House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) intends to hold hearings this summer on a controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gun smuggling program.
In an interview on Fox News on Sunday, Issa said he plans to have a “series of hearings” on Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels in an effort to track them. He said the first hearing will be with “the victims and their families to get a real idea, the true meaning of what happens when you let weapons get into the hands … of some of the worst killers south and north of the border.”
Issa did not provide Fox News with exact dates for the hearings and further details on whom he will call to testify.
The chairman has subpoenaed the ATF, a Justice Department agency, for records about the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whose body was found near two firearms traced to the program.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who also is probing the program, has asked whether ATF operations led to the shooting of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata, who was killed in Mexico in February. Agent Victor Avila Jr., who was with Zapata during the shooting, was wounded.
The ATF program made it possible for suspected smugglers to buy 1,765 firearms, 797 of which were recovered in Mexico and the United States after they were used in crimes. Of those crime guns, 195 were recovered in Mexico.
Issa has threatened to try to hold ATF officials in contempt of Congress because they have not responded to his queries. Grassley has warned that he may hold up Justice Department nominees over what he perceives as a lack of cooperation. The members of Congress also dispatched congressional investigators to Arizona as part of their investigation.
On Fox News, Issa expressed frustration with agency leaders, saying he intends to issue a “slew of subpoenas” for officials.
“Here in Washington, they’re not making one agent available, one hierarchy available,” Issa said on the news network. “And we will be issuing subpoenas because we have to.”
Issa scheduled the first hearing on the ATF program for June 13, a spokeswoman for the chairman told Main Justice. The hearing is titled: “Obstruction of Justice: Does the Justice Department Have to Respond to a Lawfully Issued and Valid Congressional Subpoena?” The committee has yet to say who will testify.