The ATF’s public relations hoped to use Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death in Operation Fast and Furious to promote the bureau’s work, a newly released document shows.
Senator Chuck Grassley and House oversight chairman Rep. Darrell Issasent a letter Friday to the Inspector General at the Department ofJustice. The focus of the letter is the potential for retaliationtoward two Fast and Furious whistleblowers, but in the course ofexpressing their concerns, Grassley and Issa reference ATF talkingpoints about the death of Agent Brian Terry. At least one of the talkingpoints seems designed to capitalize on Terry’s death as a reason to further the very investigation which put a weapon in the hands of his murderer.
The document, which is added as an attachment to the Grassley/Issa letter,is dated 1/12/11. It is stamped with the ATF official seal and containsa warning in the header “Not for Public Dissemination/For Internal UseOnly.” It shows that the ATF was concerned about the appearance of thegun walking operation and especially its connection to Agent Terry’smurder. The memo offers sample questions which reporters might ask,including:
Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was shot and killed after he andhis team encountered several suspects near Rio Rico, Ariz. At leastfour suspects are in custody while one is still being pursued. Was a guntrafficked in this case used in the murder?
We understand that a firearm bought in connection with this ATFinvestigation was used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry. Canyou please comment on this information?
To these sample questions the ATF provided four possible responses:
ANSWER: The death of Agent Terry in tragic and is a sad anddark day for all of law enforcement. We’ve lost one of our own. This isanother example of the dangers faced by law enforcement every dayacross this country when pursuing these violent criminals.
ANSWER:Agent Terry’s death is the exact reason why we must continue goingafter those who are determined to destroy the lives of so many innocentindividuals in our communities by plying their illicit trade. For thosewho would say it is Mexico’s problem, I say Agent Terry’s death and allof those who have perished because of this violence prove that thischallenge belongs to everyone.
ANSWER: The investigation into the murder of Agent Terry isactive and ongoing. ATF has pledged its support and resources to bringto justice the perpetrators who are guilty of that crime. I won’t sayanything here today to jeopardize that investigation or the subsequent prosecution of those responsible for this terrible crime.
ANSWER: The murder of Agent Terry is a tragic loss that hasbeen felt throughout the United States and underscores the dangers thatlaw enforcement officers face every day. As the investigation continuesinto this heinous crime, our hearts go out to Agent Terry’s family andhis fellow Border Patrol Agents who continue to risk their lives toprotect the citizens of our great Country.
The second answer above says Agent Terry’s death is a “the exactreason” to support the ATF’s gun trafficking operations. But theGrassley/Issa letter reveals that the real motivation for the talkingpoints was an email sent by Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix fieldoffice to Scot Thomasson, Chief of the ATF’s Public Affairs Division.The email dated January 11th reads, “Just heard Melson’s coming for theFast/Furious press conf on the 25th. I hope he realizes how politicallycharged Arizona is right now especially regarding gun issues, was thatway even before the Tucson shooting.” The “Tucson shooting” is areference to the January 8th shooting spree by Jared Loughner which leftsix dead and more than a dozen injured including Rep. GabrielleGiffords.
Putting a proper public face on Agent Terry’s death is an effort theATF began even before the congressional investigation into Fast andFurious. Given the months of stonewalling over claims DOJ was ignorantof the tactics used in the case and the more recent claims of executiveprivilege over documents related to the stonewalling, it’s fair to saythat effort is ongoing.