By the Staff at AFP
For years reputable gun stores such as Red’s Trading Post in Idaho have been telling AFP about being probed by the federal government for clerical errors on federal forms, some of which merely lacked the name of the county of the gun buyer. Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been accused of stymieing a congressional investigation into a federal gunrunning program that funneled high-powered firearms to violent Mexican drug cartels, is still going about his daily business unfettered.
But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is not amused. He recently released a draft copy of a resolution “that would hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.”
The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reports: “The 44-page measure was sent to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [on May 3] in an attempt to shore up support for what would be the toughest action taken by Issa as chairman of the powerful panel.”
Issa has been investigating what AFP has reported on steadily since, and even before, Holder first testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about this matter in November 2011: the audacious federal guntracking operation known as “Fast and Furious” that got a Border Patrol agent killed.
At that Senate hearing, Holder stonewalled so much that Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) became furious enough to unveil a time-line chart that made it exceedingly difficult to believe that Holder knew little or nothing about a gunrunning plan ostensibly designed to track cartel members by tracking the guns funneled to them. The operation was so dangerous that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry of Michigan died from being on the wrong end of one of those weapons in late 2010. Cornyn’s eyes welled up over the avoidable Terry tragedy, while Holder, feigning genuine concern, spoke as if he was discussing bad weather.
Two subpoenas have been issued by Issa in order to obtain Department of Justice (DoJ) documents. Peeved by the DoJ’s lack of cooperation for more than a year, Issa says DoJ’s refusal to provide the requested information is why Holder would be held in contempt of Congress.
“The Justice Department’s failure to respond appropriately to the allegations of whistleblowers and to cooperate with congressional oversight has crossed the line of appropriate conduct for a government agency,” reads a 17-page memo attached to the draft copy of the resolution on contempt. “Congress now faces a moment of decision between exerting its full authority to compel an agency refusing to cooperate with congressional oversight or accepting a dangerous expansion of executive-branch authority and unilateral action allowing agencies to set their own terms for cooperating with congressional oversight.”
If Issa moves forward with the contempt proceedings, the next step would be for his committee to vote on it. If his panel approves it, the resolution would be reported to the House floor, where Republican leaders would decide whether to vote on it.
“If the resolution passes the House, there are several options Republicans can take to enforce it. Among them, the House sergeant at arms can be instructed to arrest Holder if he refuses to hand over the documents. The attorney general could also face up to a year in jail,” The Hill added.
Most interesting of all, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who started the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious—after Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) whistleblowers came forward with details of the flawed operation—said the DoJ and Holder are “thumbing their nose at the constitutional authority provided to the legislative branch to conduct oversight.” So, if Holder continues to refuse to provide the subpoenaed documents, “a hot-blooded governmental battle could ensue,” Grassley was quoted as saying.
“The attorney general is facing a real test of leadership here,” Grassley said. “He can force the [DoJ] to come clean, or he can force a high-stakes political conflict between the legislative and executive branches.”
And while Issa has received around 7,300 DoJ documents, the Oversight Committee has only received documents in 10 of 22 requested categories. While the DoJ is claiming it’s being responsive to Issa’s requests, Issa’s committee is even considering whether to restructure the BATFE itself—the very agency that oversaw this botched gun-tracking operation authorizing the sale of nearly 2,000 firearms in the Southwest to numerous Mexican drug cartel straw-buyers. This calls into question the BATFE’s ability to carry out its statutory mission and the DoJ’s ability to supervise it.
A better option may be to dissolve the BATFE entirely, since this Prohibition-days relic is hardly needed anymore when steep budget cuts are being sought, and other agencies could fill the void, with less overall spending.
BATFE’s Fast & Furious Smokescreen
By Pat Shannan
On April 26, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) released tracing information on thousands of firearms that had been seized in Mexico by Mexican law enforcement. Not surprisingly, the usual gun-grabbing groups are up in arms over this, crying that Washington needs to clamp down on U.S. gun dealers flooding our neighbor to the south with weapons. But the report ignored an important factor in regard to U.S. firearms to Mexico: the role Washington played in selling weapons to violent Mexican drug gangs as part of an official BATFE operation.
The BATFE report showed that during the four year span of 2007 thru 2011, 68K of the 99K firearms recovered in Mexico that had been submitted to BATFE for tracing originated in the United States.
The BATFE uses the tracing numbers to track the manufacturers and the sellers of firearms sold to the public.
To no one’s surprise, the report did not mention the BATFE’s own secret “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation that went on behind the scenes during that time frame. Nor did it mention if the more than 24K Fast and Furious guns were included in the 68K figure cited by the BATFE.
During a recent congressional hearing BATFE Special Agent John Hageman was asked about the number of guns sold under the official gunrunning program. Hageman sidestepped the controversy without answering definitely, saying: “Any gun submitted for tracing in Mexico and tied back to the U.S. was counted.”
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) was the first gungrabber to clamor for a crackdown on gun sales in the U.S. She said that this new data “makes it clear that we need to increase our efforts to starve the supply of American weapons that arm Mexico’s brutal drug trafficking organizations.”
The trace data report also does not indicate how many stolen guns were included and how many were sold by federally licensed gun dealers, or federal firearm licensees (FFLs). When a reporter asked Hageman to differentiate, he said that he didn’t have an accurate accounting for the number of stolen guns.
It was later determined through the National Crime Information Center, a clearinghouse on crimes which includes weapons tracing information, that stolen guns were included in the total count. Exactly how many, though, remains unknown.
An exact number of stolen guns could indicate how many came about as a result of individual retail sales that could be traced to FFLs. Federal agents often asked FFLs to look the other way as known criminals purchased firearms from them. Washington argued that this allowed them to track the guns in the hands of Mexican gangs—a ludicrous claim, as, once the guns left the U.S. gun dealer, they disappeared into Mexico only to resurface after Mexican cops confiscated them. If the sales were approved by the government, how could licensed gun dealers be held accountable?
It is also worth finding out just how many were from large sales to foreign governments that were approved by the State Department.
These may be questions that official Washington prefers go unanswered.
Pat Shannan is a contributing editor of American Free Press. He is also the author of several videos and books including One in a Million: An IRS Travesty, I Rode With Tupper and Everything They* Ever Told Me Was a Lie. All are available from FIRST AMENDMENT BOOKS. Call 1-888-699-6397 toll free to charge.