Fast and Furious docs still
REDACTED after all these years
Today, I received several pages of documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal where the Obama Administration secretly facilitated the delivery of assault rifles and other weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
I requested the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) back in 2013. This response took almost six years, even though-- under FOI law-- it was due in 30 days.
Obviously, the way the federal government complies with FOI law (or, more accurately, fails to comply), it becomes impossible for journalists to receive publicly-owned documents to use in relevant news stories.
The pages returned to me today are not enlightening. Some of them are emails from Fall of 2010 referring to a planned meeting in Mexico that included officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The bulk of the editorial content in the emails is blacked out. The reason given for many of the redactions is the so-called (b)(5) exemption. It says the government can withhold "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency."
The 2010 meeting in Mexico would have occurred as Fast and Furious and other "gunwalking" operations secretly conducted by the federal government were reaching a peak. In December of that year, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by illegal immigrant cartel members in Arizona who had obtained guns from the U.S. government's Fast and Furious operation.
Federal officials initially denied and attempted to cover up the government's role in the weapons transfers. A sitting ATF agent, John Dodson, blew the whistle on the secret operation in a story with me for CBS News in early 2011.
Attorney General Eric Holder testified to Congress that he didn't know about the controversial program when it was underway. However, documents ultimately showed that he had received regular briefings on Fast and Furious. When those documents were made public, Holder said he hadn't read the briefings.
Although the White House denied knowledge of the cross-border gun operation, emails showed that several White House officials had discussed it. When reporters and Congress pursued more information, President Obama declared executive privilege to keep additional Fast and Furious documents from being released.
It's hard to imagine what could be considered so secret all these years after the operation was exposed. The FOI documents are copied below so that you can review them for yourself.