The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has released Chairman Darrell Issa’s prepared opening statement for today’s hearings into Operation Fast and Furious.
Chairman Issa Hearing Preview Statement
Over the past year, the ATF program known as Operation Fast and Furious has been the subject of a joint investigation by this committee and Sen. Chuck Grassley, who serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. When this investigation began, the Department of Justice took the position that allegations by whistleblowers about reckless tactics and decision making in this operation were false.
Late last year, after months of investigation, the Justice Department finally acknowledged the allegations were true. Fast and Furious was both reckless and flawed.
The Justice Department, however, has been less than forthcoming in cooperating with the efforts of Congressional investigators to determine exactly what happened and who was responsible:
• The Justice Department has delivered fewer than 8% of the 80,000 documents we know it has identified as being related to this flawed operation.
• It has refused to allow investigators access to numerous witnesses who participated in the operation – one witness, after being served with a subpoena, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to protection against self-incrimination rather than answer questions.
• Justice Department now asserts that many documents pertaining to internal discussions and decision making about its response to Operation Fast and Furious are off-limits to investigators.
The American people deserve better from our nation’s top law enforcement agency. Thursday’s hearing will feature the nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Eric Holder, who will be asked to explain his decision to withhold this factual evidence from investigators. What he is concerned this information would reveal? Why is the Department trying to keep its internal discussions about Operation Fast and Furious from after February 4, 2011 secret? Why did it take nearly nine months for the Justice Department to acknowledge its earlier denials were false? Why did senior Justice Department officials who knew about and received briefings on the operation fail to stop it? Should Americans have confidence in their chief law enforcement agency even though these same officials remain in their posts?
There is now broad bipartisan agreement that the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious has exposed a serious and deadly failure of government. We know that the life of a brave Border Patrol agent has been lost along with countless Mexican citizens who have been victimized by guns from Operation Fast and Furious. Attorney General Holder has acknowledged that the danger created by Fast and Furious will continue for years.
This hearing is not about controversial struggles between gun control advocates and supporters of the Second Amendment. It is about the unifying, and what should be bipartisan, expectation that the Justice Department be held to a high standard and that those who failed to meet this standard should be held accountable. I look forward to Attorney General Holder’s testimony.
Much of the hearings and much of what has been released has been about incompetence which is a start but doesn’t go far enough. I would suggest that this operation could be more accurately be considered a subversion of the Constitution. I may be jaded but I don’t think a reasonable person would conclude that such a Keystone Cops approach to the Mexican drug cartels was ever meant to work. Rather it was meant as a way to build support for greater and greater gun control measures. If one reads John Ross’ Unintended Consequences or Matthew Bracken’s Enemies Foreign and Domestic which are fiction and then compare Operation Fast and Furious to them, the similarities become downright eerie.
Mike Vanderboegh has seen the briefing paper from the Committee titled “Main Justice: Extensive Involvement in Operation Fast and Furious.” Buried within it is evidence that leads to involvement by the FBI in parts of this operation or a concurrent operation called Operation Headshot.
So, since October the committee staff have been aware of the FBI sanitized version of the “one-armed man” and his brother who were their confidential informants, who provided the money to the straw buyers and whom the FBI have been protecting ever since Brian Terry was murdered. But does the Committee draw the obvious conclusion? Have they aggressively probed the FBI on Operation Head Shot? If this pathetic entry is any indication, no, they haven’t. The FBI, it seems, is off limits.
So now you have a troika of agencies – ATF, DEA, and FBI – involved to some degree in Project Gunwalker. Such coordination of effort among agencies doesn’t just happen without a controlling hand from above in Main Justice. This leads me again to say this wasn’t about the cartels but rather about building the case for more gun control. This administration is the most Machiavellian since Richard Nixon and it fits their under the radar approach to these issues.