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For Immediate Release
July 18, 2011

Grassley, Issa Press for Answers from FBI, DEA in Fast and Furious Investigation

 

            WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Darrell Issa are pushing for additional information and documents from the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in relation to the two agencies roles in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reckless strategy known as Operation Fast and Furious.   The strategy employed by the ATF allowed firearms to be purchased by known straw buyers and then transferred to third parties where the guns often crossed the border to Mexican drug cartels.

 

The letters are a follow-up to a recorded, transcribed interview with Acting ATF Director Ken Melson.  The Acting Director was interviewed by congressional investigators on July 4 where he corroborated several details that included other agencies involved in Operation Fast and Furious.

           

In the letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Grassley and Issa asked about the “veracity of claims” regarding the possible involvement of paid FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious and “specifically at least one individual who is allegedly an FBI informant” and “might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring.”

           

The letter to DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart requested a briefing by DEA staff as well as “the number of informants or cooperating informants handled by other agencies identified in the course of any investigations related to Operation Fast and Furious.”

           

In addition, both letters (to Mueller and Leonhart) asked for communications of several members of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force who were working in coordination with the ATF to conduct Operation Fast and Furious.

           

Below is a copy of the text of the letters.  Click here for a copy of the signed letter to the DEA administrator and the signed letter to the FBI director.

 

July 15, 2011

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

The Honorable Michele M. Leonhart

Administrator

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

700 Army Navy Drive

Arlington, VA 22202

 

Dear Administrator Leonhart:

On March 15, 2011, Senator Grassley sent you a letter requesting a briefing to gain a better understanding of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) involvement in Operation Fast and Furious.  Conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Operation Fast and Furious, was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case.  That letter is attached for your ready reference.  Nearly four months later, your agency has yet to respond directly.  

On April 12, 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) responded on behalf of DEA.  In its letter, DOJ stated:

Generally speaking, . . . when another Department component leads an OCDETF investigation, DEA works cooperatively to support drug-related aspects of the investigation. Such cooperation means that DEA may share investigative expertise, report leads, and provide manpower to assist in an investigative or enforcement operation as requested by the lead investigative agency.[1]

This information sharing, or lack thereof, is precisely the reason Senator Grassley made the initial request.  Consequently, we request that you make arrangements by no later than July 19, 2011 for DEA supervisors and personnel with specific knowledge of details related to Operation Fast and Furious and the parallel DEA case to brief members of both of our staffs.

In addition to the aforementioned briefing, please provide the following documents:

1)      The number of informants or cooperating defendants handled by other agencies identified in the course of any investigations related to Operation Fast and Furious defendants.  For each informant or cooperating defendant, please identify the other agency, the date that DEA learned of their informant or cooperating defendant’s status, and a description of how the DEA learned of their informant or cooperating defendant’s status.

 

2)     All information related to indicted Fast and Furious suspect Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta.

 

3)     A list of all personnel designated as DEA liaisons with other federal law enforcement agencies in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. 

 

Please also include any communications of the following individuals at DEA relating to Operation Fast and Furious or Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta:

 

1)      Elizabeth Kempshall, Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix

 

2)      Doug Coleman, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix

 

3)      Chris Feistle, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix

 

4)      Albert Laurita, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Tucson

 

5)      David Hathaway, Resident Agent in Charge, Nogales

 

6)      Joe Muenchow, Resident Agent in Charge, Yuma

 

These records should include emails, memoranda, briefing papers, and handwritten notes.  You should also produce communications these individuals had with any ATF employee from between October 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011.

Please provide the documents and information requested no later than July 26, 2011.  If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Ranking Member Grassley’s office at (202) 224-5225 or Chairman Issa’s Committee staff at (202) 225-5074.  Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

 

                                                            Sincerely,

 

 

 

____________________________                            ______________________________

Darrell Issa, Chairman                                                Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight and                                      Committee on the Judiciary

Government Reform                                                   U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

 

 

Enclosure

 

 

cc:        The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman

U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary

 

July 11, 2011

 

The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III

Director

Federal Bureau of Investigation

935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20004

 

Dear Director Mueller:

 

For the past six months, we have been conducting an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  This program allowed approximately 2,000 heavy-duty assault type firearms to be illegally trafficked, and hundreds of these weapons have already been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico.  Operation Fast and Furious was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) prosecutor-led strike force case where ATF worked in coordination with other agencies.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was one of these agencies.  To help us better understand the role of the FBI in this multi-agency OCDETF case, we request that you produce communications relating to Operation Fast and Furious by FBI personnel based in Phoenix, Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, including the below-listed officials:

 

1)      Nathan Gray, Former Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Field Division

 

2)      Annette Bartlett, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Field Division

 

3)      Stephen Cocco, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Field Division

 

4)      Steven Hooper, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Field Division

 

5)      John Iannarelli, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Field Division

 

6)      John Strong, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Field Division

 

7)      David Cuthbertson, Special Agent in Charge, El Paso Field Division

 

8)      The Case Agent from the Tucson office in charge of the Brian Terry murder investigation

 

Such communications should include e-mails, documents, memoranda, briefing papers, and handwritten notes.  You should also produce communications these individuals had with any ATF employee between October 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011. 

 

Paid FBI Informants

 

In recent weeks, we have learned of the possible involvement of paid FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious.  Specifically, at least one individual who is allegedly an FBI informant might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring.  We are interested in determining the veracity of these claims.  To that end, please provide a response to the following questions:

 

1)      How many paid FBI informants, prospective informants assigned an informant number, or cooperating defendants (“informants”) were in communication with any of the ATF suspects or their associates under Operation Fast and Furious?  What was the nature of, and how frequent were, these contacts? 

 

2)      Were any of these informants previously deported by the Drug Enforcement Administration or any other law enforcement agency?  If so, when did these deportations take place?

 

3)      What is the process for repatriation for FBI informants?  What other agencies are notified?  Did that process occur here?

 

4)      Were FBI personnel in Arizona aware of the involvement of these informants during Operation Fast and Furious?

 

5)      Did other law enforcement agencies learn of the involvement of FBI informants related to Operation Fast and Furious?  If so, please explain in detail when and how?

 

Additionally, please provide the following:

 

6)      Any FBI 302s relating to targets, suspects, defendants or their associates in the Fast and Furious investigation, including the 302s provided to ATF Special Agent Hope MacAllister during the calendar year 2011.

 

7)      Any other investigative reports prepared by the Bureau relating targets, suspects or defendants in the Fast and Furious case.

 

 

Jaime Zapata

 

Additionally, we understand that the FBI is the lead investigative agency into the death of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata, who was murdered in Mexico on February 15, 2011.  The family of Jaime Zapata is still seeking answers about the circumstances involving his death.  On June 14, 2011, attorneys for the Zapata family wrote a letter to José Angel Moreno, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Cory Nelson, the FBI Special Agent in Charge for San Antonio, and several ICE officials in Texas requesting information about the specific circumstances of Jaime Zapata’s death.[2]  Given the FBI’s lead role in this investigation, we respectfully ask the following questions related to the Zapata murder:

 

1)      Was Jaime Zapata armed?  If not, why not?

 

2)      Was Jaime Zapata traveling in a bulletproof vehicle?  If so, how was he killed inside of the vehicle?

 

3)      Please describe, in detail, the actual circumstances leading up to, and including, the shooting of Jaime Zapata.

 

4)      What investigative steps have been taken by the Bureau since the shooting?

 

Additionally, please provide the following:

 

5)      Any FBI 302s relating to this investigation.

 

6)      Any other investigative reports prepared by the Bureau regarding the Zapata murder.

 

7)      Any photographs of the crime scene taken by FBI personnel.

 

Please provide the requested documents and information as soon as possible, but no later than noon on July 25, 2011.  If possible, the preference is to receive all documents in electronic format.

 

If you have any questions regarding these requests, please contact Ranking Member Grassley’s office at (202) 224-5225 or in Chairman Issa’s office at (202) 225-5074.  We look forward to receiving your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

____________________________                            ______________________________

Darrell Issa, Chairman                                                Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight and                                      Committee on the Judiciary

Government Reform                                                   U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

 

 

cc:        The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman

U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary

 

 



[1] Letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to Senator Charles E. Grassley (Apr. 12, 2011).

[2] Letter from Benigno Martinez & Raymond Thomas to José Angel Moreno et al. (Jun. 14, 2011).