Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grassley Asks For Independent Investigation Into Project Gunwalker

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is asking for an independent investigation into Operation Fast and Furious aka Project Gunwalker. He sent a letter yesterday to the head of the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency asking that the Department of Justice's Acting Inspector General recuse herself from investigation and that an independent Inspector General conduct the investigation into the scandal. Sen. Grassley does not believe that the DOJ's Acting Inspector General can conduct an impartial investigation especially given they did not follow-up with Agent John Dodson until after being pushed to do so by Grassley's office in February. Dodson had made his charges to the OIG in December.

Grassley Requests Investigation of ATF’s Fast and Furious Policy be Removed from the Justice Department Inspector General

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said that he did not have confidence that the Justice Department Inspector General’s office could produce a report that the public would view as frank and unbiased in its investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) policy of letting guns “walk” along the Southwest border—a policy that may have contributed to the death of a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent.

In a letter today to Kevin Perkins, the head of the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Grassley cited several conflicts that lead him to believe that the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice cannot be seen as completely disinterested and independent.

“There are certainly better and more independent ways to conduct this investigation. To have an acting Inspector General’s office lead an investigation like this one just won’t pass the smell test,” Grassley said. “The fact that the Inspector General did not take this whistleblower’s allegations seriously enough to even call him back raises a lot of red flags for me.”

Grassley’s concerns outlined in his letter are:

1. The Inspector General position at the Justice Department is currently vacant. Any acting Inspector General is ill-equipped to take on an entrenched bureaucracy and challenge senior officials with tough questions.

2. The Justice Department Inspector General’s office was made aware of the allegations brought forward by ATF Agent John Dodson shortly after Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death. The Inspector General failed to respond to Dodson’s numerous attempts to contact the office until Grassley’s staff notified the office.

3. ATF officials have cited an Office of the Inspector General report as one of the factors that prompted the shift to a riskier strategy of letting guns be trafficked rather than arresting straw buyers.

Grassley began looking into allegations brought forward by Dodson, and more than a dozen other ATF agents, after the Justice Department Inspector General failed to investigate. The agents indicated that their supervisors kept them from stopping gun traffickers with the normal techniques that had been successfully used for years. They instead were ordered to only watch and continue gathering information on traffickers instead of arresting them as soon as they could. In the meantime, the guns were allowed to fall into the hands of the bad guys even as agents told supervisors that it could not end well. Many of the guns have subsequently been found in firefights along the border, including a December 14, 2010 firefight where Terry was killed.

Grassley’s requests for information have gone unanswered about what transpired at the ATF and the Department of Justice during the time when Terry was killed and the policies instituted during Project Gunrunner that allowed guns to be sold to known straw purchasers and moved across the border without intervention.

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