In the early morning hours of Dec. 15, 2010, border patrol agent Brian A. Terry died in the desert of Peck Canyon near Rio Rico, Ariz. Terry had been shot during a firefight with five suspected illegal aliens.
In the ensuing investigation, two AK-47 variant rifles were recovered at the scene and later traced to an American citizen. The traces also uncovered that the purchaser was known to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as part of Operation Fast and Furious.
For nearly a year, the Department of Justice denied anything improper had occurred and stood behind a Feb. 4, 2011, letter in which it insinuated that whistleblowers about the case where lying.
Even though the department has since withdrawn that denial and acknowledged Operation Fast and Furious was “fundamentally flawed,” top officials continue to be uncooperative with a joint investigation being led by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Over the course of the year-and-a-half-long investigation, the department has issued false denials, intentionally misdirected investigators, attempted to intimidate witnesses, withheld subpoenaed documents and refused to admit inconvenient facts until confronted with incontrovertible evidence.
Their defiance of the investigation is not only a hindrance to congressional investigators and two countries seeking answers on how such an operation could have ever been approved but a denial of answers to a family mourning the loss of someone who gave his life in the service of this country.
That is why the Oversight and Government Reform Committee began proceedings to hold Attorney Gen. Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this week.
The question is not whether the program should have ever been green-lighted. We already know that answer.
At question here is how the justice department reacted to revelations about Operation Fast and Furious, how whistleblowers were treated and why it took the department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics.
Specifically, the House is seeking answers to the process in which the justice department switched its view from denying all allegations to admitting they were true and holding those who sought to falsely discredit or retaliate against whistleblowers.
The justice department claims providing this information to Congress would have a “chilling effect” on future internal deliberations, but this stands counter to a previous decision to make similar information available to Congress during an investigation into the dismissal of several U.S. attorneys in 2007. In addition, the Obama administration has not asserted executive privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials.
Holder and his deputies have delayed long enough. The American people deserve answers.
Kingston serves the 1st congressional district of Georgia, which includes Liberty and Long counties.