the Government,” the deputy attorney general wrote to Issa.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner‘s office seized on Obama’s decision, arguing that it suggested White House involvement in a “cover-up” of the errors in Fast and Furious.

“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,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.

“The Administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?” Buck said in a statement emailed to reporters.

But that’s not necessarily true. Holder, who wrote to Obama asking him to invoke executive privilege, made no mention of any involvement by the White House in Fast and Furious, which was run out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona. And an Obama administration official shared a list of “examples of assertions of executive privilege not involving presidential communications” dating back to former President Ronald Reagan‘s October 1981 decision to do so in connection to internal Interior Department deliberations about the Mineral Lands Leasing Act.

And White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Republicans in Congress of neglecting efforts to spur job growth in favor of pursuing “a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election-year fishing expedition.”

“Given the economic challenges facing the country, we believe that House Republicans should work with the rest of Congress and the president to create more jobs, not more political theater,” Pfeiffer said in an emailed statement.

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Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News | The Ticket 

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