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The Hill - Fast and More Furious: The Case for Contempt


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By Representative Blake Farenthold

On December 15th, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed while on patrol in Arizona. This brave man gave his life in service to our country and was murdered with guns that, for all practical purposes, were handed to Mexican cartels by the very government he died serving.

Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failure to produce documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious - an effort approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2009, authorizing the transfer of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to build a case against drug smugglers.

Yesterday, after meeting with Chairman Darrell Issa, Attorney General Eric Holder turned over none of the documents he promised to deliver. The Justice Department's failure to completely comply with this investigation is their standard operating procedure. The Oversight Committee and full House of Representatives should move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt of Congress.

While it is common sense that handing guns to cartels is terrible policy, a finding of contempt seems to be the last option the Committee has to get answers on who knew what and when, within the Justice Department and ATF.

A finding of contempt does not place blame on any individual, instead it is the formal process Congress uses to enforce compliance with its subpoenas. The end result - if passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives -- would be that the Department of Justice would be forced to produce the subpoenaed documents.

Democrats would have you believe contempt proceedings have never happened before. However, former chairman for the Oversight Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), scheduled two contempt of Congress proceedings, and in a separate proceeding in 2008, Democrats voted to hold Bush officials, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, in contempt.

Time and time again, Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, have come before Congress to deny knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious, how it was approved and who at the head of the agency knew it was taking place. We now know from recently acquired wiretap applications that this is false.

Additionally, the Justice Department went from forcefully denying whistleblower allegations to finally admitting their truth. Even after the truth came out, many of these brave whistleblowers were retaliated against, called liars or forced to relocate all because they came forward to inform the public what was really happening in the cover up of Operation Fast and Furious.

As a border representative, I know the damage violence from Mexican drug cartels has on the economy and safety of our border communities. Handing over thousands of weapons to drug cartels added fuel to the fire, increased violence on our border and damaged our relationship with the Mexican government, an ally we should be working with not against.

The action by the Committee to hold the Attorney General in contempt should come as no surprise to the Department of Justice. This information is so important because it will shed light on the management failures at ATF and DOJ that ultimately led to the approval of Operation Fast and Furious. It is time for this country's chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, to do right by the American people and by the families who have lost loved ones from this failed operation.

These documents will give Congress the tools and understanding necessary to ensure an operation like Fast and Furious never happens again. We need accountability and responsibility within the federal government and Agent Terry's family deserves answers.

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