WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Darrell Issa are again pushing the U.S. Department of Justice to be forthcoming about yet another gun found at the scene of a shooting in Arizona and connected to the ill-advised gunwalking strategy known as Operation Fast and Furious.
The shooting occurred at a Phoenix apartment complex and left two individuals wounded. Grassley and Issa learned of the gun from documents obtained through a request under Arizona’s open records law by Judicial Watch. According to the non-profit’s website, the organization “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government.” Grassley and Issa were able to confirm through documents obtained during their investigation that the weapon found at the scene was purchased by Sean Christopher Steward, who has since been convicted for his role in Operation Fast and Furious and is serving 9 years in prison.
Steward purchased the firearm while under surveillance by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF agents watched Steward purchase the firearms, place them in another person’s vehicle, and transfer them to a suspected stash house. Despite the continued surveillance, the ATF did nothing to stop the guns from being moved. The gun was one of approximately 200 firearms that Steward purchased in December 2009 with full knowledge of the ATF.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Grassley and Issa ask for additional information about this particular gun and other firearms associated with crimes that were allowed to be trafficked by the ATF during Operation Fast and Furious. Grassley and Issa have previously asked for similar information, and make clear that the continued lack of transparency by the Obama administration regarding Operation Fast and Furious creates mistrust from Congress and the American people.
“The refusal to respond to our standing requests for this information effectively hides the connection between crimes like this and Operation Fast and Furious. Unless the information becomes available some other way, the public would never know. This lack of transparency about the consequences of Fast and Furious undermines public confidence in law enforcement and gives the impression that the Department is still seeking to suppress information and limit its exposure to public scrutiny,” Grassley and Issa wrote.
Grassley and Issa led a congressional investigation into the actions of the Justice Department and the ATF that allowed gunwalking, guns purchased by known straw buyers who then often transferred the firearms to Mexican drug cartels. Operation Fast and Furious contributed to the death of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who died in December 2010 when a firearm from the operation was found at the murder scene. The House of Representatives has subpoenaed documents withheld by the Justice Department which were subsequently claimed by the White House to be under executive privilege. Most recently, a federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to produce a privilege log to explain why the documents are being withheld from Congress.