tv Book TV After Words CSPAN June 24, 2012 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT
>> coming up next, booktv presents "after words," an hourlong program where we invite guest hosts to interview authors. this week katie pavlich and her first book, "fast and furious." she explores the controversial gun supply operation currently under congressional investigation. she discusses her findings with
national journal's white house correspondent major garrett. >> host: katie pavlich, what is fast and furious, why does it justify a book? what is the essence of this story from your vantage point? >> guest: well, essentially, we'll start with what the justice department and this administration claimed fast and furious was going to be, and then we can get into what actually happened. the justice department, in partnership with other agencies and departments like homeland security, claimed that their goal was to send and allow straw purchasers who are people who come in -- >> host: straw purchasers of -- >> guest: i'll explain it. people who come into gun shops and buy guns for other people, transfer them to criminals and criminal organizations. so what this program, fast and furious, basically was going to do was allow these straw purchasers to come into gun shops in arizona, purchase these guns. they were going to surveil these straw purchasers in the transfers to cartel members and trace these guns into this
extensive mexican cartel network in an effort to take down what they called the big fish in the cartel, take down the cartel network. problem is, these gun actually ended up at the murder scene of one of our border patrol agents, border patrol agent brian terry on december 15, 2010, and it turns out that, actually, they weren't tracking these guns. they sent 2500 guns into mexico, and of 2500 of them, they put two gps recording devices on them. now, that doesn't sound like a very serious tracing program to me. >> host: and did this program, fast and furious, have any antisee departments in the bush administration? because that's something that comes up a lot. well, this was authorized by the bush administration. was it the same program, did it have the same intent, what are the similarities and differences? >> guest: so there -- we have heard that argument, that this started under the bush administration. now, there's an umbrella program called project gun runner that was started under the bush
administration that was using straw purchasers and arresting them, actually stopping guys from buying guns and transferring them into mexico. they ran a program called operation wide receiver under the bush administration where they were working with the mexican government surveilling these guys and these cartel members, transferring guns into mexico, and they were saying once these guns get to the border of mexico, you pick up the tab and continue from there. problem is that the mexican government dropped the ball, and the program was immediately shut down. now, under fast and furious completely different story. the mexican government wasn't informed about the program and instead of a few hundred guns, we're talking about thousands of guns with nomex can government involvement to stop them, not to mention to actually trace them and keep them away and out of the hands and arrest the people before they were taken to violent crime scenes and used in murders. >> host: let's help our audience understand the geography of this program and the results or lack of results. this started in arizona? >> >> guest: yes. >> host: why arizona?
and what kind of firearms are we talking about? >> guest: uh-huh. well, arizona's a border state, and this administration going back to the beginning made stopping gun trafficking into mexico a top priority. well, if you're going to stop gun trafficking in mexico, of course, you choose a border state to stop it. this administration was claiming that these guns that the cartels were using were coming from mom and pop stores in america and going into mexico. now, that actually isn't the case. the state department's own cables show that these cartels respect getting their guns -- aren't getting their guns from the united states, they're getting them from cheaper sources like china and central america. why was arizona chosen? it's on the border, it's a pro-second amendment state, so it's easy to blame violence on the cartels there. you look at the politics bind that, arizona was chosen for political reasons, not necessarily to stop gun trafficking into mexico. >> host: did the fact that the
homeland security secretary, janet napolitano, having been from arizona have any role in this? >> guest: absolutely. her former staffer, former u.s. attorney for arizona dennis burke, served as janet napolitano's staffer when she was the attorney general of arizona and served as her chief of staff while she was governor of arizona and followed her into the obama administration as her senior homeland security adviser before president obama appointed him to u.s. attorney in arizona. now, he was the guy who oversaw trafficking of guns into mexico from the ground level on the doj side, and the memos prove that he was in full approval of these guys coming into gun shops, buying guns and sending them back to mexico. >> host: would this be a story, would there be a book if not for the tragedy that befell the terry family? >> guest: unfortunately, probably not. this was something that was swept under the rug and kept from not only the american
people, but the mexican people as well. there are hundreds of faceless, innocent mexican citizens who have been murdered as a result of this. but the only thing that we knew outside of the government program was that guns from american gun dealers were going into mexico and causing all these problems with the cartel when really the government was sanctioning these sales and sending them into mexico. and so we wouldn't have known about this if we hadn't found out about brian terry's murder. more importantly, if we hadn't heard from whistleblowers and online sites that were talking about, um, you know, what atf was doing and whistleblowers coming forward and saying this is what we've been doing. most of us have been complaining about this to our spear ons since -- superiors since the beginning, yet they wanted to move forward with it. >> host: what do you know and what can you tell our audience about the circumstances of brian terry's death? >> guest: well, we don't know much. the case filed for him has been sealed, and the reason why the judge sealed the case file has also been sealed.
but what we do know is -- >> host: wait a minute. i just want to go over that again. so the file was sealed, and there is an explanatory reason from a federal judge but that has also been sealed. >> guest: that has also been sealed. that gives you a little bit of an idea about the secrecy surrounding brian terry's murder right up front. now, that night they claim that there were two guns at the scene. you look at the documentation, says at least two guns were left at the scene that were -- >> host: and where did this shooting occur? >> guest: in arizona about 11 miles north of the border in a notoriously dangerous drug cartel area known as pep canyon. and it's a very remote part of the country. you can really only get there by helicopter and by foot, and it's one of those areas where it's very difficult to combat drug trafficking, but that's where the cartels work. and if you look at the maps and the data, that's one of the hottest areas in the country for cartel activity. >> host: so what was brian terry doing there, what was his
capacity, who was he working for and what, based on what little we know, what can you reconstruct of that evening? >> guest: so brian terry was actually a marine and a police officer before he joined border patrol. and he was, he tried out for an elite border patrol team which is kind of like the marines or the navy seals of border patrol. they do special operations, they deal with the worst of the worst in terms of drug cartels coming up with weapons rather than people simply moving up north and across the border. so that night what they were doing was just their regular runs. they knew that pet canyon was a hot area. they had been watching these guys who come in and steal guns -- steal drugs from other crews in order to make a quick buck because they're not the ones bringing it across, they just steal it and go sell it, it's ease she for them that way. so they were just simply doing their job. so they come over into this canyon, and they see this crew of men who were very heavily armed, and they fired bean bag
rounds at them. and unfortunately -- >> host: is that standard operating procedure? >> guest: that is standard operating procedure according to homeland security's policy. and when you're dealing with guys who, as we saw about three weeks ago, who are willing to leave headless, feetless, handless bodies on the side of the road, i don't think that shooting bean bags at them you would expect a friendly fire response. and that's exactly what happened. they returned fire with ak-47s which were given to them, at least two of them were begin to them by the u.s. government, allowed to go into their hands deliberately by the government -- >> host: through these straw purchasers that were supposedly being surveilled. >> guest: right, exactly. and then brian terry was hit, and he was killed. and they're lucky that not more border patrol agents were killed that night. >> host: has the family seen his body? >> guest: they have, yes. he went home that, the next day. so they had his funeral, and they did see his body. >> host: okay. how would you describe the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the erie
family -- of the terry family? >> guest: thai very unsatisfied, and they absolutely should be. his mother has found out most of -- had to find out most of the information about her son's death through the very few media outlets that are actually covering this. former u.s. attorney dennis burke, who i mentioned earlier, flew to michigan to visit the family and gave them the run around, didn't give them any details. they've been denied -- dennis burke, once again, denied them victim status in this case where they would have a claim against the government for, um, you know, hurting them in the sense that they allowed the sanctioning of sales that got their son killed. and so they really have no answers. josephine terry is her name, brian terry's mother. after everything holder testifies in -- >> host: the attorney general. >> guest: she posted on facebook i don't understand why you never say my son's name, and you're arrogant. you don't have the nerve to
mention why this happened. and speaking of the attorney general, there was a hearing back in october where texas senator john cornyn asked erik holder have you talked to the family at all? have you talk today the terry family? have you apologized for what happened? and eric holder said, no. and that was a little embarrassing not on a level of he felt bad, but on a level of public relations wise. so instead of just apologizing, um, right away eric holder released a letter of apology to the press before the entire terry family was capable of reading it. >> host: now, does anyone in the justice department or bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms, homeland security, does anyone dispute that two of the firearms found at the scene, brian terry's murder, were from this program? is that key fact in dispute? >> guest: that key fact of they're from this program is not in dispute.
>> host: no one disputes that. >> guest: right. whether this program was a direct result of brian terry's murder is in dispute, and attorney general eric holder has made that point. he's said it's not fair to assume that this program is why brian terry was killed. >> host: you agree with that? >> guest: i disagree with that. >> host: why? >> guest: because the weapons that were left at the scene were given to these cartel members -- >> host: but as you said, they are well armed from various sources. they could have quite easily killed brian terry with other weapons, could they not have? >> guest: they could have. but when you're sending guns into mexico and you have a political agenda behind it not to mention you're not telling the american people about it, congress about it, you're not telling the mexican government about it, you're not telling atf agents who are working in mexico, working blood-soaked crime scenes down there, they're left in the dark about it. when you're arming the very people who you claim you're fighting knowing that the border is open and knowing that these guys are operating, there's no reason why there's a justification for them doing that.
>> host: uh-huh. would you acknowledge that this was not the intent of the program? >> guest: to get brian terry killed? >> host: yes. >> guest: oh, absolutely not, i'm not saying that -- >> host: could it -- is your -- the investigation and the documents you've seen, is it raising questions in your mind about a cover up or about wrong intentions? >> guest: i would say both. i call fast and furious a scandal with many scandals in the scandal. in terms of, you know, answering your previous question, i don't think this was set up intentionally to get one of our border patrol agents killed, but looking at the data no matter who you talk to, if it's a local police officer, law enforcement at the state level, law enforcement at the federal level, they will all tell you you do not give guns to criminals because they kill people with them. they knew going into this that they were -- who they were giving guns to, these mexican cartels, who they claimed were very ruthless, and there was a lot of problems down in mexico
with all the deaths and murders. they knew that people were going to get killed. when you give guns, 50 caliber rifles, we're talking, you know, that can take down a helicopter. when you're talking about ak-47s, when you're giving that kind of firepower to people who have no respect for human life, of course people are going to get killed. the problem with it was when one of our own federal agents was killed, we started asking questions about it. because once you cross that international line, there's not a whole lot of information that comes out of mexico in terms of who's being killed there. they, quite frankly, aren't documenting it anymore because it's gotten so out of control. no, there was no intent to actually get brian terry killed, but there was no respect for human life when it came to those living in mexico. >> host: and what have been the, or have there been any consequences on the criminal justice side for surveilling these guns, arresting people who were the straw purchasers or moving up the chain of command to these larger cartel figures? on what basis can the justice
department assert or homeland security assert that this program achieved other results that were beneficial or consistent with what they were set out or explained originally? >> guest: well, essentially, going back to phoenix the atf special agent in charge at the time during fast and furious, bill newel, shortly after brian terry was killed and the day brian terry was killed, the guy who bought the weapons that were traced back to this program, he bought them in january 2010. nearly a year before brian terry was killed. >> host: he was killed in december. >> guest: right. jaime is his name. they were surveilling him for a year, and instead of arresting him throughout that period of a year before he could continually buy more weapons and transfer them to cartels, they arrested him on december 15, 2010, the day brian terry was killed, because they were panicking and had to say we need something to show for why we implemented this program. because right now we have nothing. and so instead of taking down the big fish, as they claimed
they were going to do, they instead arrested these small-level, low-level straw purchasers who they'd been surveilling for a year who they could have arrested immediately once they saw them make one or two sales. >> host: that arrest, mr. avila, that occurred after the killing? >> guest: the day of. within hours he was arrested. within hours he was arrested. >> host: and what has come of that case? >> guest: he's been charged with lying on a form, and i believe he's serving some time in prison now. but nothing to the extent of taking down the cartel which is what they claimed to do. >> host: have there been any other arrests? >> guest: there have. there have been two or three other arrests, and the guys who -- the men at the scene of brian terry's murder scene have also been arrested, two of which have been unnamed, one of which has been named, and they are now awaiting further court case. >> host: and that trial will be conducted where, here? >> guest: here, yes. >> host: is that something you're waiting for to provide some greater degree of evidence
or information about at least what happened on that -- >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: -- in the case of brian terry's death? >> guest: absolutely. we need to know what happened that night. and what's interesting here is going back to the secrecy of what happened, all the border patrol agents who were with brian that night have been issued gag orders and ordered not to talk about what happened. and so when you look at that and you look at the indictment of the guys who were there who pulled the trigger who are being charged with the murder of brian terry, two of their names are redacted, and we haven't been given their names yet. the reason for that is, um, during fast and furious confidential informants were being used, and there's a strong possibility and the evidence shows that fbi informants may have been responsible for actually pulling the trigger and killing brian terry. that would be a completely new and unexpected and furthermorefying layer --
>> guest: right. >> host: -- of information and -- >> guest: i'll give you another piece of evidence to support that going back to what i had mentioned earlier, the two guns versus three. we've been told there were at least two guns at the scene. there were actually three guns. there's three pieces of evidence to support that. the e-mails show they traced three weapons from the scene. the border patrol agents that have since been issued gag orders were talking to brian terry's mother at his funeral saying there were three weapons at the scene. there's an audio recording from, i believe, it was march of 2011 of the lone wolf trading company owner and an atf agent who were talking on audio saying there were three weapons -- >> host: and this just for our audience real quick, lone wolf trading company is one of the gun merchants that was -- if i read your book correctly -- voluntarily participating in this process of selling guns in large, firearms in large numbers to purchasers. they had every reason to suspect
they were criminal. >> guest: right. i'm going to get into the word "voluntarily" in just a second. >> host: okay. >> guest: lone wolf is the gun dealer where the guns that were found at brian terry's murder scene were purchased. so you have those three pieces of evidence at three different times showing there were three guns at the scene. now, why would the justice department and the fbi continually claim there were two guns at the scene and say there were at least two? well, because the third gun -- like i just mentioned -- is linked to a confidential informant who once we go through the trial process is found guilty of murdering brian terry was actually on the government payroll at the time he pulled the trigger using one of the weapons that was trafficked into mexico on behalf of the u.s. government. >> host: that's your suspicion. >> guest: yes. and the evidence -- >> host: points in that direction. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: and what does the justice department say than? >> guest: that that claim was not true, there were two guns at the scene, and they say all the
evidence i just mentioned should be ignored, essentially. >> host: and does it deny flatly -- the justice department, that is -- that confidential informants are the ones behind these redacted names? >> guest: they have -- the fbi hasn't really commented on it. but we do know that they were using confidential informants. >> host: okay. since this trial will quite obviously surface potentially a lot of new information, what is the scheduling on that? >> guest: we haven't been given a schedule. >> host: okay. so there's no trial date yet. >> guest: we're still waiting for, you know, the investigation and from the justice department side. you know, they have their own ongoing investigation. i assume that they're waiting for that information to come out first before they proceed with the trial. of. >> host: okay. now, we've tried to establish through the early part of this conversation sort of meta issues, what the program was, who brian terry was, what were the circumstances of his death and what evidence surrounding that appears to suggest. now let's take this to capitol hill.
for quite some time, this has been an investigatory matter for chairman darrell issa, republican of california, chairman of the government reform and oversight committee. catch our viewers up with the status of that inquiry right now, what's been achieved or what's been learned and where this story is likely to head from that congressional investigatory point of view. >> guest: right. so for more than a year now chairman issa, as you mentioned, has been investigating this from the congressional side. and he's issued multiple subpoenas, multiple subpoenas have been ignored. he's asked for 80,000 documents, he's been given 7,000 many of which were so redacted that you can't see anything. they're just pages of black paper. so where are we now? in october of 2011 a subpoena was issued to attorney general eric holder about his role in fast and furious -- >> host: the key question being, what was his depth of knowledge, and did he authorize -- >> guest: right. did he authorize it, what did he
know, what did the senior officials in the justice department know about fast and furious while it was going on. who was responsible for signing off on wiretaps that were used, who was responsible for thinking that, you know, gun walking into mexico was a good idea? who was responsible for not informing atf agents working in mexico about this program? who was responsible for not informing the mexican government and trafficking -- in approving the trafficking of guns across our international border? questions like that. and the problem is the reason why eric holder, attorney general eric holder was subpoenaed was because in may 2011, about a year ago, testified before congress for the first time about fast and furious and was asked at what point did you find out about operation fast and furious. and at that point he said i probably learned about operation fast and furious a few weeks ago. fast forward to the fall, and memos surface showing -- five of them -- showing he addressed directly to attorney general eric holder talking about operation and furious dated july
and august 2010, nearly a year before he claimed that he knew for a few weeks. so then -- >> host: is it clear he saw those memos? >> guest: he claims that he didn't. however, they're addressed directly to the attorney general -- >> host: is there any of his writing on them? >> guest: no. at this point, there is not. >> host: that would be one point of proving that he had some interaction. >> guest: but his assistant attorney general lanny breuer who is his right-hand man was signing off on wiretaps for this program. now, anyone in law enforcement knows that wiretaps are the last tool in the tool box considering that they're so invasive, and in order to get a wiretap application approved, you have to submit extremely detailed information about a case. and the assistant attorney general, lanny breuer, signs off on those wiretaps on behalf of the attorney general, not to mention there were six wiretaps at least. and so it's not just one that maybe the attorney general missed, but this was an extensive program. not to mention what i do in the
book is i go back to the beginning of the obama administration, and president obama gave eric holder and homeland security secretary janet napolitano orders to reassess gun trafficking policy on the boarder and to make gun trafficking a top priority. so for eric holder not to have seen those memos when this is a direct order from the president of the united states just isn't true, not to mention you go back into the fall -- >> host: from your vantage point, it's strange credulity. >> guest: exactly. >> host: can't prove it's false, but you have a very high level of suspicion about it. >> guest: right. and the idea that he's changed his testimony multiple times. once we found out he was possibly and most likely brief inside july of 2010, nearly a year before he claimed -- >> host: or at least there was a paper trail that suggested he ought to have been. >> guest: right. he then claims, oh, i should have said i knew about it in february 2011. you know, trying to cover his tracks on what a few weeks
means. >> host: let's talk about these wiretaps because there are some events that occurred this week regarding the wiretaps that i think are significant, and i'll have you share those with our audience in a few moments. the purpose of the wiretaps, were they successful, who were they wiretapping, and how did that fit into the matrix of fast and furious? >> guest: uh-huh. so, essentially, they needed these wiretaps in order to listen to what these straw purchasers were saying to cartel members. >> host: this would be a tapping of cell phones? >> guest: tapping of cell phones. >> host: okay. >> guest: now, the interesting part about the wiretaps is cartels use text messaging much more than they use phone calls. and so, you know, some of the sources i talked to in the book said we asked them to wiretap, you know, add a paragraph onto the wiretap application for text messages because that's what we really needed, but they refused to do it. and we would get maybe one or two phone calls a day, if that, on the wiretaps. but we saw these guys in the stores that we were watching on video texting back and forth.
we knew they were texting about how many guns they needed, who they were talking to, who the suspects were. and yet they never made the effort to actually surveil these text messages when it was very obvious that they were using them. so in terms of whether the wiretaps were successful, they weren't. i mean, we don't have any arrests of these top cartel members. there's thousands of guns, 1400 guns that are still missing in mexico, and not to mention their main suspect, manuel acosta, who they said was one of the heads they were trying to take down in this gun trafficking ring, they met up with him multiple times and let him go. multiple times and let him go. >> host: what has the justice department said about the wiretaps not covering texts and why this particular figure is still at large? >> guest: well, the justice department isn't commenting at all. >> host: any of these things? >> guest: on any of these things. >> host: how about local law enforcement, or feds in arizona? >> guest: the local whistleblowers are saying this is the whole point. they wouldn't allow us -- peter
that sellly who was at atf in phoenix at the time and transferred back to d.c., he was saying the justice department, the u.s. attorney's office wouldn't let us arrest anyone. we were watching these guys transfer money over and over again. we knew who the guys were buying guns. we knew this over and over again, and the justice department refused to prosecute. >> host: now, the wiretaps and the approval of them by this would be deputy attorney general -- >> guest: assistant attorney general. >> host: lanny breuer. >> guest: yes. >> host: that is important to the congressional investigators, why? what does that tell them as far as a paper trail that they didn't know before? >> guest: right. you go back to when the scandal first broke and the information that we had. senior level officials including attorney general eric holder and lanny breuer said this was a low-level, rogue operation by a few field agents on the ground in phoenix who had this crazy idea, and this is what they did. no senior officials in the
justice department had any knowledge about this at all. in fact -- >> host: they were just freelancing, in other words. >> guest: essentially going off on their own thinking this would be a good idea for them to get some credit inside the a, the r tf and doj. lappny brewer signed off, approved multiple drafts of a letter who was signed by the deputy attorney general. i could have that title wrong, but essentially, he was working for the justice department. the letter said these allegations that we were gun walking into mexico are absolutely not true. senior level officials don't know anything about this. that letter was sent to congress in february of 2011. since then that letter had to be withdrawn from the record because it was so full of falsehoods which is something that rarely ever happens of these high level officials who these wiretap applications show were signing off on these things and seeing all the documentation that, you know, they actually did know about these things. and every step of the way they've been saying no one at a high level has been involved in
this. and about a year ago the former atf acting director, kenneth nelson, who has since also been transfer today another position, has said the reason they're canning all this is they're trying to push the pressure away from political appointees within the justice department. >> host: and as i understand it, the timing of the approval of these wiretaps, march, april, may, june, july,2010. why is that relevant? what does that tell us? >> guest: it tells us, once again -- >> host: the program was up and running. >> guest: it was up and running -- >> host: it would undermine the contention that this was a rogue or freelance operation. >> guest: that in addition to their argument that they didn't know anything about fast and furious until brian terry's death in december of 2010. >> host: okay. where is this heading as far as the investigatory powers of congress? i know and i have read that there are threats or intimations of contempt citations which requires a formal floor
proceeding. where are we -- where does all of this stand as far as that? >> guest: well, we're in a position where i mentioned earlier attorney general eric holder has ignored a subpoena from october 2011 -- >> host: on what basis? is he asserting executive privilege? >> guest: simply ignoring it but, also, throughout this process the justice department has cited an ongoing internal investigation into operation fast and furious by their inspector general. now, the problem with that is up until this point the inspector general in the justice department actually worked for attorney general eric holder during his time as u.s. attorney of washington, d.c., so there's been a conflict of interest there from the beginning of this investigation. they've kind of deferred to that every single time there's questions about submitting documentation. so the reason he hasn't submitted to the subpoena is because he believes that the information he has would be compromising to that investigation and, also, other ongoing investigations. so in terms of where we are with congress, the justice department
and the obama administration have put themselves in a really tough spot. because eric holder has changed his testimony multiple times under oath in front of congress, if he complies with this subpoena to avoid contempt charges, they've made a deal. congressman issa said if you come forward and comply with the subpoena, we won't move forward with contempt charges. if holder comes forward with this documentation, there could be many things that contradict what he's been saying during his testimony. but also on the political side of things if he comes forward and doesn't submit to the subpoena, that's and they deal with contempt charges, that's a black eye for the administration right before the elections. so they're kind of waiting on whether he's going to comply. but we got the letter this week from chairman issa saying we have information in these wiretap applications that is very shocking, and we're going to have to proceed with consequences in holding those accountable in your justice department senior officials for what went on here. >> host: one thing our audience may not appreciate or they may
only have a general sense of is chairmen can investigate lots of things, but they don't always lead to a contempt citation, and they don't always lead to full-throated backing from the leadership at the top of the house or the senate. explain the evolution within house republican ranks on this with chairman issa, speaker john boehner, majority leader eric cantor and the majority whip, kevin mccarthy. >> guest: for about a year now congressman issa -- well, first, we'll go back to where this whole thing started. it started in the senate with senator charles imrazly who started -- grassley who started investigating this first. because he's in the minority, he chick kicked out over to congressman issa because he has subpoena power. it's congressman issa's job to investigate things in congress. speaker boehner is there to, you know, kind of make issues out of things that have important evidence and backing behind them that should be important on the house floor. >> host: the house in general because he's a constitutional
officer, and he has a role to represent his party, obviously, but also the house in general. >> guest: right, exactly. so it's not his role to kind of get into the details of what each committee is investigating, what each committee is doing. he simply takes the big issues that are important, as you just mentioned, and makes them a house issue. now, there's been some controversy over whether speaker boehner has been stonewalling issa's investigation, whether he's been trying to put the brakes on this. sources say that's actually not true, he's just been sitting back and allowing congressman issa to do his job. he's the oversight chairman, it's his job to investigate things -- >> host: build a case file. >> guest: that's what chairman issa has done. he brought it to the house leadership about three weeks ago with a 64-page contempt charge, and they came onboard and sent a letter to the attorney general saying, look, it's time for you to comply with this investigation, or we're going to proceed with contempt charges, and they wouldn't have done that if they didn't think this was an important topic with enough
evidence to prove that the attorney general isn't complying with what congress has a constitutional duty to do, which is oversee the executive branch. >> host: you are familiar with critics of this book and your reporting and republicans saying that this is all about partisanship. this is not about a well-intentioned or balanced inquiry into a government screw-up. >> guest: right. >> host: this is a vendetta. this is spent to undermine the attorney general and the president of the united states. how do you respond to that? >> guest: well, i wouldn't say this was a government screw-up, first of all. you look at all the testimony from whistleblowers, you look at the e-mail evidence, and this wasn't a case where thousands of guns just accidentally ended up in the wrong hands. i mean, john dodson testified before congress and said we were mandated to allow -- >> host: and john dodson is who? >> guest: aff whistleblower. mandated to allow these guns to go into the wrong hands. this wasn't a mistake. nothing drives multiple whistleblowers who i talk to in the book more crazy than when
they hear this was a botched operation. they say this was absolutely intentional. it's not a partisan issue. you know, when this investigation first started, 31 democrats sent a letter to the justice department and the obama administration saying we need transparency here. there's nothing wrong with asking questions and, yes, it turned into what they say is a political witch hunt in a way on the democratic side because they've turned it into issues about gun control, issues about this being political for the attorney general when really chairman issa six months ago said i want to wrap up my investigation. i'm really hoping the justice department complies because i don't want to get into the political season. the terry family deserves better. this is about thousands of guns being trafficked into mexico. this is about hundreds of people being killed in that country, and it's about the justice department not complying. and the truth is that this shouldn't be a partisan issue. this is about something that went terribly wrong, and people not taking responsibility for it.
not to mention if it was a mistake, no one in the justice department has been fired as a result of this. not to mention if any, you know, a law-abiding citizen, regular guy on the street didn't comply with a congressional subpoena, he would have problems and probably be thrown in jail for that. >> host: yes. but having been in this city for a good long while, i have experienced executive branch and congressional tussles over subpoenas, access to information, access to e-mails, access to underlying government documents. there is a tension there, and constitutionally it's not the executive branch's responsibility in this every case to just hand over everything to congress whenever congress takes it upon itself to ask a question. >> guest: right. >> host: there are tension points there. there's been no assertion so far of executive privilege, there's just been lack of response. >> guest: right, exactly. so it would be different if there was executive privilege being used -- gls and then you'd have underlying case law where
you could have a presidential base meaning they'd sort of tease these things out before, and you'd at least have some idea of where the assertion of executive privilege would fall against history. >> guest: right. >> host: that so far has not happened. >> guest: we have not seen that. and the white house is trying to end coo their hands off of -- keep their hands off of this even though they've had some involvement in terms of e-mails being sent to national security advisers about fast and furious. they've tried to step back and say president obama's standing by eric holder with full faith and confidence. but they've kind of tried to ignore this. and the justice department has tried to ignore it as well. and every time that the oversight committee says they're not complying, they come back with, well, we are complying -- >> host: just not as speedily as you would prefer. >> guest: that but also they claim that they've submitted unprecedented amounts of documentation. okay, so 7,000 pages seems like a lot until you look at what it is. and, you know, you look at the kind of information that they're
redacting, and it says upcoming policy and legislative developments. now, that's something as a taxpayer on a basic level you should know about because you're paying for it, it's something that effects taxpayers, right? and americans in general. why would they be redacting that information? it's not all very highly sensitive information about sources or ongoing investigations, it's about policy. so, no, they just haven't responded. and attorney general eric holder has said, look, i've testified seven times in front of congress about this, why aren't you satisfied? well, we're not satisfied because he hasn't been giving us answers. he testifies seven times and gives the same nonanswers and noncompliance, and he made it very clear in february when he testified that he wasn't going to give any more information about this. you're not complying. you're stonewalling. i mean, you look at the numbers and the evidence, and we're just not getting anything out of this administration when it comes to, you know, the promise of being very transparent. >> host: you just said a moment ago we're not satisfied.
do you approach this story in the sense of alignment with chairman issa and chairman -- senator grassley? do you feel like you're an active participant in the investigatory project? do you have skin in this game intellectually, politically? what's your take? >> guest: i have skin in this game in terms of i am just a regular person who thinks that this is wrong. and i've talked to a lot of democrats who have said fast and furious is something that needs to be investigated further. pat goodell says he doesn't understand why people haven't asked for eric holder's impeachment -- >> host: former senior adviser to jimmy carter, democrat. >> guest: exactly. so this isn't, once again, a partisan issue. but in terms of skin in the game, i'm not siding with chairman issa or senator grassley. what i am looking at is the evidence of the justice department not complying with foia, freedom of information act, sending back blank pages of information, not responding to e-mails about inquiries, sending
reporters to sources like media matters for information about fast and furious rather than submitting their own documentation saying this is what we have from the justice department. and so that's where it comes down to. where are we getting our information from? and it's not really, you know, chairman issa and senator grassily who are giving us this information. we have the documentation. i talked to so many people in arizona, i traveled back to arizona, i've talked to many different whistleblowers who are participating in fast and furious while it was going on. i mean, it's about the evidence here, not about partisan politics. >> host: now, um, if there is no contempt, if the leadership decides we're not going to proceed with a con cement citation -- contempt citation, where does this go? what is terminus of this story? where does this story end in your estimation? >> guest: well, i think -- >> host: and does it come to
resolution before the election? >> guest: i think it will. i think if it doesn't go up to attorney general eric holder or homeland security secretary janet napolitano before the election, i think the senior officials around at least attorney general eric holder will be seeing some consequences. and we saw that this week. i had seen the wiretap applications, i don't know exactly what they say. there's probably a reason why they didn't release them publicly -- >> host: that is to say chairman issa and the other republican investigators, they did not release those. >> guest: right. and the minority representative, elijiah cummings, did not release them either. so that says they have some pretty damning information about who was involved here. they said that the -- >> host: your suspicion being that if they were exculpatory, if they were something that backed up what the justice department was saying, they would feel, perhaps, the motivation to release them. >> guest: that and, also, if the oversight committee is building a criminal case for prosecution, they're not going to release that to the press because they're, you know, building
their case and their investigation. >> host: do you think that's where this might end up? >> guest: absolutely. i think -- >> host: what would be the, for our audience's edification, what would be the criminal angle here? what could be violations of the federal code? >> guest: i think on the individual level perjury is a huge possibility for at least assistant attorney general lanny breuer and maybe attorney general eric holder as well. i mean, the fact is that he has changed his testimony multiple times. the documentation shows the opposite of what he said. the documentation shows exactly the opposite of what assistant attorney general lanny breuer said under oath in front of congress. and so i think perjury is definitely one of them. looks, they're looking at roger clemens -- >> host: not just looking, retrying him a second time. >> guest: exactly. so when we take the two cases, and the difference is these guys worked for the government, and roger clemens is, you know, a public person, but he's not a government official.
and so it comes down to who's above the law here. so i think perjury and also possibly obstruction of justice charges. >> host: do you think, um, that what is, what has happened so far constitutes from your vantage point a willful cover up? >> guest: oh, absolutely. from day one -- >> host: there could be no ore explanation from your -- other explanation from your vantage point? is. >> guest: no. >> host: not misremembering things, being poorly brief, being less than forthcoming because you don't possess enough information? those are all standard and ritualistically invoked from within the government. from your vantage point, nub of that is possible? >> guest: no. you look at all the evidence, which i've compiled a lot of it, and this is about a cover up. this isn't about coming forward with information being open and honest, this isn't about coming forward with admitting that your department did things wrong,
that people should be held accountable. the one thing the justice department has done they've said, this was a mistake, let's move on. but the problem is if it was a mistake, why have there been no consequences for the people who approved this program? and why isn't president obama, like ronald reagan did during iran contra, coming out and saying, look, a terrible scandal, the buck stops with me -- >> host: mistakes were made. >> guest: anyone who was involved in this who should be fired, and if criminal charges are necessary, they should be filed. and that's something we have yet to see, and i'm not sure we will see that. >> host: two quick questions before we wrap up. you've mentioned 1400 guns still missing, is that correct? and there's no visibility on those? >> guest: no, none. >> host: so there could be more terrible consequences. >> guest: there are not many things that attorney general eric holder admits, but he will admit that there will be murders as a result of this program for years and years to come. and keep in mind because, as i said, they put two out of 2500
tracking devices on these guns they claim they were tracing, the only way they can find them now is when they show up at blood-soaked crime scenes in mexico or in the united states. no telling how many crimes they were used in before that point. >> host: you just mentioned blood-soaked. in the subtitle of your book, "fast and furious," it says barack obama's bloodiest scandal and its shameless cover up. that implies there are other bloody scandals, that this would be the worst of other blood key scandals. -- bloody scandals. are you comfortable with that? >> guest: i wouldn't say -- >> host: that's what that implies. >> guest: i don't think so. i think there are literally people who have been killed here. it's not, you know, blood being thrown on capitol hill over solyndra, taxpayer money and congressmen getting at each other's throats over whether that was okay, whether the white house should submit information on solyndra. this is about people being murdered and mowed down in the streets in mexico as a result of
this program. >> host: katie pavlich, thank you for your time. >> guest: thank you. >> that was "after words," booktv's signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers, legislators and ask others familiar with their material. after words airs every weekend on booktv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" online. go to booktv.org and click on after words in the booktv series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know. >> robert caro, volume four. one of the very few books i buy both for my kindle and the book itself just sort of as a tribute
to bob caro. and the thriller that i am most looking forward to is alan furst. he writes atmospheric thrillers about paris usually before world war ii, and he has a new book called "mission to paris" which i can't wait to read. >> for more information on this and other summer reading lists, visit booktv.org. >> well, one of the things we like to do at booktv is preview some upcoming books. and joining us now here at the book publishing industry's annual convention in new york city is author robert sullivan whose new book, coming out in september of 2012, is "my american revolution." mr. sullivan, what did you do to create this book? what was your thought behind it? >> me, thoughts? people would argue i don't have many thoughts.
but, um, what i did was, well, i spent my whole life growing up in this vicinity. i spent some time living in oregon where my life's from, some school in other towns. but, um, pretty much growing up in this landscape and hearing kind of vague notions about maybe george washington did this here or that there. and, you know, and i remember running a marathon at one point in new york city and saying, wow, now i get where the hills are and the valleys are. and at some point i kind of decided to put those ideas together. the landscape and the kind of lost history of new york, can they be put together? and so i went to look for the revolution in new york and new jersey and in the tristate area. the revolution in the 11:00 news' weather maps. of the new york area.
>> and what'd you find? >> well, i mean, you know, growing up you always hear about boston. tea party, lots of great things happened in boston. emerson wrote a poem about it, you hear a lot about virginia and virginians. and so you kind of tend to think that, you know, new york didn't have much to do with anything. but, um, i totally discovered that it all happened here. it all happened here. and, you know, i kind of want to start a battle with my friends in boston say, yeah, yeah, i know the siege at boston and all that. but washington and the continental army pretty much, you know, kind of parried and jabbed in and around new york city which the british controlled for pretty much the whole war. so, so then it becomes, wow, well, why did they camp here can and not here? and, you know, what did these hills matter? and that's just the most fun question for me in the whole
world, what do these hills matter? what do the hills have to say? so really looking for, you know, history. >> well, one of the things you did here, a picture of you on the cover in a row boat, was you escaped from manhattan. what was that about? is. >> i did. actually, i escaped from brooklyn. well, i attempted to escape from brooklyn. well, everything with me is a long story, so i apologize. but, um, basically, i tried to write about the weather and how it affected all the various battles and also people talk about, you know, providence and god came in and dropped a fog. but then i went back to look at the evacuation of the troops from brooklyn to manhattan after the very first battle of the revolution which was in brooklyn, new york. washington and the generals were pretty sure it was going to be in -- [inaudible] but it was in brooklyn. after the very first battle, they just get romped really,
really bad. so washington and the guys say we've got to get out of here. they run from the middle of brooklyn sort of down to the water, and they're sitting there waiting. and oversight under the cover of fog and other things they grab every boat they can, and they go back to manhattan. >> across the east live. >> yeah. kind of the opposite of what real estate is doing in the city now. people are moving to brooklyn from manhattan. maybe we can stop that. anyway, they evacuate with pretty much every boat they can find. and i have a lot to say about how history books say it went and so forth. but ultimately, when i go back to this place and look at what the tides would have been doing and what they do today and how those things are, essentially, the same. i mean, it's like the greek philosopher, the river is the same because it's always changing. i mean, the river itself is an example of how we perceive history and circles. anyway, when i went down to go do it, i found out that it's pretty much illegal, that i would not be allowed without
several state perms and probably a lot of -- permits and probably a lot -- >> from brooklyn to manhattan. >> yeah. it would be illegal for me to get in the boat and evacuate my army to brooklyn. that would not be allowed. which is, you know, which is problematic. but i figured out a way to do it. i actually found some community boaters, and community boating, community boathouses are a big thing the last 20 years or so in new york. people are kind of taking back the water. there's a revolution happening on the water. and i found a guy, i went to a boathouse, and squint dentally -- i coincidentally they said, oh, the guy who founded our boathouse used to reenact it every year. so we went out and reenacted that guy's reenactment. so i'm -- so i never had to wear a wig, which is really what i'm saying, which is probably a bad thing. >> so, robert sullivan, what did you learn in your evacuation
from brooklyn to manhattan? >> in that evacuation -- >> that you could tie into the american revolution, tie into george washington? >> um, well, i guess i'd say, first of all, the idea of revolution. at the time of the american revolution there was this thought that we'd revert back to our british citizenship. we'd have the rights again that we once had as british citizens who live in their colony. so there's that old idea of revolving back to something. but for me there's the additional idea of the calendar and the almanac. revolutionary almanacs. colonial almanacs kept, you know, tides and, you know, when the lunar cycles and all these things. and people would keep them and read them. and, actually, right after the war the first mention, i think,
of george washington as the power -- father of our country is in an almanac that's printed in many pennsylvania. so washington is made the father, is so to speak, on this very landscape. this new new york/new jersey/connecticut landscape is the founding landscape in many ways. the first place to be named for washington is in upper manhattan. and it happens shortly after the war begins which, to me, is astounding. i thought it took a long time. but anyway, the thing that i really discovered was that with some concentration and with no wig necessary, you can look into the seasons and even though it sounds crazy and kind of see the path, you can go down and look at the tides and consider these things and how the then relates to now so that when you go off and look at george washington's lookout points, for instance, and i did a thing with my daughter, we signaled, we
recreated a signal point that washington would have used during the war. when you look at those signal points, you see, first, the revolutionary war signal point. there's a plaque up that george washington was here. if the plaque isn't there, you'll be able to find in history books remnants of missile sites at the same point in the cold war and at that very same site was first a revolutionary war lookout, probably other things in between that i don't know about. at that very same site if i go there today to a lot of those points around the city, that circle the city, i'll find plaques or memorials to 9/11. because invariably people in the towns around the city went to those same sites to see manhattan. just as washington's troops might have to see what the british were doing. it's a natural viewpoint, and we're naturally inclined to go to these places and think about our place in the world.
>> with summertime here, a lot of visitor to new york city. where is one place that you would recommend viewers are interested? >> i mean, the simplest thing to do is go down where you take the ferry to the statue of liberty and to look for the spot in the landscape, it's kind of over staten island, a hill on staten island, the highest point on the seaboard between maine and somewhere down in georgia, if you look at that hill, and you've got to block out all modern conveyances. you're seeing pretty much what, say, general nathaniel green saw when he saw the british fleet landing a bristle of cutdown trees, right? you see the same exact view. >> final question, i want today ask you finish wanted to ask you about the prison ships that were here in new york. what's that story? >> well, the prison ships, that's, for me, a fascinating
story. more people died on the prison ships than died in the war in battles in the war. so after the battle of brooklyn the british picked up everybody they captured, they put 'em on several sort of old ships that were in between the brooklyn bridge and, actually, between the manhattan bridge and the williams burg bridge -- >> today the east river. >> in the east river. and they stuck them there, and they kept putting more people on. and they were not just continue innocental soldiers, but -- continental soldiers, but there were slaves who ran and didn't turn to the british, there were spanish sailors, disturb sailors -- dutch sailors, there were all kinds of people on these ships. and people, frankly n poor communities came to feed them from the shore. they would, you know, get food to the boat somehow. they would also collect the bones as the british just knew the bodies over. washington continually writes letters, you know, you can't
treat our prisoners like this. and he was insis tent that we treat our prisoners fairly in letters that i've read anyway. anyway, so these bones sat there all through the war and for a long time after. walt whitman works very hard to set up a memorial which today is in fort green in a park. the bones are all there now. but they had to work for years and years to collect the bone withs to make -- the bones to make what people feel is a proper memorial. it becomes a flashpoint. people would say, oh, you build a statue to george washington, the one that's now on wall street, with subscriptions from wealthy people, but you don't rescue the bones of his soldiers. so it becomes a kind of, you know, a flashpoint between class, classes. >> robert sullivan here at bookexpo america. the book publishing's annual
industry convention. >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know. >> i've got three books rolling right now. one is passage to power by robert caro which is about the kind of competition and interactions between president kennedy and lyndon johnson and really from lyndon johnson's vantage point. and pretty interesting kind of hard-nosed politicians both publicly and behind the scenes jockeying for position throughout the primary election of 1960 and then throughout the convention which is very, very interesting. the other book is "the social conquest of earth" by edward o. wilson which is, basically, how our species came to really rely on social interaction, emotional intelligence and the way we communicate with each other and kind of build