Justice Dept. “Surprised and Disappointed” With Subpoena Issued for ATF
WASHINGTON — No surprise, politics is surfacing inside the beltway.
The Justice Department on Friday expressed disappointment in a Congressional committee which issued a subpoena for documents from ATF on a controversial gun program, saying it had already told the committee it planned to cooperate.
“We are therefore surprised and disappointed when shortly after we notified your staff of our intent to work with the Committee, you nevertheless issued a subpoena a few hours later,” the Justice Department wrote Friday to the committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa. “ Despite this unnecessary step on your part, we will review the subpoena and work with the Committee to address your concerns.”
The Justice Dept. response came on the same day Issa, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced he had issued a subpoena to ATF after the agency failed to a meet the Wednesday deadline to handover documents pertaining to the gun-walking programs Operation Gunrunner and its offshoot, Operation Fast and Furious.
Operation Fast and Furious let straw purchasers buy guns, all with the hopes that ATF could trace them to the Mexican cartels. Unfortunately, some of the guns have been used in crimes.
The letter, written by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich, also stated:
“As you know the Department has been working with the Committee to provide documents responsive to its March 16 request to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Yesterday, we informed Committee staff that we intended to produce a number of responsive documents with the next week.
“As we explained, there are some documents that we would be unable to provide without compromising the Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the death of agent Brian Terry as well as other investigations and prosecutions, but we would seek to work productively with the Committee to find other ways to be responsive to its needs.”
Senator Chuck Grassley, who has been pushing the issue and has been critical of ATF, issued a statement on Friday saying:
“According to more than a dozen whistleblowers from the ATF, the bureau knowingly has allowed assault weapons to be sold to these so-called straw buyers, individuals who illegally purchase firearms in the U.S. and then transport the weapons across the border to resell them to Mexican drug cartels. The ATF officials say the practice was intended to trap gun-smuggling networks operating along the southwest border who supply the violent drug –trafficking cartels in Mexico.”
“The agents warned that the practice was headed for disaster. And, their prophecy came true. Instead of intercepting the assault rifles and hand-pistols, the firearms allegedly were allowed to “walk” across the border, without U.S. interdiction, delivering thousands of guns into violent, drug networks in Mexico.
“Tragically, those who might have given the green light to the ill-conceived strategy may now have the blood of U.S. federal agents on their hands.”
“In December, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in a shoot-out along the southwest border near Tucson, Arizona. Two AK-47 type assault rifles found at the scene were among the firearms purchased illegally under an operation known as “Fast and Furious.” The murder of another federal agent in February also may have ties to this practice. Special Agent Jaime Zapata of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was attacked and killed, with a gun purchased by an alleged straw buyer, while on assignment in Mexico.”
Rep. Issa Explains Why He Issued a Subpoena
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