U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says he has assigned four investigators to look into the escapade of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that has become known as “Project Gunrunner.”
Issa made the statement in a live broadcast interview with talk-radio host Roger Hedgecock. The case centers on allegations of a flow of guns into Mexico orchestrated by the federal agency, including a weapon that later was used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Investigators will examine allegations that the ATF encouraged gun shops to sell guns to questionable customers so it could track the weapons as they were smuggled into Mexico.
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform spokesman Seamus Kraft says Issa’s committee is launching the investigation because of the people’s right to know what their government is doing.
“Americans have a right to know who let this program happen and why. Our investigation seeks to deliver the facts so taxpayers can decide who should be held accountable,” Kraft explained.
In the Hedgecock interview, committee chairman Issa said he intends to find out who lied about the firearms smuggling operation.
“The gun shops are often vilified for being the source, but in this case they did the right thing. They contacted the agency and were told to go ahead,” Issa said. “As we get to the truth, we’re going to hold those who lied to us early on accountable.”
Issa is also determined to break through the agency’s efforts to stonewall the investigation.
Kraft said Issa also supports plans for an inquiry by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
“ATF and DOJ denied the existence of the program and stonewalled the senator’s requests, relying on a policy of not disclosing information relating to an ‘open investigation,’” Kraft explained.
“Chairman Issa strongly supports Sen. Grassley’s efforts, and he has launched an investigation to obtain the relevant information necessary to get to the bottom of this matter,” Kraft added.
A spokesman for Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, said the senator is pleased by the news about Issa’s investigation.
“Senator Grassley is pleased that Mr. Issa has joined him in getting to the bottom of the ATF’s policy on letting guns walk, and he plans to coordinate and share information with Mr. Issa as the investigation continues,” Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said.
Kraft would not comment on plans by the Mexican government for hearings on the allegations, but Issa said in the Hedgecock interview he finally sees a Mexican government that is willing to cooperate.
The operation went public in a number of reports, including one by CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who said several agents had been ordered to “stand down” instead of intercepting the guns.
WND reported recently that at least one of the gun shops that cooperated with the ATF operation became a target for a federal investigation for “illegal gun sales.”
That shop was Houston-based Carter’s Country, whose managers were notified by Houston’s U.S. attorney that they were the subjects of an investigation.
Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said that it took several court appearances and a mediation session to clear Carter’s Country of any charges of wrongdoing.
Kraft says Issa’s committee hasn’t made any decisions on reparations for legal fees.
“At this point, we haven’t reached any conclusion on the level of cooperation between FFLs and the ATF,” Kraft stated.