Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, received confirmation at today's Committee hearing that the Department of Justice likely broke the law and should face severe penalties for its involvement in Operation Fast and Furious.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in response to Congressman Mack's questioning, stated that the Department of State was not aware of the Department of Justice's Operation Fast and Furious program, which provided arms to Mexican insurgents. Without gaining State Department approval, decision-makers at the Department of Justice were in violation of U.S. law, and will likely face steep penalties.
During the hearing, Mack asked Clinton when she learned of Operation Fast and Furious. Secretary Clinton responded that the State Department has "no record of any request for coordination" with the Department of Justice, and that she "learned of [Fast and Furious] from the press."
After the hearing, Mack added: "It is time that this Administration takes responsibility for Fast and Furious. Enough with the delays and double-talk. I want to know who is going to be held accountable for this tragic and irresponsible program. The American people deserve the truth."
Yesterday, in a letter to Secretary Clinton, Congressman Mack informed the Secretary of possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act. United States law requires State Department involvement in any decision to send weapons across an international border.
The text of the letter is below:
October 26, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
I am deeply troubled by revelations that officials involved in the Fast and Furious operation specifically excluded details of the operation from State Department officials. Further, it appears that this breach of protocol resulted in a violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) created by the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), a violation carrying severe penalties.
In recent testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Ambassador William Brownfield testified under oath that the State Department had no knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation. If accurate, the Justice Department is in serious breach of United States law by intentionally circumventing the Department of State.
As you are now aware, our government allowed thousands of weapons to enter a country battling an extremely violent drug war with no reasonable hope of recovering those weapons. This policy provided drug cartels with the very firearms used to massacre U.S and Mexican nationals and wage a criminal insurgency against the Mexican government. We may never know exactly how many deaths can be attributed to the irresponsible actions of the Justice Department, nor the lasting implications for U.S. national security.
As you also know, U.S. law places the Department of State at the helm of protecting against such failures. Under the ITAR, it is a violation of the AECA to "conspire to export, import, reexport or cause to be exported any defense article for which a license or written approval is required without first obtaining the required license or written approval from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls," [emphasis added]. The State Department is entrusted with preventing American weapons from being used in foreign conflicts without the approval of a sovereign foreign nation, while ensuring that American weapons will not end up in the hands of our enemies to be used against our own citizens.
I request that you divulge the extent of the State Department's knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation. If the State Department had no knowledge of this operation, as was stated in Ambassador Brownfield's official testimony, I urge you to assure the American people that your Department will hold the Department of Justice accountable for these appalling infractions. The American people await your timely response.
Member of Congress