WASHINGTON — A show down on Capitol Hill seems to be getting closer.
The head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform announced Friday morning that he was issuing a subpoena to ATF to force it to turn over documents relating to a controversial gun program “Project Gunrunner” and its offshoot “Project Fast and Furious.”
The subpoena, announced by committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), comes in response to ATF’s failure to comply with a request by the committee to turn over the materials. The deadline was Wednesday. The deadline to comply with the subpoena is April 13.
“The unwillingness of this Administration – most specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – to answer questions about this deadly serious matter is deeply troubling,” Issa said in a statement.
“Allegations surrounding this program are serious and the ability of the Justice Department to conduct an impartial investigation is in question. Congressional oversight is necessary to get the truth about what is really happening.”
Drew Wade, an ATF spokesman, said Friday morning shortly before the subpoena was announced: “We aren’t going to discuss matters of ongoing investigations. He could not immediately be reached for a follow up comment.
The controversy centers on a an ATF program that allowed straw purchasers to buy guns — all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels. Some guns have been used in crimes.
A press release issued Friday morning by the committee stated:
“On March 16, 2011, Chairman Issa wrote a letter to Acting Director Kenneth Melson of the ATF requesting specific documents related to Project Gunrunner, its “Fast and Furious” component, and records related to the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. ATF failed to meet the March 30th deadline for producing these documents and furthermore refused to voluntarily commit to any date for producing them. ”
“Media reports have raised questions about the handling of operations involving gun trafficking into Mexico – specifically the allegation that ATF has had a policy of permitting – and even encouraging – the movement of guns into Mexico by straw purchasers.
“This practice may have contributed to the deaths of hundreds on both sides of the border, including federal law enforcement agents. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who has also been pursuing the matter, recently stated, ‘I’m still asking questions and we’re still getting the runaround from the Justice Department, [t]hey’re stonewalling.’”
“President Obama recently stated that neither he nor Attorney General Holder authorized this operation. His statement did not specify whether Attorney General Holder was aware of this policy or who did authorize it. The Committee’s investigation seeks answers to these questions and the true nature of Project Gunrunner.”
The subpoena requests the following documents, according to the press release:
1. Documents and communications relating to the genesis of Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, and any memoranda or reports involving any changes to either program at or near the time of the release of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General report about Project Gunrunner in November 2010.