Update on ‘Operation Gunrunner’
by Dave Workman
Grassley to Holder: DoJ ‘simply not credible’
Following new revelations and the disclosure of a damning e-mail exchange between an Arizona firearms dealer and a group supervisor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) field office in Phoenix, AZ, Sen. Charles Grassley told Attorney General Eric Holder in a blistering letter that the Justice Department’s credibility in the Project Gunrunner investigation has run out.
Gun Week obtained a copy of the letter, with the revealing e-mail exchange attached. In the letter, Grassley expresses his frustration with the Justice Department for not cooperating with his requests for documents and information about the controversial gun running sting operation.
“In light of this new evidence,” the Iowa senator wrote, “the Justice Department’s claim that the ATF never knowingly sanctioned or allowed the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers is simply not credible.”
Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, reminded Holder that “I have multiple document and information requests pending with various components of the Justice Department.”
“Unfortunately,” Grassley wrote, “however, it appears that senior Department officials are not allowing the components to respond fully and directly.”
Grassley has complained consistently about what he believes is stonewalling in the Gunrunner investigation.
Congressman Darrell Issa (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has launched a separate Gunrunner investigation, became so frustrated last month that he issued a subpoena for the requested documents.
In the midst of the investigation, Grassley turned up the heat by revealing that one of the key figures in the Gunrunner controversy, Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Gillett of the ATF’s Phoenix office, had obtained an attorney and was cooperating with the investigation. Within days, Gillett was reportedly on a 30-day medical leave.
CBS News has interviewed three federal agents who revealed several facts and their concerns about the way the Gunrunner operation was being handled. The new e-mail revelation shows that an unidentified firearms dealer in the Phoenix area expressed worries that the guns he was being encouraged to sell would ultimately wind up in the wrong hands and be used against federal Border Patrol agents or others in law enforcement.
That e-mail exchange occurred about six months prior to the December 2010 slaying of Customs and Border Control agent Brian Terry about ten mils north of Nogales, AZ. The e-mails were eerily intuitive.
Four months ago, when Grassley first made inquiries about Gunrunner, he received a letter from an assistant attorney general assuring him that no guns had been allowed to get into Mexico as a result of the investigation. But revelations since then have contradicted that assertion.
While Gunrunner was launched about four years ago during the Bush administration as an effort to interdict gun trafficking, it became something of a maverick operation under the Obama administration with an infusion of federal funds. This was after Holder and others in the Obama administration, and the president, himself, repeatedly claimed that about 90% of guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes were being traced back to this country.
Some in the gun community believe Gunrunner transformed from a simple sting operation designed to bring down a big gun running ring, into an operation deliberately designed to put large numbers of US-origin guns into Mexico, where their eventual recovery at crime scenes would be used to confirm administration claims. There has so far been no evidence that is the case.
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