Senior Justice Department officials were warned that plans to track guns to Mexican drug kingpins were doomed to failure, veteran Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has revealed in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
And high-ranking members of the department were briefed on the Operation Fast and Furious and Project Gunrunner as far back as October 2009, he said.
But Grassley said he does not want anyone to resign just yet until Congress has gotten to the bottom of the whole issue.
“I’m not asking for anybody’s resignation at this point because somebody resigns and then they want you to believe that’s the end of it,” he said. “There are too many people involved in it for me to be satisfied with one resignation.”
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The two projects that went disastrously wrong are fast becoming a major scandal for the Obama administration. Under them, about 2,000 guns were sold deliberately to suppliers of Mexican drug cartels. The plan was to track the weapons to find cartel leaders. But 1,400 of the weapons have gone missing.
To make matters worse for the Department of Justice (DOJ), one of the guns was found at the scene when Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in Arizona in December .
Other weapons sold under the schemes were used to shoot at a Mexican military helicopter, and another was used in the kidnapping of attorney Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, who was tortured and killed in October.
Grassley said he has persuaded the Justice Department to send him crucial documents in the case even though, as a member of the minority in the Senate, he does not have the power to subpoena them.
“By holding up nominations and making my point, I was able to get an agreement so I should be able to get this information,” the Iowa senator told Newsmax.
Already, Grassley said, he has seen emails pointing to a crucial meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. Senior Justice Department officials, the directors of the ATF, CIA, and Drug Enforcement Agency; U.S. attorneys for all the Southwest border states; the director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee were all present, he said.
“We believe it goes very high up into the Justice Department. But until we get the documents we requested, we can’t say for sure who knew what, when and why this very bad policy was put in place.”
The Iowa Republican said men and women on the ground in the ATF warned that the plans were fraught with problems as soon as they heard of them. “They were warned from the grassroots…that this wasn’t going to work and bad would come of it,” he said.
“That prophecy materialized with the murder of Patrolman Terry.”
“I’ve had whistleblowers come to me and tell me what the truth is — at least I believe it to be the truth,” Grassley said. “They warned the Justice Department about it and nobody in Justice listened and Terry was murdered.
When asked whether the projects were a major violation of public trust, Grassley said, “The answer to that is absolutely yes,” adding, “We’re a law-abiding nation and the government comes along and says to the gun dealers we want you to sell these guns illegally to these people so we can track them across the border and maybe arrest some drug kingpin.
“And then somebody gets murdered. But before somebody gets murdered the people at the ATF said that this isn’t going to work, so, obviously, it’s bad policy.”
When asked whether the gunrunning scheme was an attempt to change public opinion on assault weapons, leading to a possible ban being introduced through the back door, Grassley said he does not discount this hypothesis.
“I’m not willing to draw a conclusion that was the main purpose or even a purpose for doing it. But I think we have legitimacy to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
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