By Jordy Yager - 06/29/12 08:30 PM EDT
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has revealed portions of sealed wiretap applications related to the botched gun-tracking operation “Fast and Furious.”
Issa entered the sensitive, and previously undisclosed, information into the Congressional Record on Thursday during the floor debate leading up to the passage of his resolution placing Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
During his probe of Fast and Furious as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa has focused on a series of six wiretap applications that federal officials implemented in an attempt to dismantle gun-trafficking rings in the Southwest.
The applications, which are under a federal court’s seal, were given to Issa by a mole with access to the documents. Issa has claimed they reveal that top-level Justice Department officials signed off on the documents and knew about the controversial “gun-walking” tactics used in Fast and Furious. Issa has called his source a “whistleblower” and refused to disclose his or her identity.
“The enclosed wiretap affidavit contains clear information that agents were willfully allowing known straw buyers to acquire firearms for drug cartels and failing to interdict them — in some cases even allowing them to walk to Mexico,” stated a letter Issa sent to his panel’s ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), which was put into the record on Thursday.
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“In particular, the affidavit explicitly describes the most controversial tactic of all: abandoning surveillance of known straw purchasers, resulting in the failure to interdict firearms.”
Gun “walking” occurs when a federal official allows a gun to be transferred illegally into a suspected criminals’ possession and they make no attempt to retake possession of the firearm. The tactic is at the heart of why administration and congressional officials have criticized Fast and Furious so vehemently.
Issa argued the information in the wiretap applications raises questions about whether Holder told Congress the truth. Holder has previously testified that he has reviewed the documents and concluded that nothing in them suggested senior DOJ officials should have known about the controversial tactics being employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ran the operation.
“The detailed information about the operational tactics contained in the applications raises new questions about statements of senior Justice Department officials, including the Attorney General himself,” said Issa in his May letter to Cummings.
“The affidavit reveals that the Justice Department has been misrepresenting important facts to Congress and withholding critical details about Fast and Furious from the Committee for months on end.”
Issa has been investigating Fast and Furious for 16 months, with specific emphasis on the role the DOJ played in approving the flawed operation. President Obama and Holder have repeatedly said they didn’t know about the “gun walking” tactics until after an ATF agent made news of them public.
In testimony before the House Rules Committee this week, Issa told lawmakers that he had no evidence that Holder was responsible for Fast and Furious. But on Thursday, the California Republican successfully passed civil and criminal resolutions placing Holder in contempt for not responding to a congressional subpoena for documents.
Issa has demanded the DOJ to turn over internal communications over a 10-month period that detailed how the department realized that the ATF had let guns “walk” after stating in a letter to Congress that it made every attempt to stop them.
According to one of the wiretap applications, which included lengthy transcriptions of conversations between alleged straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels, a suspect told an associate over the phone: “Can you hold them [firearms] for me there for a little while there?”
The associate responded, “Well it's that I do not want to have them at home, dude, because there is a lot of … uh, it's too much heat at my house.”
The news about Issa's entry into the Congressional Record was first reported by Roll Call.
— This story was updated at 5:12 p.m.