Top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa released emails at the outset of his hearing on the Justice Department’s “Operation Fast and Furious” showing two high-ranking officials were “briefed weekly” on the apparently reckless investigative strategy.
Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Billy Hoover, deputy director at ATF, were “being briefed weekly” on “Fast and Furious,” says a March 10, 2010 email from a top aide to the two.
The emails are the most direct evidence yet of intimate involvement in the operation by top Justice Department officials and make it unlikely such officials were ignorant about the details of the operation when the Justice Department initially denied assault guns were knowingly allowed to escape into the clutches of Mexican drug cartels.
A second email shows William McMahon, deputy assistant director for field operations at ATF, was given an in-person briefing on the program in Phoenix, AZ on April 13, 2010.
A third email shows a series of detailed answers to questions from Melson, ATF’s acting director.
Issa noted in the hearing Melson asked for the “IP numbers for surveillance cameras in Phoenix being used to monitor the illegal purchases of weapons.
Melson was “able to sit at a desk in Washington and watch a live feed of ‘straw’ buyers purchasing dozens of AK-47 variants,” Issa said.
At Issa’s hearing Wednesday, four ATF agents are testifying about “Fast and Furious,” saying hundreds of weapons -– including assault rifles and military grade sniper weapons -– were allowed to escape into the clutches of Mexican drug cartels in an apparently reckless investigative strategy.
Unlike normal practice, the agents say, as they watched weapons purchased illegally en route to criminal networks they were instructed not to stop the purchasers and seize the weapons.
The goal of the operation was to track the weapons into the larger criminal networks to understand how weapons smuggling was happening.
But “Fast and Furious” was halted in the aftermath of Border Agent Brian Terry’s murder. Two weapons involved in “Fast and Furious” were found at the site of Terry’s murder.