Rep. Darrell Issa managed to push the details of a secret wiretap application from the botched “Fast and Furious” gunwalking operation into the public domain this week when he entered summaries into the Congressional Record, apparently using Congress‘ protection under the speech and debate clause to get around legal boundaries.
The summary of a March 2010 wiretap application shows that federal agents repeatedly lost track of guns they knew were being trafficked back to cartels in Mexico — a violation of Justice Department policy that should have raised red flags with top department officials who signed off on the wiretaps, said Mr. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the oversight committee that is looking into the operation.
“The affidavit explicitly describes the most controversial tactic of all: abandoning surveillance of known straw purchasers, resulting in the failure to interdict arms,” Mr. Issa said in a letter he placed in the Congressional Record. It appears on pages H4409 through H4411 of Thursday’s official chronicle of its debates.
The information in the wiretap affidavit is sealed and was not supposed to be released in public, but Roll Call reported Friday that Mr. Issa was using constitutional protections for speech and debate in Congress to put the information before the public.
An email seeking comment from the Justice Department wasn’t immediately returned Friday.
At issue is the oversight committee’s investigation into Fast and Furious, an operation intended to track sales of U.S. guns and monitor the guns be shipped across the border to a Mexican drug cartel. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lost track of the roughly 2,000 weapons after they were sold.
Some of the guns eventually began showing up at crime scenes, including two that were recovered at the site of a 2010 Arizona shootout that left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.
Mr. Holder shut down the operation, but his efforts to clean up after it have come under scrutiny. The Justice Department initially told Congress that it never knowingly lost track of guns. After whistleblowers made clear that the guns had been lost, Mr. Holder retracted that claim some 10 months later.
The Justice Department turned over documents about the gunwalking operation, but has refused to turn over documents about how it handled the false information it provided to Congress. Last week, President Obama asserted executive privilege, arguing that those documents are protected by precedent that governs internal deliberations.
Democrats said they aren’t defending the gunwalking operation, but that the committee should leave Mr. Holder alone.