Man behind Assault Weapons Ban, Ran Fast & Furious
by: Mary Chastain
Those who have been covering Operation Fast and Furious for 18 months know all about former US Attorney Dennis Burke. The general public doesn’t know much about him, because like many of the high officials involved in Fast & Furious, he was allowed to resign quietly and face no consequences for his actions.
Operation Fast & Furious placed hundreds of guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Guns from it were found at the death scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on December 14, 2010. They’re also connected to hundreds of deaths in Mexico, including a brother of a state attorney general. Guns have been found at twelve crime scenes in America.
Burke, from the Arizona US Attorney’s office, ran Operation Fast and Furious.
This is the man who was a Majority Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1994 when the Assault Weapon Ban passed. Actually, Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) gave him and Rahm Emmanuel credit for the passing of the ban. He became Chief of Staff to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and worked with her from 2003-2008. He gave $2,000 to then-Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. He’s also given $16,350 to other Democratic candidates. When Janet Napolitano became the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Mr. Burke became her Senior Advisor. In July 2009, President Barack Obama nominated him to be the US Attorney of Arizona.
He was confirmed six weeks later. Fast & Furious began in November 2009.
In order to receive more funding and to use high tech equipment Fast & Furious had to become part of the Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), which would put it under control of the Arizona US Attorney’s office.
“Although ATF was the lead law enforcement agency for Fast and Furious, its agents took direction from prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa wrote in a May 3 memo. “The lead federal prosecutor for Fast and Furious was Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who played an integral role in the day-to-day, tactical management of the case.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Burke’s office made it more difficult to interdict weapons. They needed approval from the attorney’s office to do anything, and many times the office wouldn’t give their approval. But that wasn’t the only problem.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office advised ATF that agents needed to meet unnecessarily strict evidentiary standards in order to speak with suspects, temporarily detain them, or interdict weapons,” Chairman Issa said.“ATF’s reliance on this advice from the U.S. Attorney’s Office during Fast and Furious resulted in many lost opportunities to interdict weapons.”
So even if the ATF wanted to do anything, they couldn’t because of Mr. Burke’s office. He held the cards for the entire operation.
Fast & Furious ended after the death of Agent Terry. Emails released January 2012 show direct contact between Mr. Burke and Attorney General Eric Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson. In one, Mr. Burke told Mr. Wilkinson the guns were linked to the investigation they were going to talk about. Mr. Wilkinson said he would call, but Mr. Burke claims he doesn’t remember a phone call.
A month later, Senator Charles Grassley started asking questions and demanded some answers. Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News revealed emails between officials in Washington and Mr. Burke’s office on how to handle the gunwalking allegations. Despite knowing he would be lying to Congress, Mr. Burke insisted they never intentionally allowed guns to walk. That became the message of the infamous February 4, 2011 letter.
As 2011 went on, more and more about Fast & Furious unraveled, but Mr. Burke couldn’t stop trying to wash his hands of any responsibility. In July, a reporter asked the Oversight Committee about leaked documents about whistleblower John Dodson. Chairman Issa asked Mr. Burke about this, and he claims a reporter did contact him whom he thought had not seen the documents. But then Mr. Burke emailed a friend of his in Washington, who then printed out the documents and handed them to the reporter personally. No one believed this testimony and knew Mr. Burke was the one who leaked them in July.
Though his fingerprints were all over Fast & Furious, Mr. Burke was allowed to quietly resign in August 2011. He wasn’t fired or charged with anything. In fact, there is no mention of Fast & Furious or Agent Terry in his resignation letter.
In November, Mr. Burke finally came clean and admitted he leaked the documents to smear Agent Dodson. The memo was intended to cast a bad light on Agent Dodson and discredit him as a reliable witness.
A month later, the February 4 letter was officially withdrawn once the DOJ couldn’t deny the fact that the ATF did intentionally allow guns to walk. No one knows for sure why they did it. Several emails show discussions about gun control regulations.
Given Mr. Burke’s history, would it come to a surprise to anyone if gun control was the main purpose of Fast & Furious?