House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) got involved in the Project Gun Walker scandal two weeks ago, giving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives two weeks to produce vital documents. Since Issa also believes the State Department is involved in this debacle, he later expanded his investigation to include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, giving her four weeks to produce her own documentation.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Gun Walker saga, read here for the full story. Basically, it was a program in which the BATFE intentionally provided guns to Mexican drug cartels, ostensibly to track them down later and bust the cartels for illegal gun possession. If you think that doesn’t make any sense, you’re not the only one. The program’s harshest critics believe the true purpose was an attempt to pump up the number of crimes committed with American guns, to further the political ends of gun-control zealots in the Administration.
If this turns out to be the truth, a lot of very high-placed heads are going to roll, because it is suspected that a Gun Walker automatic rifle was used to murder U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, along with many other people. Matthew Boyle at the Daily Caller says that Issa was especially interested in the connection between Gun Walker and the death of Agent Terry, along with “a list of people responsible for the decision to ‘walk’ guns into Mexico with the goal of catching ‘a bigger fish.’”
As reported by Dave Workman at the Seattle Examiner, the BATFE has defied Issa’s request for documents. The two-week deadline expired yesterday. Not only were zero documents provided, with no excuses given, but the acting director of the BATFE, Kenneth Melson, also pulled himself out of a subcommittee hearing on “counternarcotics and citizen security” yesterday. He’s been stonewalling inquiries from Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for weeks.
The most transparent Administration ever – whose chief executive just received an award for transparency in a closed-door secret meeting with no press allowed – has left Issa with no choice but to issue subpoenas. If those subpoenas are defied, we’ll be looking at one of the biggest cover-ups in history, to protect those responsible for a chain of events that ended in murder. So far, the only major network devoting extensive coverage to this story has been CBS News. Maybe the others will start paying attention now… or maybe this will become one of the biggest media bias scandals in history, too.
Update: Darrell Issa has indeed issued subpoenas. At 10:30 AM Eastern time, he said via Twitter: “Since ATF refused to provide information on #gunrunner, I’ve issued a subpoena to get answers, accountability you deserve. More to follow.”
Update: More has indeed followed. From Issa’s official House Oversight press release:
“The unwillingness of this Administration – most specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – to answer questions about this deadly serious matter is deeply troubling. Allegations surrounding this program are serious and the ability of the Justice Department to conduct an impartial investigation is in question. Congressional oversight is necessary to get the truth about what is really happening.”
Documents subpoenaed by House Oversight include:
1. Documents and communications relating to the genesis of Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, and any memoranda or reports involving any changes to either program at or near the time of the release of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General report about Project Gunrunner in November 2010.
2. Documents and communications relating to individuals responsible for authorizing the decision to “walk” guns to Mexico in order to follow them and capture a “bigger fish.”
3. Documents and communications relating to any investigations conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or any other DOJ component following the fatal shooting of Agent Brian Terry, including information pertaining to two guns found at the crime scene that may have been connected to Project Gunrunner.
4. Documents and communications relating to any weapons recovered at the crime scene or during the investigation into the death of Agent Brian Terry.
5. Documents and communications between ATF and the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) who sold weapons to Jaime Avila, including any Report of Investigation (ROI) or other records relating to a December 17, 2009 meeting “to discuss his role as an FFL during this investigation.”
6. A copy of the presentation, approximately 200 pages long, that the Group 7 Supervisor made to officials at ATF headquarters in the spring of 2010.
7. Documents and communications relating to Operation Fast and Furious between and among ATF headquarters and Special Agent in Charge William D. Newell, Assistant Special Agents in Charge Jim Needles and George Gillette, Group Supervisor David Voth, or any Case Agent from November 1, 2009 to the present. The response to this component of the subpoena shall include a memorandum, approximately 30 pages long, from SAC Newell to ATF headquarters following the arrest of Jaime Avila and the death of Agent Brian Terry.
8. Documents and communications relating to complaints or objections by ATF agents about: (1) encouraging, sanctioning, or otherwise allowing FFLs to sell firearms to known or suspected straw buyers, (2) failure to maintain surveillance on known or suspected straw buyers, (3) failure to maintain operational control over weapons purchased by known or suspected straw buyers, or (4) letting known or suspected straw buyers with American guns enter Mexico.