Big news about the Obama Administration???s ???Fast and Furious??? scandal broke earlier this week, when the House Oversight committee finally got its hands on some of the documents it subpoenaed long ago ??? specifically, a set of wiretap applications that prove high officials at the Justice Department were very well aware of the deadly ???gun walking??? tactics that put American weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartel killers. Attorney General Eric Holder has always maintained that knowledge of these tactics did not reach the upper echelons of his department.
The revelation of documents shredding Holder???s claims stirred some in the Republican leadership to begin taking the idea of filing contempt of Congress charges against the Attorney General more seriously. Justice sent a letter to the House Republican leadership on Tuesday, offering to work out a deal for releasing some of the ???Fast and Furious??? information covered by those long-defied subpoenas. As House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said in an angry letter challenging Holder???s honesty, it???s increasingly clear why he doesn???t want congressional investigators to see the documents he is refusing to hand over.
It turns out that Issa didn???t get those bombshell wiretap applications because Holder suddenly decided to comply with the subpoenas, and dribble out some useful material. It seems the House Oversight committee has a ???mole??? in the Justice Department, who surreptitiously gave the wiretap documentation to House investigators.
In a Fox News interview on Wednesday, Issa said he would not reveal the identity of his source for the documents, pointing out that other ???Fast and Furious??? whistleblowers have experienced retaliation from their superiors, particularly at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives:
On Thursday, The Hill reported that Justice is angry about the document leak, although no decision about finding and punishing the mole has been made yet:
???Chairman Issa???s letter makes clear that sealed court documents relating to pending federal prosecutions being handled by the U.S. Attorney???s Office for the Southern District of California have been disclosed to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in violation of law,??? wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Issa this week.
???This is of great concern to us,??? the letter added.
There isn???t much chance that Justice will file any sort of charges against Issa or the rest of the House Oversight Committee, but the whistleblower who handed over the sealed documents could be prosecuted, and ultimately imprisoned. House Oversight members have been careful not to release specific information from the sealed documents to the public.
Leaving the mole alone would make Justice look bad. The Attorney General???s excuse for defying congressional subpoenas has always involved claiming that an internal DOJ investigation into Operation Fast and Furious is still ongoing (and has now ostensibly been in progress far longer than the investigation into John F. Kennedy???s assassination.) Also, he says the requested documents are relevant to ongoing criminal prosecutions, which would be ruined if judicial seals on the documents were violated.
If either of these defenses is to be taken seriously, the whistleblower has jeopardized both the fabled ???internal investigation??? and those criminal prosecutions, so he or she must be found and punished. It remains an open question who the Justice Department might still be trying to prosecute in relation to Fast and Furious, since one major component of the outrage is that most of the high-value targets were already well-known criminals. Some of them actually turned out to be FBI informants. Several were caught and released by ATF on multiple occasions. How can every scrap of the paperwork mountain House Oversight wants Holder to hand over be tied up in an active criminal case that was in progress over eight months ago, when the subpoenas were issued, and is still percolating along today?
On the other hand, if Justice roots out the House Oversight source and levels serious charges, it???s likely to enrage both members of Issa???s committee and the Republican leadership. It might even draw the attention of a press corps that has generally worked very hard at not noticing the Attorney General of the United States misleading Congress to cover up an operation whose true goals remain the subject of debate, and whose result was hundreds of dead Mexican citizens, plus slain American law enforcement agents.
It is vitally important to learn who initiated this program, and why. It???s equally important to pin down exactly when top Justice officials, including Eric Holder himself, became aware of ???gun walking??? tactics, and why they didn???t put a stop them instantly. It could not be more clear that Holder will never produce documented answers to those questions voluntarily.