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Patrick Richardson

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February 1, 2012 - 8:45 pm

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder will find himself in the hot seat as he again faces questions before Chairman Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The testimony he plans to enter for the record was obtained by PJ Media. Portions of the testimony (followed by my own dissection) follow:

Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings, and members of the Committee, I am here today because I understand and appreciate the importance of congressional oversight, and because I am committed to ensuring the highest standards of integrity and professionalism at the Department of Justice. That’s precisely what I pledged to do – exactly three years ago tomorrow – when I was sworn in as Attorney General. And it is exactly what I have done.

Really? Because I thought Holder actually sent Congress documents which were a lie and had to be retracted, had one of his employees admit his testimony before Issa’s committee “lacked completeness,” and so politicized his office that former employees have written books about the corruptionwithin his Justice Department.

Over the last three years, we’ve made a number of significant improvements, including policy and personnel changes that address many of the concerns that are the subject of this hearing. Today, I’d like to discuss some of these improvements in specific terms – and outline the steps that we have taken to ensure that the flawed tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious – and in earlier operations under the prior Administration – are never again used. If some of my comments today sound familiar, it is because this marks the sixth time I have answered questions about this operation before a congressional committee in the last year.

Interesting wording — “personnel changes.” Does he mean like promoting and/or reassigning many of the people responsible for the failed operation which allowed more than 2,500 military-style firearms across the border into the hands of some of the most murderous people in the world?

Let me start, however, with something that cannot be said often enough: allowing guns to “walk” – whether in this administration or in the prior one – is wholly unacceptable.

Here we go again with “Bush did it too.” The difference between Operation Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious is that the Bush administration quickly realized it was a dumb idea and shut it down. Holder’s ATF tried the same dumb idea again and then expanded on it. Then once it was clear it was a bad idea, they tried to cover it up. What is that definition of insanity again?

That’s why, when I learned early last year about the allegations raised by ATF agents involved with Fast and Furious, I took action. In addition to requesting an Inspector General investigation last February, I ordered that a directive be sent prohibiting the use of such tactics.

Let’s start with the fact that Holder claimed he only knew about it after the story broke in the media. But then, Holder has claimed several different points at which he learned about the program. And I’m still a little confused as to why it was necessary to send a directive prohibiting something so obviously stupid.

We also have provided Congress with virtually unprecedented access to internal deliberative documents to show how inaccurate information was initially conveyed in a letter sent to Senator Grassley on February 4, 2011. These documents show that Department officials relied on information provided by supervisors from the relevant components in the best position to know the facts. We now know that some of the information they provided was inaccurate.

He means he was about to get caught lying — again.

We also understand that, in subsequent interviews with congressional investigators, these supervisors have stated that they did not know at the time that the information they provided was inaccurate.

Oh, like Special Agent in Charge William Newell, who had to tell Issa’s committee in an open hearing that his previous testimony “lacked completeness”?

As I testified in a previous hearing, the Department does not intend to produce additional deliberative materials about the response to congressional oversight or media requests that postdate the commencement of congressional review. This decision is consistent with the longstanding approach taken by the Department, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, and reflects concerns for the constitutionally-protected separation of powers.

There is a legitimate point here, however the problem is that DoJ has lied to Congress so many times (as well as refusing to testify, officials taking the 5th, and just out-and-out obfuscation) that no one would believe it if Holder’s DoJ said the sun rose in the east.

Prior administrations have recognized that robust internal communications would be chilled, and the Executive Branch’s ability to respond to oversight requests thereby impeded, if our internal communications concerning our responses to congressional oversight were disclosed to Congress. For both Branches, this would be an undesirable outcome. The appropriate functioning of the separation of powers requires that Executive Branch officials have the ability to communicate confidentially as they discuss how to respond to inquiries from Congress. I want to note that the separation of powers concerns are particularly acute here, because the Committee has sought information about open criminal investigations and prosecutions.

No, they’re investigating Holder’s department. That’s been clear from the beginning of this mess a year ago. They haven’t asked for any information on investigations, just on the process. That is quite different, and as an attorney, Holder should know it.

This is an important start, but we have more to do. And no one knows this better than the members of our nation’s law enforcement community – including the ATF agents who testified before this Committee last summer. Not only did these agents bring the inappropriate and misguided tactics of Operation Fast and Furious to light, they also sounded the alarm for more effective laws to combat gun trafficking and improve public safety.

These agents explained that ATF’s ability to stem the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico suffers from a lack of effective enforcement tools. Unfortunately, in 2011, a majority of House Members – including all members of the majority on this Committee – voted to keep law enforcement in the dark when individuals purchase multiple semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and long guns – like AK-47s – in gun shops in four southwest-border states.

As the great Ronald Reagan said, “There he goes again.” Holder did this the last time he testified before Congress. He called for more gun control. How exactly would said reporting have changed a thing during this so-called “investigation”? Given that the gun shops in question were calling Holder’s agents, telling them some guy in a beat-up Dodge Dart who smelled like he rolled in week-old dead cat had just asked to buy $20,000 worth of AK-47s — and his agents told them to make the sale.

In this new year, I hope we can work together to provide law enforcement agents with the tools they desperately need – and have requested – to protect our citizens and ensure their own safety. Indeed, incidents of violence against law enforcement officers are approaching the highest levels we’ve seen in nearly two decades, even though violent crime is down overall. Last year, a total of 177 federal, state, and local officers lost their lives in the line of duty – a 16 percent increase over 2010. More than 70 of these deaths involved firearms – 20 percent more than the previous year. And, since the beginning of this year, an additional 14 officers have been killed – half of them in gun-related incidents.

And another call for more gun control. What does that have to do with Operation Fast and Furious, exactly?

I could go on for paragraphs more. Suffice to say, Holder should be in for an interesting day tomorrow — in the Chinese sense of the word. Issa has already threatened him with contempt charges and it boggles the mind that none of the Republican candidates have even mentioned this yet.

Enraged doesn’t even cover how people should feel about this. Tune in for full coverage tomorrow.

Also read: BREAKING: DOJ prosecutors took bribes from financial execs, still working at DOJ

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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