Friday, October 21, 2011

Holding the Justice Department accountable

By Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R - VA)
6th Congressional District
October 21, 2011

Just days before Christmas 2010, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, a member of the Border Patrol’s elite Search, Trauma and Rescue team was on patrol with three other agents. He was ten miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border when a gun fight broke out with as many as five illegal aliens. Agent Terry was fatally wounded.

Weeks later we would all learn that two of the guns used to murder Agent Terry were traced back to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed the transfer of firearms into Mexico.

Fast and Furious was a sting operation initiated by ATF in the fall of 2009 as part of Project Gunrunner. The intent was to combat the illegal firearms trafficking along and across the southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico. The operation permitted suspected straw purchasers to complete firearms sales and allowed the firearms to “walk” in order to build a bigger case against Mexican criminal organizations suspected of being the ultimate recipients.

During the operation, the questionable sales of at least 2,000 firearms were allowed by ATF, knowing most would be trafficked to Mexico and in all likelihood to the warring drug cartels. Fast and Furious ended in late 2010 after Agent Terry’s death. However, the damage had already been done. These guns have been linked to approximately 200 crime scenes in Mexico and Agent Terry’s murder in Arizona.

This situation is reprehensible and the Congress is demanding answers. Earlier this year I, along with other members of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Holder outlining our concerns with Fast and Furious. We also requested that additional information be provided to the Committee. So far the Justice Department has failed to answer most of our questions and so Congressman Lamar Smith, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has called on President Obama to appoint a special counsel to investigate comments made by Attorney General Holder and his knowledge of the operation.

Additionally, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has issued a subpoena to Attorney General Holder for Justice Department documents related to Fast and Furious. The Justice Department and specifically Attorney General Holder, have been unwilling to cooperate thus far.

I find the actions of Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department unacceptable. Congress and the American people deserve to know the truth about Operation Fast and Furious, including who authorized the operation and at what point were senior Justice Department officials made aware of the operation. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I will continue working to ensure that this matter is fully investigated and that the appropriate oversight is conducted over the ATF.

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