In June 2012, Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderOvernight Tech: Senate moving to kill FCC's internet privacy rules | Bill Gates pushes for foreign aid | Verizon, AT&T pull Google ads | Q&A with IBM's VP for cyber threat intel Uber leadership sticking by CEO Top Dems prep for future while out of the spotlight MORE became the first sitting Cabinet member found to be in contempt of Congress. The vote came after months of the Department of Justice (DOJ) refusing to turn over subpoenaed information about Operation Fast and Furious, which led the Obama administration’s bloodiest and deadliest scandal.
As a refresher, from 2009 to 2011, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), overseen by the DOJ, allowed known straw purchasers working for Mexican cartels to illegally buy thousands of firearms at U.S. gun shops. The ATF allowed those purchases to be illegally trafficked south of the border and into the hands of killers. The government lost track of most of the guns, and once in Mexico, they were used in an untold number of crimes. In December 2010, Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed by Mexican bandits in Rico Valley, Ariz, and guns found at his murder scene were from the Fast and Furious operation.
“I began asking questions about the shady operations of the ATF and its ‘gunwalking’ operations more than six years ago. Congress is still in litigation regarding Fast and Furious to understand the full extent of what happened and how the Obama administration attempted to avoid congressional oversight, and now four and a half years after my request for an IG investigation, we’re finally learning more from the inspector general about another botched operation,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Iowa) said.
“Sadly, the information provided by whistleblowers appears to be proven true once again. ATF did indeed fail to seize illegal firearms that later turned up at a crime scene in Mexico, trafficked by the same suspects who had previously sold two firearms used in the Feb. 15, 2011, attack on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Mexico. The circumstances look all too familiar and seem to be part of a pattern of recklessness that failed to recognize the consequences of allowing firearms to get in the hands of the cartels,” he continued.
As the stonewalling of the Obama era begins to fade away, opportunities to finally bring accountability to a rogue agency are presenting themselves.
Last week, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzSecret Service agents set for discipline after fence-jumping incident: report Overnight Cybersecurity: House Intel chair says surveillance collected on Trump transition team House Oversight grills law enforcement on facial recognition tech MORE (R-Utah) held a hearing to essentially reopen the investigation into previous gunrunning practices with a goal of holding those responsible for the bad tactics accountable. After all, when agents Terry and Zapata were murdered, the only people who suffered any consequences were brave whistleblowers who courageously exposed the truth. ATF supervisors saw fake accountability and were simply shifted around the agency. In some instances, they were promoted.
“We’re here today to talk about ATF’s failures in the death of ICE agent Jaime Zapata. You know, there’s nothing more difficult than dealing with a person who puts their life on the line for the United States of America and they get killed doing it. They lose their life. The Zapata family deserves some answers,” Chaffetz said.
“Today we want to examine ATF’s past practices with respect to investigating straw purchasers and firearms trafficking cases. We’ve had the ATF here on a couple different occasions dealing with these issues, and yet we are concerned that these problems are still happening,” he continued. “ATF must enforce the existing laws and aggressively stop illegally purchased and possessed firearms.”
In true ATF fashion, three subpoenaed supervisors refused to show up.
“We invited ATF Deputy Director Ronald Turk and special agent in charge William Temple to testify today because they can provide some of the answers the Zapata family and the public deserve,” Chaffetz said, looking toward the empty seats. “You’ll notice that there are five seats there, and only two have bothered to show up. You know, when Congress — certainly the Oversight Committee — invites you to testify, it’s not optional. It’s not an exercise of whether or not it’s convenient. They will show up.”
The Obama administration as a whole is in the rearview mirror, but much of the corruption remains.
The family of Jaime Zapata and Brian Terry not only deserve answers, they deserve accountability. Further, ATF whistleblowers whose lives were turned upside down for telling the truth and exposing the government’s illegal gun trafficking deserve vindication and justice.
Pavlich is the editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.