The latest congressional report on Operation Fast and Furious revealed that the highest levels of Eric Holder's Justice Department were involved in creating a "deliberate strategy" to take down leaders of Mexican drug cartels.
Investigate reporter Matthew Boyle writes that congressional investigators determined the Fast and Furious scandal resulted from a “deliberate strategy created at the highest levels of the Justice Department aimed at identifying the leaders of a major gun trafficking ring.”
Investigators believe this "deliberate strategy" began to develop after speeches Holder gave one month after taking office.
The report reads:
"Although [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] ATF did not officially open the Fast and Furious investigation until the fall of 2009, the groundwork for the strategy that would guide the operation began shortly after new leadership took control of the Department of Justice nine months earlier ... On February 25, 2009, just one month after Attorney General Eric Holder took office, he gave a speech noting the danger of the Mexican drug cartels, focusing on the Sinaloa cartel in particular.”
During his Feb. 25, 2009 speech, Holder said drug cartels “are lucrative, they are violent, and they are operated with stunning planning and precision” and would be "destroyed.” In another speech a month later, Holder spoke about the "department’s new strategy for combating these dangerous cartels.”
According to the report:
“He spoke about the development of a prosecution and enforcement strategy with respect to firearms trafficking, noting that the ‘administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels,’ ... In particular, the attorney general said that the Justice Department was committed to adding ‘100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest Border’ and that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would add ‘16 new positions on the border.’ Most importantly, the attorney general noted that there must be ‘an attack in depth, on both sides of the border, that focuses on the leadership and assets of the cartel.’”
After these speeches, congressional investigators found “a Firearms Trafficking Working Group was formed," which was tasked with “exploring and recommending proposals to enhance law enforcement efforts to curb firearms trafficking, focusing specifically on investigation, interdiction, training, prosecution, and intelligence-sharing.”
As Boyle notes, after Deputy Attorney General David Ogden "said that ATF and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would sign a new agreement to ‘ensure coordination between the departments on firearms investigations,'" and the working group on August 19, 2009 "presented its recommendations to Holder in a memo."
According to Congressional investigators, Ogden "then took that memo and disseminated it to the department heads for the ATF, FBI and DEA, among others" and formed a Southwest Border Strategy Group, which met on October 26 to discuss the new strategy.
Boyle reports that "from that memo, ATF’s Phoenix Field Division was mostly interested in 'key language'" in the memo, which became the "blueprint for Operation Fast and Furious.”
“The content of that plan specifically addressed wanting ATF not to focus on straw purchasers, but to focus on cartels and larger complex conspiracy type investigations,” an ATF official told congressional investigators.