Bloomberg News

Obama Administration Subpoenaed by House Panel Over Gun Case

October 12, 2011

(Updates with Justice Department statement in sixth paragraph.)

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. House panel subpoenaed the Obama administration over a law enforcement program that allowed illegal U.S. gun purchases in an effort to link the weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said today a subpoena went to Attorney General Eric Holder for Justice Department documents related to the program, called Fast and Furious.

“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” Issa said in a statement. “The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago.”

Issa has said Holder provided misleading testimony to Congress on May 3 about when he first learned of Fast and Furious, which was overseen by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The subpoena sets an Oct. 25 deadline for the Justice Department to produce 22 categories of documents, including communications involving Holder and other top officials at the department, ATF, White House and U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona.

’Generating Headlines’

“We’ve made clear from the beginning that the department intends to work with the committee to answer legitimate questions,” said Tracy Schmaler, a Justice department spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “This subpoena shows that Chairman Issa is more interested in generating headlines than in real oversight important to the American people.”

Holder said in an Oct. 7 letter to lawmakers that he didn’t recall knowing about the program until public controversy about it earlier this year was “truthful and accurate.”

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the oversight committee’s top Democrat, said the document request is “a gross abuse of the committee’s authority.”

“Rather than legitimate fact-gathering, this looks more like a political stunt,” Cummings said in a statement.

Two of about 2,000 guns that ATF allowed to be carried away were found at the scene of the December 2010 murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona, according to a report released in June by Issa and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee subpoena requests FBI documents and communications related to the investigation into Terry’s death.

--Editors: Justin Blum, Bob Drummond

To contact the reporter on this story: Seth Stern in Washington at sstern14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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