IG Report: The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General Examines the Failures of Operation Fast and Furious
Chairman's Preview Statement
9:30 am in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
The 471-page report released yesterday by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz is a step toward restoring the public’s faith in the Department of Justice. I was impressed by the professionalism, thoroughness and scope of the report.
It confirms what the Oversight Committee has known for quite some time: the Department of Justice has let the American people down. Specifically, it confirms the fundamental conclusions we have found in our 19-month investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. This includes the inexcusable response from senior Department officials to legitimate inquiries from Congress.
Fast and Furious was a breach of the public trust. It contributed to the tragic murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the deaths of countless innocent Mexican citizens.
In fact, just this Tuesday, the U.S. Border Patrol Station, in Naco, Arizona was dedicated to Brian’s memory.
Our work is not yet done.
Left with no other options, on June 28 – eight months after the Committee issued its subpoena to Attorney General Holder – the House held the Attorney General in civil and criminal contempt for failing to comply.
On August 13, the Committee filed a civil action to compel Attorney General Eric Holder to produce documents related to Operation Fast and Furious subpoenaed by the Committee on October 11, 2011.
Our legal action seeks to obtain documents covered by the subpoena that will show why the Justice Department took ten months to retract a February 4, 2011 letter. This letter contained false denials of the reckless investigative tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious.
The report's finding that statements denying reckless conduct made to Congress by the Justice Department were "troubling" and that senior officials "knew or should have known" they were false or misleading only underscores the importance of the legal action underway to overturn an invalid assertion of Executive Privilege by President Obama.
Among the report's other conclusions, the finding that wiretap applications approved by senior officials did contain red flags about reckless tactics who should have acted on this information is among the most important.
This conclusion contradicted specific denials by Attorney General Holder and Members on the other side of this dais who used their credibility to falsely assure the public that the sealed wiretap applications contained no such information.
From Agents on the ground in Arizona, up to and including the Attorney General's office, the IG’s report describes widespread dysfunction and a lack of leadership. These forceful conclusions are already having an impact.
Yesterday, as we understand it, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein was asked to resign from the Department. When mistakes of this magnitude occur, senior officials must be held accountable.
This Committee sincerely hopes that the Department heeds OIG’s recommendation: it must review the conduct and performance of all officials faulted in the report to determine the appropriate discipline or other administrative action. This includes all the numerous members of Attorney General Holder's own inner circle who were singled out by name in the report for their failures.
Finally, the report vindicates ATF whistleblowers who stepped forward to allege and end serious wrongdoing. I hope the Department will finally recognize these brave men for their contributions and your office acts aggressively to hold those who tried to intimidate them to account.
I look forward to hearing the Inspector General’s testimony at today’s hearing.
Immediately following this hearing will be a Full Committee Business Meeting.