Fast and Furious Contempt Vote
UPDATE: 4:44 p.m. ET: The House has voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt, 255-67.
The House Committee for Government Oversight and Reform will proceed today with the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. At this point, however, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) said he is not accusing theWhite House or Holder for knowing about the Fast and Furious operation. Rather, the Committee is looking for documents to reveal why the Department of Justice initially denied and later admitted to knowledge of the scandal.
“When did they know we were lied to and what did they do about it?” Issa asked, according to CBS News.
The Fast and Furious operation refers to a 2009 gun-walking tactic resulting in more than 2000 guns to be walked across the Arizona/Mexico border in an attempt to trace the guns to suspected gun smugglers. The operation ultimately failed and resulted in unaccounted weapons and the death of border agent Brian Terry.
The National Rifle Association has given its support to the contempt proceedings and say today’s vote will influence which candidates they will back in the future. This move by the NRA may influence not only House Republicans but pro-gun House Democrats as well.
Whistleblower Involved in Gunwalking
Adding to the mess surrounding the contempt proceedings is the integrity of a key whistleblower, John Dodson, an ATF agent who has been implicated in a separate but concurrent gunwalking operation. Dodson and his former supervisor, Dave Voth, have both claimed to have been against what has been termed the “Fernandez case,” referred to by Darrell Issa on ABC’s “This Week.” Fernandez involves six guns that Dodson purchased and delivered to gun-smuggling suspect Isaias Fernandez on June 1, 2010, according to Fox. However, there is some dispute on whether Dodson instigated the transfer of guns or was simply following Voth’s orders.
An investigative report by Fortune claims the entire Fast and Furious episode is simply politics run out of control. In defense of Voth, Fortune says the ATF agents were legally limited by what they could do to curb the flow of guns. Arizona statute allows for easy purchase and resale of guns, and ATF had been in hot water for some of its earlier efforts at gun interception and agents’ hands were tied. In spite of ATF’s of gun walking, they unable to convince federal prosecutors to pursue the matter, Fortune said. Prosecutors said they needed more evidence than what had already been put forth. In order to collect such evidence, the ATF unsuccessfully attempted a wiretap operation and subsequently, the gun smuggling continued. The fallout was agent Brian Terry’s death and Dodson’s claim that Voth had pursued Fast and Furious despite his and others’ disapproval. Dodson also referred to an email in which Voth cites a “schism” between those who supported walking the guns and those who did not. However, Voth claims Dodson and others reported events out of context as an attempt at retribution, and the schism referred to wire tapping, not gunwalking. *Update, 6/29/2012: The schism in the email actually referred to disputes among coworkers about the wiretap shift scheduling. Dodson was opposed to working weekends, and agents pulled in to help from other projects did not want to work the less desirable shifts. Fortune further reported that Dodson walked the guns and then left on vacation without finalizing the operation or successfully tracking the guns.
Politically motivated? Does it matter?
Each side is decrying the political motivations of the other. Republicans cite an anti-gun agenda behind the gunwalking while Democrats see an attempt to embarrass the president during an election year. While there is likely some political motivation on both sides, my main question is whether the public has a right to the information Issa is requesting. Or is Obama’s use of executive privilege — the first in his administration — warranted in interest of preserving the integrity of an ongoing investigation and internal deliberations?
Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – email@example.com – or on twitter – @whitevs7
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