Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department, made the following comment after the Inspector General for the Justice Department released its long awaited report on Operation Fast and Furious. Grassley first began investigating alleged gunwalking in January 2011 after whistleblowers came forward to alert Congress about gunwalking in Arizona. The Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder initially denied gunwalking occurred.
“At first glance, the Inspector General’s report reaffirms virtually everything that Congressman Issa and I have already reported. Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters. And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General.
“It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious. They ignored warnings from employees, and frankly, failed to do their jobs. It took the death of our own Border Patrol Agent, action by a courageous whistleblower, and intense scrutiny from Congress before they even took note of what was happening under their own eyes. Even then, they wouldn’t come clean with how bad it really was until after they had sent a false letter and retracted it eight months later.
“It’s particularly discouraging that this all could have been stopped early on if people had just read the wiretap applications. The Inspector General noted that anybody reading those documents should have seen the red flags. The law requires that certain senior officials authorize those applications, and the Inspector General found that they did so without reading them. I’m glad that the OIG is joining me and Chairman Issa in urging the Justice Department to move to unseal the wiretap applications so that the American people can read them and make up their own minds.
“The President also appears to be abusing his authority to exert executive privilege. The White House rightly allowed the Inspector General to make public a small subset of the documents withheld from Congress under his claim of Executive Privilege, but it continues to shut out Congress’ access to the rest of the documents. It proves that this subset of documents could have been released earlier, and the President was merely thumbing his nose at Congress by claiming Executive Privilege on the eve of the contempt vote against Attorney General Holder for withholding the documents.
“It’s time to hold people accountable. Attorney General Holder is out of excuses for action.
“We’ll be reading the report in more detail. We’ve already noticed that the report contains a factual error that lets Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer off the hook. The report accepts Breuer’s version of events, claiming that he hadn’t “proposed edits, commented on the drafts or otherwise indicated he had read them.” In fact, emails show that he received drafts of the February 4 letter and commented on them before it was sent, which he later denied to Congress.
“Last but not least, I hope the report helps answer questions for the Terry family. They deserve more answers than they’ve received up to this point from their government.”
***The Breuer emails and congressional testimony that Grassley references can be found here.