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A team of top legal experts representing the Gun Owners Foundation in its fight for information about the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious gun-running scandal is challenging the federal government’s demand for a virtually unlimited delay in the case.
Attorneys William J. Olson and John S. Miles of William J. Olson, P.C., operating at the Law and Freedom website, have filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington a memo opposing the request by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for an indefinite suspension of its obligation to release public information.
The scandal is of such importance the issue needs to be resolved, according to the new pleading.
“This is not simply a case about an overworked federal agency that is facing an onslaught of FOIA cases and needs additional time to process the plaintiff’s request,” the pleading says.
“Instead, this case involves an agency that authorized firearms to be illegally purchased in the United States, and transferred into the hands of Mexican drug cartels in an ill-fated program known as ‘Fast and Furious.’ Fast and Furious allegedly was instituted by ATF as part of an effort to trace the flow of illegal firearms, but this could not be the true reason, because the firearms were not traced after ATF agents assisted in their illegal purchase and smuggling,” the brief says.
“Rather, Fast and Furious is widely viewed as part of ATF’s effort to generate support for federal gun controls.”
The complaint explains that the strategy unraveled when a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed by a bullet fired from one of the weapons that the government allowed to be delivered to the criminal drug rings.
And that, the brief explains, may shed light on why the ATF already has delayed for two years and wants still further unspecified delays.
“ATF has steadfastly resisted every effort by Congress, the media, and private parties to uncover information about this ill-conceived operation. Viewed through this lens, ATF’s motion for a stay is but a continuation of an agency coverup of its own actions that have had tragic consequences – the kind of resistance to transparency and accountability that the Freedom of Information Act was enacted to prevent.”
The brief explains to the court that the ATF accepted the initial information request and confirmed that it was being processed.
“There was no mention of ATF being overburdened by FOIA requests, or any problem preventing a response. … Only well after suit was filed did ATF claim to have too many Fast and Furious FOIA requests to handle.”
The ATF’s current request for a “stay” that would virtually bring to a halt any action on any such requests “appears to be unprecedented, and without legal support,” the brief says.
The brief explains the agency said there were 8,000 pages that needed to be reviewed, then it changed that to 15,000, then 28,000 and then 35,300.
“ATF’s representations have been inconsistent as to how many total documents there are awaiting review,” the brief said, listing the government estimates of 30,000, 315,0000, 345,000, 13,000, 80,000 and 138,000.
And although the ATF has admitted it has processed some documents responsive to the request for information, it has refused to turn over a single page.
The original request was for records regarding a March 16, 2011, letter from U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asking about “Project Gunrunner.” Also sought were documents relating to ATF’s preparation of any response to that letter and others.