-- U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, PA-10, strongly supports a full investigation into the truthfulness of Attorney General Eric Holder's May testimony before a House Judiciary Committee.
Marino, a member of the Judiciary Committee, was one of the first legislators to call for congressional inquiry into the controversy surrounding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and an initiative known as "Project Gunrunner."
"We need to fully investigate this matter so the men and women who risk their lives to protect us can go to work every day knowing that the U.S. government has their back," Marino said. "A border agent lost his life in the line of duty, perhaps as a result of a bungled Washington operation that had already raised some concerns.
"We also need to find out whether the Attorney General lied in his testimony before the Judiciary Committee. If he did, he not only broke the law, he compromised the trust of the American people and the border agents who risk their lives to protect us."
In a March 2 letter to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Marino asked that the subcommittee consider "exercising its authority to conduct oversight over the ATF and its operation of the controversial initiative." He noted the Obama administration's unwillingness to provide comprehensive answers to questions posted by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"It is critical that we do everything we can to ensure that federal policies and programs do not put our nation's law enforcement officials in unnecessary danger," Marino wrote in March.
Marino pointed out in the letter that the Judiciary Committee Oversight Plan for the 112th Congress grants oversight responsibility of the ATF to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and accordingly will "review the mission and operations of the ATF, including federal firearms enforcement, explosives investigations, and tobacco and alcohol trafficking operations."
This week House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith called for a special counsel to investigate Holder's statements made at a hearing in May. In a letter to President Obama, Smith expressed concern that members of Congress may have been misled by the Attorney General's response to a question regarding his knowledge of the Fast and Furious program. The Attorney General stated that he first heard of the program in the weeks leading up to the May 2011 hearing.
Project Gunrunner began as an ATF pilot project in 2005 and was expanded the following year. Its goal is to reduce drug and firearms trafficking and related violence on the U.S. border. The controversy arose when agents within the ATF publicly stated they were ordered to allow small-time purchasers to pass firearms to middlemen, who then resold the guns to Mexican drug cartels. Fast and Furious is the name of an ATF sting that operated in 2009 and 2010 as part of Project Gunrunner's investigations into illegal gun trafficking.