Pols Accuse Justice Dept. of Trying to Alter Witness Testimony in Fast and Furious Probe

Rep. Issa/gov photo
Allan Lengel

Two outspoken  politicians are accusing the Justice Department of giving potential witnesses in a Congressional investigation into a controversial ATF program access to information to tailor their responses “to what they think the Committees already know.”

The Justice Department on Tuesday afternoon said there was an explanation for what happened.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) fired off a letter dated July 11 to Attorney Gen. Eric Holder. The two politicians are conducting Congressional investigations into the controversial ATF program “Operation Fast and Furious” that encouraged gun dealers to sell to middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

“We have recently learned that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has afforded potential witness for the Committees’ investigation into Operation Fast and Furious access to a shared drive on its computer system replete with pertinent investigative documents, including official ATF emails,” the two Congressional members wrote.

“Although, our staff has been advised the Department has since terminated access to this document cache, we write to seek additional information regarding this egregious decision. We also ask that you promptly self-report this mater to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).”

Sen. Grassley/official photo

“Allowing witnesses access to such documents could taint their testimony by allowing them to tailor their responses to what they think the Committees already know. Additionally, witnesses who gain access to documents they have not previously seen could alter their recollection of events.”

The letter was just the latest in a series of critical attacks by Grassley and Issa on ATF and the Justice Department as they move forward with their investigations into Fast and Furious.

Tracy Schmaler, a  Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement:

“The share drive was created by ATF as a repository to store documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. There was no attempt to disseminate these documents internally at ATF or elsewhere.

“Only ATF senior leadership and employees conducting the document review had access to the documents in the share drive, and once the Department was made aware that access to this drive included those senior ATF officials who had also been identified as witnesses in the committee’s investigation, their access to documents in that drive was removed.”

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