WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Oversight Committee seeks an order forcing Attorney General Eric Holder to release documents about the government’s botched gun-trafficking operation.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Darrell Issla, R-Calif., filed a civil contempt action Monday in Federal Court that seeks to enforce a subpoena against the attorney general for documents tied to “Operation Fast and Furious.”
The operation, executed by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, used a practice known as “gun walking,” where it allowed guns purchased illegally in the United States to be transported to Mexico to try to establish a link between gun buyers and Mexican gang leaders, according to the lawsuit.
But the operation failed when the government allegedly lost track of about 2,000 guns, two of which were later found at the scene of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder on Dec. 15, 2010.
In June, Holder urged the White House to invoke executive privilege to shield internal Justice Department documents subpoenaed by the committee last October.
The committee says the Justice Department has “actively resisted cooperating fully with the Committee’s investigation from the very outset.”
“[T]he Attorney General’s conception of the reach of ‘Executive privilege,’ were it to be accepted, would cripple congressional oversight of Executive branch agencies, to the very great detriment of the Nation and our constitutional structure,” the lawsuit states.
“Accordingly, the Committee asks this Court to reject the Attorney General’s assertion of ‘Executive privilege’ and order him forthwith to comply with the Committee’s subpoena.”
The committee says the Justice Department initially tried to deny the existence of any gun-walking operations through a statement it was later forced to withdraw.
The subpoenaed documents will help the committee and the American people “understand how and why the Department provided false information to Congress and otherwise obstructed the Committee’s concededly legitimate investigation into Operation Fast and Furious,” the lawsuit states.
The committee is represented by Kerry Kircher with the U.S. House Office of General Counsel.