Lawmakers Doth Protest Too Much over ATF’s Fast and Furious Scandal

Congress Continues to Ignore House of Death Cover-up Spawned During Bush Administration

The hypocrisy of our political leadership is not a man-bites-dog story, of course, but rarely is a brazen act of duplicity so completely ignored by our mainstream media as has been the case with the ongoing saga of ATF’s Fast and Furious scandal — in which the federal agency is accused of knowingly allowing criminals to smuggle weapons into Mexico.

Among the chief critics of the ATF’s bungled operation is Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley’s aggressive pursuit of the Fast and Furious scandal, along with that of his House counterpart, Darrell Issa, R-California, has led to Congressional hearings on the matter and a media storm marked by Fox News headlines such as ATF Scandal Threatens to Bring Down Top Obama Administration Officials.” The common theme with this hyperventilating media coverage is that President Barack Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, is orchestrating a major cover-up and obstructing Grassley and Issa’s search for the truth behind Fast and Furious.

And that truth, as Grassley and Issa describe it in a letter sent to Holder on July 5, is as follows:

The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities.

The Grassley and Issa letter goes on to make the point that ATF appears, at a minimum, to be defending "a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns.” The alleged goal of Fast and Furious was to allow guns to be smuggled across the border in order to make cases against the arms-trafficking kingpins.

But as flawed as the Fast and Furious operation appears to have been — once guns cross the border, they almost always become even harder to trace — this is not the first time that a U.S. government agency has contributed to the murder rate in Mexico’s drug war.

So Grassley and Issa’s outrage, and the media chest-pounding accompanying it, seems a bit contrived in its timing and selectivity.

Case in point: Neither of these politicians seeking to inflict a mortal wound on the Obama administration by hanging the Fast-and-Furious albatross around the president’s neck have bothered to voice a concern publicly about the ongoing cover-up in the House of Death case —in which a paid U.S. government informant was allowed to assist with multiple murders in Mexico, all so that the Department of Justice, then under a Republican president, could build “a big case” against a Mexican narco-trafficking organization.

The House of Death “operation” resulted in at least a dozen murders being carried out in Juarez, Mexico, between August 2003 and mid-January 2004 with the help of an informant on the payroll of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. High-level officials within both the Department of Justice and ICE (which is part of the Department of Homeland Security) approved the informant’s continued use after they became aware of his participation in the initial House of Death torture/murder.

The bodies of the victims were later discovered in shallow graves in the backyard of a house in Juarez after a DEA agent and his family narrowly escaped a forced trip to this House of Death.

Among the high-level Bush administration officials who were made aware of this informant’s homicidal activities were U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and DEA Administrator Karen Tandy.

After DEA Special Agent in Charge Sandalio Gonzalez blew the whistle on the informant’s role in the bloodshed via an internal memo that landed on the desk of then-U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton (a long-time friend and associate of then-President George Bush), Tandy sprang into action at Sutton’s request.

On March 5, 2004, DEA Administrator Tandy sent off an e-mail to high-ranking members of the Justice Department, including Catherine M. O’Neil, Associate Attorney General and head of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; David Ayers, chief of staff to then Attorney General John Ashcroft; James B. Comey, the Deputy Attorney General; and Michele Leonhart, Deputy Administrator of DEA [who has since succeeded Tandy as head of DEA].

The email:

Subject: Re: Possible press involving the DEA Juarez /ICE informant issue

DEA HQ officials were not aware of our el paso SAC's [Gonzalez’] inexcusable letter [memo] until last evening  — although a copy of the letter first landed in the foreign operations section sometime the day before. The SAC did not tell anyone at HQ that he was contemplating such a letter, and did not discuss it or share it with HQ until we received the copy as noted above, well after it was sent.

I apologized to Johnny Sutton last night and he and I agreed on a no comment to the press.

Mike Furgason, Chief of Operations, notified the El Paso SAC last night that he is not to speak to the press other than a no comment, that he is to desist writing anything regarding the Juárez matter and related case and defer to the joint management and threat assessment teams out of HQ — and he is to relay these directions to the rest of his El Paso Division.

The SAC, who reports to Michele [Leonhart], will be brought in next week for performance discussions to further address this officially.

Tandy, in legal pleadings that surfaced later, would concede that she personally briefed then-Attorney General Ashcroft on the House of Death case.

Mr. Gonzalez [the DEA whistleblower] was very well aware at the time he sent that letter that this [the House of Death]  was a very sensitive, very delicate situation between DEA and ICE. It was such a significant issue for these two agencies, that I went personally to brief the Attorney General [John Ashcroft] and the Deputy Attorney General over the issues with ICE, that I spoke to the U.S. Attorney [Sutton] about my concerns about the issues of ICE’s handling of this informant …. [Emphasis added.]

And so the cover-up was launched, and the DEA whistleblower, Gonzalez, would become a target, and the net result is that he was muzzled and pressured into retiring from DEA.

But Gonzalez did not go silently. In fact, in November 2005, he and members of a group called the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, a group organized by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, actually met with the staff of U.S. Sen. Grassley to discuss the House of Death scandal.

Grassley’s staff members were briefed about the details of the mass murder in Ciudad Juarez, the participation of a U.S. government informant in those murders and the subsequent cover-up carried out by the Executive Branch agencies involved in the House of Death case.

The senator’s staff also was told about the fact that a DEA agent and his family were nearly murdered as a result of the bungled drug-sting operation and that one of the narco-thugs working with the informant, a Mexican cop by the name of Miguel Loya, was allowed to escape as a direct result of the cover-up efforts within DOJ and DHS.  

In the wake of that briefing [reported by Narco News some five years ago], nothing happened — no call for a Congressional hearing, not even a follow-up meeting with the House of Death whistleblowers. In fact, the only known examination of the House of Death murders, a joint ICE/DEA internal administrative review called the JAT, remains buried, with multiple efforts by Narco News to seek its release through the Freedom of Information Act rebuffed to date.

Self Interest

In the case of Fast and Furious, it was smuggled guns that led to murders in Mexico, a horrendous outcome no question. But is it somehow less concerning when, as in the House of Death, it is a paid employee of the U.S. government, an informant, who is participating in the murders of Mexican citizens?

Yet, Sen. Grassley, and fellow Republican Issa, after choosing to remain silent about he House of Death cover-up, now cry wolf over the ATF Fast and Furious scandal — seemingly because it is the opposing party that stands to suffer a political hit.

In March, Sen. Grassley released a prepared statement outlining some of his concerns with ATF’s handling of Fast and Furious:

There are serious questions to be answered about the role played by the Justice Department and agencies within the Department of Homeland Security. This ill-conceived policy has clearly affected the lives of countless individuals who may have been victims of crimes perpetrated ….

Agents on the ground were ignored when they questioned the wisdom of this decision, and that just pours salt on the wounds of the families who lost loved-ones. When the agents came forward with concerns, they were shunned and retaliated against.

Although he made those statements in relation to ATF’s Fast and Furious, they can be applied equally to the House of Death case. Yet Sen. Grassley, U.S. Rep. Issa and faux-objective media outlets like Fox News, and the bloggers who echo the MSM narrative, continue to remain silent about the House of Death murders — a sad but not surprising indication that it is not the quest for truth and justice that really motivates them, but rather a perceived Machiavellian opportunity to gore a political opponent.

And sadly, we can’t discount another factor in the official decision to ignore the House of Death cover-up.

“If this had been a city on the Canadian border, these murders would not have happened,” former DEA supervisory agent Gonzalez said in a past interview with Narco News. “Our government would not allow Canadian citizens to be tortured and murdered…. But, in the House of Death case, they did let it happen because it was El Paso and Juarez and a bunch of Mexicans that they don’t [care] about.”

As far as the ongoing cover-up in the House of Death carnage, and the lack of will within Congress to call hearings to unravel that cover-up — even while some Republican members demand that Obama and Holder be held accountable for Fast and Furious — well, that boils down to priorities.

And the chief priority for the self-absorbed leadership class inside the Beltway seems to be self-interest, and that is rarely in the interest of justice.

Stay tuned….

[For more on the House of Death, check out Al Jazeera’s past TV coverage here, or go to this link for Narco News’ archive of past coverage. The most recent Narco News story on the informant’s efforts to sue the U.S. government for payments he claims he is owed can be found at this link.]

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