Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is remembering the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with a continued promise to seek justice in his investigation of the Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious.
Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview that his committee and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will never give up the fight for Operation Fast and Furious documents that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama are withholding from the American people.
Issa’s interview with Breitbart News comes on the third anniversary of Terry’s murder, which is Sunday. On Dec. 15, 2010, Terry was murdered in Peck Canyon in Arizona about 17 miles inside the U.S. border with Mexico by drug cartel operatives using weapons that the Obama administration had walked into Mexico via Operation Fast and Furious. Issa said that Terry’s family should know that, despite “setbacks” over the past few years, he will never stop his fight for the truth.
“I think the message that the entire family needs to hear because they’ve seen so many setbacks over the past three years is that we won’t give up, that we continue to support them and we continue supporting whistleblowers like John Dodson because we’re going to get to the truth no matter how long it takes,” Issa said. “We’re in court, as you know, and it’s a slow process, but we’re going to be tenacious there. One thing that the Terry family should know is that the full truth and the corrections that will prevent this from ever happening again is our highest priority.”
John Dodson, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent who blew the whistle on Fast and Furious, has just published a new tell-all book about the scandal and the inner workings of the program. Dodson’s book, The Unarmed Truth, details his struggle to get the truth out and breaks several details of what happened during Fast and Furious from the eyes of an agent on the ground.
“First of all, his book is essential for people to understand what it’s like to be in law enforcement and at the same time seeing wrongdoing, to make the decision to go outside your agency and become a whistleblower,” Issa said of Dodson’s work. “Then, and though it is only slightly covered in the book, the continued saga even today of a whistleblower who continues to deal with his career in an agency that is not kind to the fact that he did the right thing because it made them look as bad as Fast and Furious was.”
The court battle with the Obama administration rages on, but investigators have seen some major victories in recent months. On Monday, Issa said, his committee will file a motion for summary judgment to try to expedite a ruling.
“Just about a month ago, we had the first process in justice occur,” Issa told Breitbart News.
And that is that Judge Amy Berman Jackson made the decision that in fact the frivolous claim by the Obama administration–actually, by the Attorney General on behalf of the president–that somehow the president was above the law and the court could not decide the question of turning over these documents. Judge Jackson rejected that. Friday evening about a week ago, the Justice Department made a motion at about seven o’clock at night to appeal that. The Judge on the following Monday rejected that. This coming Monday, Monday the 16th, we will file our motion for summary judgement to begin the process of the court coming to the decision–which, we expect it will come to of ordering the Attorney General to turn over the very documents he was held in contempt over.
Over those same documents, Issa said, Obama has “asserted an executive privilege that doesn’t exist.”
“He is not asserting that these were communications to the president or led to advice,” Issa said.
In fact, what’s important about these documents is these are the documents related to who knew and helped continue to cover up false statements made to Congress that there were no guns walking. In other words, very much like Nixon in Watergate, these are the tapes. These are who knew and when did they know and how long did they debate whether they were going to tell the truth or continue to withhold the truth from the American people and Congress.
Recent reports from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel have shown that ATF has been engaged in a whole new series of questionable tactics like using mentally impaired people in sting operations. While the agency originally claimed to Congress that it was only an isolated incident when the paper earlier this year found an example of such tactics in Wisconsin, the Journal-Sentinel recently uncovered several more examples in a followup investigative report showing that the ATF misled Congress again.
“First of all, when it comes to telling the truth, agencies take their lead from the top,” Issa said of the ATF’s decision to mislead Congress on this matter.
When out of the White House, half-truths and outright misinformation occurs repeatedly–such as with Benghazi where they sent out on all five Sunday shows Ambassador Rice to simply mislead the American people as to the cause of that attack–they [agencies] see that as, “we can say what we want to say. We can play loose with it.” Even Director Clapper who now admits he lied as little as possible would not have been tolerated under previous administrations–certainly with a Republican president and Democratic Congress, there would have been immediate action. We’re really being thwarted from pushing back on this pattern of false information.
About the tactics being employed, Issa said it is equally troubling. “In the case of ATF tactics, this is not a new problem of essentially law enforcement at the Department of Justice not wanting to take responsibility for cleaning up the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but rather using them as their bad boys,” Issa said.
Long ago, the ATF had been rolled into FBI but then of course with the FBI agents were encouraged to use tactics that were unacceptable. So it’s an amazing point that they want to point to ATF as out of control but nobody seems to want to clean it up. I think Eric Holder and the Department of Justice bear direct responsibility for this pattern of more inappropriate investigations and then the cover-up and making of false statements when asked about it.
One such tactic that ATF employed, as reported by the Journal-Sentinel, was in Wichita, Kansas, where agents “suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back–and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.”
When asked if this is the same kind of gun walking tactic that ATF employed in Fast and Furious, Issa said it appears to be the case. “Well, it’s certainly not at the level of 2,000 weapons being walked to the drug cartels,” Issa said.
But you’re absolutely right–teaching someone how to saw off a gun and encouraging it as part of an investigation doesn’t seem to connect the dots of the responsibility of agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is to stop guns from getting in the hands of wrong people, to never let them walk and to take strict action to make sure that federally licensed dealers meet their obligations. It’s a simple requirement and these extraneous activities really are not necessary for them to carry out their primary responsibility.
Issa said his committee is currently examining the evidence that has come to light as a result of the Journal-Sentinel cases–and made sure to point out that ATF never operates outside the purview of the Department of Justice and usually works with other law enforcement agencies like the FBI and others.
“We’re currently looking into it,” Issa said.
This is part of a continued concern about whether ATF has really learned its lesson. The one thing I want to make sure I always tell people is when I say “ATF,” it’s not ATF. They’re not operating in a vacuum. They always have a U.S. Attorney who’s looking at their actions. They usually have a joint task force that includes sometimes ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] which is in a different Department [Homeland Security], DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency], and certainly FBI. They often operate out of FBI facilities. When we say “ATF,” let’s be clear that it is almost always the Department of Justice–including a U.S. Attorney and, in the case of Milwaukee, the same point. These tactics had to be approved by a prosecutor who was working out of there, and it clearly is where some of the responsibility has to lie, with political appointees.