Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has sent each member of his committee a complaint requesting that Attorney General Eric Holder, the country’s top cop, be held in contempt of Congress for failure to comply with a congressional subpoena.
No official action has been called for but the complaint, at over 40-pages in length, demonstrates Issa has reached a high level of frustration with Holder and his Department of Justice. At issue is a perceived lack of cooperation regarding Issa’s investigation into operation Fast and Furious. The complaint also has a 17-page attachment outlining the history of the scandal.
Fast and Furious was managed by the Phoenix office of the ATF. The operation was designed to bag top Mexican drug cartel members. To do this, low-ranking members were allowed to buy guns from U.S. merchants. Once purchased, ATF agents would simply follow the guns to the cartel leaders to make a big busts — in theory.
In practice, however, the operation had some flaws. The gun purchases were illegal, so the U.S. government knowingly allowed U. S. gun laws to be broken. But what the hey right, if they lead to the drug guys — except, often the ATF couldn’t and worse, wouldn’t follow the guns. Why not? We’re still sorting that out.
What we do know is between 2009 and 2011, some 2000 guns were allowed to be purchased. We also know during this time, gun shop owners and several agents began expressing safety concerns and questioning the validity of the operation. We also know we busted some of the errand-boys but, as of October 2011, no high-level cartel leaders were arrested. That’s none, as in zero.
Now these guns, as you might have guessed, weren’t bought to enhance private collections, they were bought to enhance drug operations. Consequently, they started showing up at murder scenes in Mexico. And then in mid-December 2010, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, in an exchange with armed suspects, was shot and killed in Arizona. The weapon used against Agent Terry turned out to be a Fast and Furious gun. And that’s when the shit hit the fan.
National headlines led to viral video interviews. As Agent Terry’s family mourned, gun control zealots hit the airwaves calling for tighter restrictions. Whistleblowers came forward and obscure politicians stood tall and screamed for justice. The people wanted answers from their elected officials. The President shrugged, he didn’t know anything. But the people wanted answers. The Attorney General shrugged, he didn’t know anything. So the people want to know, who the hell knows something?
Enter Darrell Issa and his crew with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa opens a file and gets down to it. He has two basic objectives. The first is to determine what went wrong, what breakdowns occurred to allow this to happen. The second, more importantly, is who authorized the government to allow illegal purchases. Someone did. Someone had to. There must be a memo, a directive — some document somewhere — from an individual with the authority to have the government break the law. Of course, no one has the authority to direct the government break the law, so there can be no document. Except, as we all know, nothing happens in government without mind-numbing amounts paperwork. As an example, the DOJ has already issued some 7,600 documents to Issa related to this investigation. So, in fact, there actually must be documentation somewhere indicating who authorized the illegal purchases. It’s been called for, where is it?
It’s the people’s documentation. The citizens paid for the paper, the ink, the word processing software and the printers. We pay the salaries of the folks that are investigating this scandal. Hell, we pay for the salaries of the people being investigated. Why hasn’t it been produced? The Department of Justice, like every other government agency, is supposed to serve the citizenry, not itself. Why is there resistance? Why hasn’t the appropriate paperwork been forwarded? It’s been over a year. Given all this, a reasonable person can reach no other conclusion — someone is stone-walling. Someone is intentionally not giving Issa, and by extension the American people, the documentation requested.
And that leads us back to the contempt of Congress citation against Attorney General Eric Holder. He’s law enforcement’s numero uno, the top dog, the big cheese — he’s ultimately responsible. It doesn’t mean he issued the directive. But he has a sworn duty to uphold U.S law and he should be sending Issa the documentation.
Democrats, particularly in an election year, will holler the contempt citation is a political stunt, conceived to make Holder and his boss look bad. But, Democrats also know there is more to this than election year politics. An agent is dead. Laws have been broken. There is a letter from the ATF to authorities stating there was no such operation. Yet there was. In May 2011, Holder stated he knew nothing whatsoever about the operation but in November, after documents surfaced that showed he was lying, he then stated he knew about it, a little bit. Only about a quarter of the guns have been recovered. There are accusations of intimidation of witnesses. There has been a dismissal and several individuals have been transferred. There has been resignations and folks pleading the 5th rather than testifying. Political stunt? Political scandal seems much more accurate.
Stunt or scandal, the fact remains, Holder has not produced the documentation requested by the investigating committee. Darrell Issa is a serious man. There’s little chance he took the time to prepare the citation without being prepared to use it. If forced, he will press forward. The next move is Holder’s.