The overflowing mailbox of Attorney General Eric Holder includes a few interesting letters from Congress.
One of them comes from Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who represents the 9th Congressional District, right next to Tampa. Bilirakis wants to know more about “Operation Castaway,” the latest revelation in the Gun Walker saga of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The Congressman writes:
In recent days, it has come to light that the ATF and DOJ may have participated in the act of “gun walking” beyond the acts conducted within the scope of “Operation Fast and Furious.” Recent reports have suggested that Project Gunrunner may not have been limited to weapons trafficking to Mexico and that similar programs included the possible trafficking of arms to dangerous criminal gangs in Honduras with the knowledge of the ATF’s Tampa Field Division, and the Department of Justice’s Middle District of Florida through an operation known as “Operation Castaway.
As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I find it troubling that the United States government would willfully allow weapons to be acquired by dangerous criminal and drug trafficking organizations, in direct contravention to our strategic and national interests.
Bilirakis is not exaggerating when he talks about “dangerous criminal gangs.” The Honduras connection might have put Gun Walker weapons into the hands of MS-13, widely considered one of the most vicious and powerful gangs in the world. Here is how the FBI describes them:
They perpetrate violence – from assaults to homicides, using firearms, machetes, or blunt objects – to intimidate rival gangs, law enforcement, and the general public. They often target middle and high school students for recruitment. And they form tenuous alliances…and sometimes vicious rivalries…with other criminal groups, depending on their needs at the time.
Congressman Bilirakis leaves no doubt where he stands, after getting a belly full of Operation Fast and Furious, and wondering if Operation Castaway will prove to be more of the same:
It is my belief that the ATF and the DOJ operated in an extremely misguided manner in allowing guns to walk across the border and end up in the possession of dangerous criminal organizations. These actions have already resulted in the loss of human life and property. I hope that you would agree that we must not allow flawed programs to continue to operate to the detriment of the safety and security of the United States of America.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder’s least favorite pen pals, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of the House Oversight committee and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), wrote to ask Holder if his department has been coaching Gun Walker witnesses:
We have recently learned that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has afforded potential witnesses for the Committee’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious access to a shared drive on its computer system replete with pertinent investigative documents, including official ATF e-mails.
Although our staff has been advised the Department has since terminated access to this document cache, we write to seek additional information relating to this egregious decision. We also ask that you promptly self-report this matter to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
You are not in a happy place when the chairman of House Oversight thinks you have engaged in “egregious” behavior. Issa and Grassley explain why this is bad:
Allowing witnesses access to such documents could taint their testimony by allowing them to tailor their responses to what they think the Committees already know. Additionally, witnesses who gain access to documents they have not previously seen could alter their recollection of events. This practice harms not only our investigation, but also the independent investigation that you instructed the Inspector General to conduct.
All in all, it’s just another brick in the stonewall.