The investigation of Operation Fast and Furious escalated this past week as Fox News learned a leak at the Justice Department is providing documents to the Congressional investigators.
The scope of investigation also includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which records show failed to tell ATF its own confidential informants were helping finance the illegal gun purchases.
Eduardo and Jesus A. Miramontes-Varela, Mexican nationals born in Juarez worked for the Sinaloa Cartel when they became informants for the FBI in 2009, according to sources.
Previously, the brothers, ages 36 and 37, worked as informants for police in Miami, the U.S. Marshall's Service, and the DEA.
According to DEA and Congressional reports, the two men were the primary cartel contacts used to finance the illegal gun trafficking ring. Jim Needles, the assistant Agent in Charge of the Phoenix ATF office estimated the brothers spent $250,000 on guns tracked by his agency while conducting Operation Fast and Furious. Needles called it “a disappointment” the FBI didn’t bother to tell his agency of the connection.
“You are getting at the very basis of this investigation,” Senator Charles Grassley said Friday.
“But I have to wait till we have all the information before we bring down the hammer.”
Grassley first revealed in September 2011 the FBI, knew, but failed to tell the ATF, it’s informants were part of the gun trafficking ring. Then in February, Grassley called them “the big fish” ATF had been looking for the entire time.
Both the FBI and DEA know the Miramontes brothers’ role and identity, but declined to tell the ATF during a “deconfliction” meeting Dec. 15, 2009. Nor did either agency speak up at any of the joint meetings all three agencies attended of the Southwest Border Initiative. The DEA and ATF’s Group 7 shared the same floor of the same building and the same ‘wire room’ to listen to wiretaps of suspects.
Eventually and under pressure, the FBI invited top ATF officials to a classified briefing in El Paso in the late summer of 2010 and described the Eduardo and Jesus Miramontes as "a national security assets". The two men were "off limits, untouchable and indictable" said a source familiar with the briefing.
Asked a detailed set of questions regarding the Miramontes brothers role and payment as confidential informants, the FBI released this statement Friday, “There is a pending investigation and we cannot provide additional information even when there is inaccurate information being reported.”
Also this week, two damaging documents became public. One, a ATF ROI (Report of Investigation) from May 2010 shows that Manuel Celis-Acosta, ringleader of the illegal gun buyers, was stopped at a border checkpoint in Arizona with 74 rounds of ammunition, but ATF agents released him.
On Thursday, Congressman Darrell Issa and Grassley released a list of ROI’s that show ATF agents had evidence Acosta was trafficking weapons and one of his buyers, Uriel Patino, was lying on federal forms, but neither was arrested.
Late Friday, Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich warned Issa, “We are deeply disturbed that the sensitive law enforcement information…has entered the public realm.”
He said it is impeding the DOJ’s prosecution of current criminal cases arising from Fast and Furious.
A Congressional spokesperson for Issa made no apologies, saying the documents being leaked to the committee “are precisely what the Justice Department is hiding and what congressional investigators are seeking – basic information about who knew what when about Fast and Furious.”