Issa Gets Tough On Justice Department Over Refusal to Discuss ATF Project Gunrunner

Katie Pavlich
Posted: Apr 20, 2011 2:10 PM
After refusing to submit documents and information about ATF's Project Gunner requested by Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep. Darrell Issa in February and after the blatant disregard to produce requested documents after Issa slapped a subpoena on the Justice Department and ATF on March 31, the Chairman is threatening to raise a contempt concern surrounding the complete lack of cooperation from the department. Justice Department officials have cited "on-going investigations" as reasons for withholding information about Project Gunrunner.

 “The Department’s internal policy to withhold documents from what it labels pending criminal investigations may not deprive Congress from obtaining those same documents if they are pertinent to a congressional investigation – particularly in a matter involving allegations that reckless and inappropriate decisions by top Justice Department officials may have contributed to the deaths of both U.S. and Mexican citizens,” Chairman Issa wrote in a letter to ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson, citing Supreme Court precedents and previous Congressional investigations.  “Let me be clear … we are not conducting a concurrent investigation with the Department of Justice, but rather an independent investigation of the Department of Justice – specifically, of allegations that the reckless and inappropriate decisions of Department officials have created a serious public safety hazard.  We are asking for documents that relate to decisions such officials made.  Congress is legally entitled to all of these documents.”

 “Efforts by the Department of Justice and ATF to stonewall the Committee in its investigation by erroneously, but matter-of-factly, citing an internal department policy as a preventative measure for denying access to documents have only enhanced suspicions that such officials have played a role in reckless decisions that have put lives at risk.  The Committee continues to pursue this matter vigorously, in part, because concerned individuals have indicated they do not have confidence in the Department’s ability to review the actions of its own top officials.”

Since the discovery of Project Gunrunner by media outlets and mounting pressure from Issa on the Justice Department to produce explanations for the horrific and deadly project, DOJ officials have failed to release a single document requested by the Oversight Committee, raising the question: What are they hiding?