Attorney General Eric Holder is being asked to respond to allegations that he allowed witnesses to be prepped for congressional hearings into Operation Fast and Furious.
House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, grilled Holder about the new developments in a Monday letter.
Issa and Grassley asked Holder why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has provided potential witnesses with access to a shared digital hard drive containing documents, details and information about the now-defunct Operation Fast and Furious. The shared drive is “replete with pertinent investigative documents” and official ATF emails, Issa and Grassley said.
“Although our staff has been advised the Department has since terminated access to this document cache, we write to seek additional information relating to this egregious decision,” Grassley and Issa wrote to Holder. “We also ask that you promptly self-report this matter to the Office of Inspect General (OIG).”
In the letter, the two legislators also write that the shared drive likely contains documents and information that they have not yet had access to. Issa and Grassley worry about what kind of effects this information could have on the impartiality of potential witnesses.
“This practice harms not only our investigation, but also the independent investigation that you instructed the Inspector General to conduct,” the letter reads. (Issa, Grassley blast Holder in letter after secret meeting with ATF’s Ken Melson)
Grassley and Issa are looking for specific answers regarding which ATF and Justice Department employees had access to the hard drive and when, which employees still have access to the drive, a log of all the documents on the drive and when the documents were posted, and a log of any other documents relating to their investigation that those employees had access to.
Operation Fast and Furious and Project Gunrunner were ATF programs the administration aimed at stopping guns from getting into the hands of criminals in Mexico.
With Operation Fast and Furious, Obama administration officials permitted “straw purchasers” to buy guns and then to sell them to Mexican drug cartels with the goal of tracking the flow of arms to determine how the market functioned. The program backfired with criminals ending up getting guns.
Most egregiously, two U.S. Border Patrol agents were killed by drug cartels using Operation Fast and Furious guns.