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Friday, February 10, 2012

New Fast and Furious Strategy? Focusing on Wiretap Applications

If the February 2nd Oversight Committee Hearing - at which Attorney General Eric Holder appeared - revealed anything, it's that not much had changed. The stonewall was still in place and though it took some more hits, not much new ground had been broken, save for a few revelations courtesy of a White House document dump less than a week before.

However, there seems to be a new tack that is being focused on by the Committee and it has to do with sealed wiretap applications. During his testimony, Holder seemed to assert that it would be very difficult to have the contents of those applications unsealed. This has apparently roused the interest of Committee leadership.

In a letter to Holder, signed by both Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Senate Judiciary Ranking member, Charles Grassley and Oversight Committee member Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) the case is made as to why the applications are being requested:
The contents of the wiretap applications are central in determining the level of involvement of senior Department officials during the pendency of Operation Fast and Furious. It is indisputable that gunwalking occurred during Fast and Furious, and it is therefore important to know whether any facts in the wiretap applications should have raised concerns that gunwalking, or other ill-advised tactics, were occurring. The contents of the wiretap applications are likely to resolve factual disputes about the level of detail available to senior Department officials during Fast and Furious.
This is a very interesting direction for the Committee to go in for at least one big reason.

At the hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) presented holder with memos and e-mails that referred to Fast and Furious and gunwalking specifically. Holder's response was that he didn't read the memos and that Fast and Furious didn't raise red flags because it didn't mention 'tactics.'

If the Oversight Committee is able to get its hands on these wiretap applications and if they reveal that the tactics of Fast and Furious involved gunwalking, Holder has yet another problem on his hands. The harder DOJ fights the request to unseal the applications, the more likely it will be that there is something to hide.

In light of some rumblings that House Speaker John Boehner may be quietly telling Issa to back off, it will be interesting to see how far this will go. Democrats are already starting to push the narrative that there have been far too many hearings so Committee leadership needs to pick the best possible strategy to blow a hole in the stonewall and implement it.

Here is a Fox News report about the request to unseal the wiretap applications:

Here is the exchange between Gowdy and Holder that could be another flashpoint in this scandal if the wiretap applications reveal inconsistencies in Holder's testimony:

Part 2 (Fast forward to the 1:45 mark):

The subject of wiretap applications came up when Rep. Meehan questioned Holder at the February 2nd hearing. If pressed for time, fast forward to the 5:00 mark. Note that Holder attempts to dismiss the contents of the sealed applications by saying they might not contain verbiage about tactics. Meehan basically responds by ceding the point while also raising the possibility that they might.

Those who dispute the charge that this investigation may be getting quashed by House leadership could indeed point to this as a trap being slowly laid for Holder and DOJ. Holder did say here that he would work with the Committee to get the applications unsealed.

The letter sent to him requires his response by February 15th and politely asserts that if he needs a subpoena to have the applications unsealed, the Committee will provide him with one.

We shall see...

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