Late Friday night, the Justice Department released a series of e-mails related to Operation Fast and Furious that indicate officials at the agency, including Attorney General Eric Holder, were alerted within hours of the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, and that Holder’s aide was told guns found at the scene were linked to the gun trafficking scheme.
Some of the documents were first made public by NPR, but National Gun Rights Examiner Dan quickly followed up, as did independent blogger Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street Irregulars. Codrea and Vanderboegh originally broke the fast and Furious story more than a year ago.
The timing of this document dump fits a pattern, because Holder is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday. NPR posts some critical documents here. Among them is an e-mail exchange between then-U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke and Holder aide Monty Wilkinson.
For the first time, the Justice Department has made public a series of sensitive messages that passed to the highest levels of the agency within hours of an ambush that killed a U.S. border patrol agent along the Southwest border in December 2010, igniting a national scandal over a gun trafficking investigation gone wrong.
Justice officials sent the documents to Congress late Friday evening, only a few days before Attorney General Eric Holder is set to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.—NPR
The e-mail exchanges between Burke and Wilkinson show up at the tops of several pages of the various e-mails provided to the House committee. While it is not unusual for documents to be leaked to news agencies, NPR has not been a major source of breaking Fast and Furious news.
The exchanges are dated Dec. 15, 2010. The first note from Burke to Wilkinson was sent at 9:41 a.m. It simply says “Not good. 18 miles w/in.”
Wilkinson’s first reply comes almost 24 minutes later, at almost 10:05 a.m. It states:
“Tragic. I’ve alerted the AG, the Acting DAG, Lisa, etc.”
Just before 11:52 a.m., Wilkinson is back on line to Burke, telling him:
“Please provide any additional details as they become available to you.”
At 1:21 p.m. that afternoon, Burke sends a reply to Wilkinson with a report from a subordinate that includes a statement issued to all employees in the Tucson sector with a brief statement regarding Terry’s death. Wilkinson responds at 1:55 p.m. with the terse:
“Thanks, Dennis. Terrible situation.”
Unbeknownst to Wilkinson, however, the situation is about to get even more terrible, and embarrassing. At 7:22 p.m. that evening, Burke fires off another e-mail to Wilkinson:
“The guns found in the desert near the murder BP officer connect back to the investigation we were going to talk about – they were AK-47s purchased at a Phoenix gun store.”
Less than five minutes later, Wilkinson sends this reply:
“I’ll call tomorrow.”
Did Wilkinson advise Holder about this new bombshell development over the course of those few minutes? This may be a question that the Oversight Committee will pose to Holder on Thursday, and it might also be reason enough for Chairman Darrell Issa to subpoena Wilkinson’s testimony as well.
NPR also posts a copy of a letter sent to Congress Friday by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, detailing several actions and changes the Department has implemented “to make sure that mistakes like those that occurred in Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious are not repeated.” It also reports about the reassignment of personnel and cases, and changes in the leadership of both the ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix.
Burke resigned in August, and Patrick Cunningham, who headed the Criminal Division in Burke’s Phoenix office, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, declining to testify earlier this week to House Oversight Committee investigators, noted by this column.
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