House government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced that the Justice Department's internal watchdog is about to release a report which has been long-awaited concerning Operation Fast and Furious. Apparently the document will be released just in time for a House hearing next week.
Issa released a statement in which he said,
"For a year and a half, Attorney General Eric Holder has cited the ongoing Inspector General investigation as his reason for declining to hold those responsible for reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious to account. Next week, this excuse for delaying action ends,” Issa said in a statement. “Although I am concerned that the Justice Department has not given the Inspector General full and unfettered access to all relevant information, Inspector General Horowitz’s report and testimony should add to the understanding of the operation and numerous related management failures at the Department.”
Issa is already scheduling Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify next Tuesday morning following the release of the report.
In response, Horowitz wrote a letter. The LA Times reports,
“Due to these legal restrictions, we cannot release the report or discuss its conclusions until the issues arising from this sensitivity review have been resolved,” he wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Horowitz in his letter also advised Issa that he may not be able to testify as scheduled Sept. 11 at a committee hearing about the inspector general's Fast and Furious findings, if the report is not finished and publicly released by then. “As of this date,” he cautioned, “I do not yet know the precise timing for the release of our report.”
Horowitz noted that Justice officials on Wednesday “provided us with its initial sensitivity review for law enforcement sensitive information” including wiretaps, grand jury material and sealed court records.
“We are in the process of discussing these proposed sensitivity redactions with the Department,” Horowitz wrote in the letter, which arrived Wednesday. “We also are awaiting comments from the department regarding whether any material discussed in the report is covered by the president’s assertion of executive privilege.”
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Two senior ATF officials familiar with the report say they are not surprised the report is said to target ATF officials in Arizona for blame in the case.
The officials, insisting on anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the draft report, say the findings are consistent with what Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters has maintained throughout the investigation -- that much of the blame lies with officials in Phoenix who developed the operation, and largely kept Washington executives in the dark.
Former U.S. Attorney in Phoenix Dennis Burke resigned over the controversy. ATF Special Agent in Charge William Newell and some of his top Phoenix associates were reassigned.
ATF officials in Arizona, however, have said they were following guidelines from ATF headquarters, which recommended the field-level officials should take steps to catch top drug cartel members who receive illegal weapons from within the United States.