While the news comes forth that U. S. Attorney Ronald Machen will not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder in regards to the House vote for contempt, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa dropped a bombshell into the Congressional Record.
The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.
The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.
According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used.
Both Holder and Cummings claim that the wiretap applications were reviewed strictly for probable cause, not for whether they followed DOJ policy. They deny that the details that are affirmed in the letter to Cummings.
According to the letter, “The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border.”
The application included the details of how many guns were purchased and how many had been recovered in Mexico.
It also described how ATF officials used surveillance to observe gun purchases by suspected straw purchases, but then ended the surveillance without prohibiting the buyer or confiscating the guns.
The application also detailed that though the alleged straw purchasers showed virtually no income in the previous year, they purchase $373,000 worth of guns in cash.
“Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy,” the letter reads.
While thousands of wiretaps are reviewed each year by the DOJ and the applications are written in such a way as to obtain approval.
The good thing in all of this is that Rep. Issa got the information in the record, which was a very clever move on his part.