The latest congressional report on Operation Fast and Furious found that the gunwalking-program-turned-scandal was the result of a “deliberate strategy created at the highest levels of the Justice Department aimed at identifying the leaders of a major gun trafficking ring.”
The report is the second installment in a three-part series from Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley and House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa.
That “deliberate strategy,” congressional investigators argue, sprang from “a series of speeches about combating violence along the Southwest border” that Attorney General Eric Holder delivered shortly after taking office.
“Although [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] ATF did not officially open the Fast and Furious investigation until the fall of 2009, the groundwork for the strategy that would guide the operation began shortly after new leadership took control of the Department of Justice nine months earlier,” the report reads. “On February 25, 2009, just one month after Attorney General Eric Holder took office, he gave a speech noting the danger of the Mexican drug cartels, focusing on the Sinaloa cartel in particular.”
On Feb. 25, 2009, Holder said the drug cartels “are lucrative, they are violent, and they are operated with stunning planning and precision” and, under his leadership, he promised “these cartels will be destroyed.”
A little more than a month later, on April 2, 2009 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, congressional investigators say Holder “gave further insight into the department’s new strategy for combating these dangerous cartels.”
“He spoke about the development of a prosecution and enforcement strategy with respect to firearms trafficking, noting that the ‘administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels,’” the report reads. “In particular, the attorney general said that the Justice Department was committed to adding ‘100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest Border’ and that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would add ‘16 new positions on the border.’ Most importantly, the attorney general noted that there must be ‘an attack in depth, on both sides of the border, that focuses on the leadership and assets of the cartel.’”
Shortly after that April 2, 2009 speech by Holder, congressional investigators say “a Firearms Trafficking Working Group was formed.” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the head of DOJ’s Criminal Division, led the working group. It was tasked with “exploring and recommending proposals to enhance law enforcement efforts to curb firearms trafficking, focusing specifically on investigation, interdiction, training, prosecution, and intelligence-sharing.”
Later, on June 30, 2009, congressional investigators say Deputy Attorney General David Ogden argued that the border between the U.S. and Mexico was the “front line” to fight firearms trafficking. The report lays out how Ogden “also said that ATF and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would sign a new agreement to ‘ensure coordination between the departments on firearms investigations.’”
Then, on Aug. 19, 2009, that working group presented its recommendations to Holder in a memo. “The recommendations section of this August 2009 memo included many of the previous public comments by Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Ogden,” the congressional report says of that memo.
“The document went on to recommend “intelligence-based, prosecutor-led, multi-agency task forces,’” congressional investigators write. “It suggested that under its new model, ‘we develop priority targets through the extensive use of intelligence,’ which would allow it to ‘build cases, coordinating long-term, extensive investigations to identify all the tentacles of a particular organization.’”