Fast and Furious--wiretap authorizations
My friend Bob Sanders -- who retired from ATF HQ many years back -- predicted that the Fast and Furious wiretap authorization requests would be critical. ATF virtually never uses wiretaps, he pointed out, and so the persons seeking authorization would be unable to claim lack of memory, it was likely the only one they'd ever done, and would try to inform as many people as possible to guard against error and to CYA if one was made. Rep. Issa got his hands on those requests and, as predicted, found a treasure trove. From what his letter of yesterday relates, they show that officials up to an Assistant Attorney General were fully informed that guns were being allowed to go to the Mexican drug cartels.
Although the application for an interception of wire communications (wiretap) is made by a federal prosecutor (typically a local Assistant U. S. Attorney) to a federal judge, the application is thoroughly reviewed by main Justice in Washington, and must be approved by an Assistant Attorney General or higher. (The affidavit in support of the application, which is part of the application, is sworn to by the investigating agent.) The review is (or was, when I was a federal prosecutor) detailed and rigorous: the application (affidavit, really) must show the crimes under investigation, the targets of the interception, and necessity, which means a detailing of the investigative methods used and why they have failed or are too risky to attempt. Further, the order is only good for 30 days. To continue, the extension applications have to show what results have been obtained and why the applicant thinks that there is yet more to be had. It is inconceivable (and that word means what I think it means) that a wiretap could have been obtained without the local agents and prosecutors, and main Justice, being fully aware of the contents.
Posted by: L. J. O'Neale at June 7, 2012 08:59 AM