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Q&A on Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Chuck Grassley   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 06:57

with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q:        What is so important about this congressional investigation?

A:        When a person dies in service to his country, and his own government may have contributed to his death, covered up evidence about the circumstances, or both, the survivors’ families and the American people have a right to know the truth.  In December 2010, Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered and two of the weapons found at the scene were linked to Operation Fast and Furious, a gun-walking operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  Since then, despite numerous requests from Congress – made in letters, meetings and hearings and by subpoena – the Department of Justice, which is in charge of the ATF, has stonewalled and resisted providing documents about the operation.  Along the way, the Department of Justice has insisted there was no gun-walking, then retracted that statement and reversed itself.  Clearly, the only way to try to get an accurate, complete account of what happened and why is to obtain every record and account of the facts.  Without the complete set of facts, fair and informed conclusions can’t be drawn, and we might never know what happened to Agent Terry.  That can’t stand.

Q:        How did you get involved?

A:        A month after Agent Terry’s death, whistleblowers within the ATF came to my office with information about the guns found at the murder scene and evidence that Operation Fast and Furious possibly let as many as 2,500 other weapons flow from gun stores in Phoenix, Arizona, to Mexico and other places in the United States.  These whistleblowers had expressed concerns to the ATF about the dangers of selling to known straw buyers, but the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s office had urged the dealers to keep selling anyway.  I sent a letter to the ATF asking if there was any truth to these allegations and indicated I had documents to back them up.  Amazingly, the Department of Justice responded with a flat-out denial one week later.  I kept asking and showed evidence to the contrary to government officials.  A full ten months later, the Department of Justice withdrew its denial.  The oversight committee investigation in the House of Representatives stemmed from these inquiries and resulted in the Attorney General being held in contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives, for the first time ever.  The vote was 255 to 67.  The House also voted to authorize civil action in courts to compel production of subpoenaed documents.  I supported these efforts because contempt is the only tool Congress has to enforce a subpoena.  It is not a finding that the Attorney General is guilty of any wrongdoing in the underlying case.  Rather, it’s an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances to require that information be provided to Congress.  People deserve transparency and the accountability from their government.

Q:        What would motivate the government to let guns walk into the hands of criminals?

A:        Fast and Furious was built on a strategic decision to gather information rather than to enforce the law, all in the service of making a big, headline-grabbing case.  Tragically, when the headlines came, they were about the death of a brave federal agent rather than the capture of a drug kingpin.  Such a death was just what was feared by a cooperating gun dealer six months earlier.  This dealer expressed concerns in emails to the ATF that his cooperation with the government might get someone killed.  The ATF replied in writing and said not to worry, just keep selling to the straw buyers and ATF would stop the guns before they went south.  The gun stores were told their cooperation was necessary to the ATF case.  Without that assurance, there’s little doubt they would have stopped making the suspicious sales.  But the gun dealers depend on the ATF for their licenses, so when the ATF asks for help there isn’t much choice but to cooperate.  The ATF assured gun stores it was taking care of everything on its end but, instead, the ATF let the straw-buying ring operate and grow for months and months.  They watched and waited despite having information about the ring leader from the beginning.  To say the operation was “fundamentally flawed,” as the Attorney General has admitted, is an understatement.  Along with getting information for the family of Brian Terry and holding the highest ranking government official accountable, my goal for this congressional investigation is to make sure a disastrous government program like this never happens again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

 
Grassley asks for Justice Department records of field agent memo on Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 06:56

ATF agent describes discussion of operation one day before Justice Department denial

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today asked Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for information about who at the Department of Justice (DOJ) saw a memo from a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) who was stationed at the Phoenix field division and was knowledgeable about Operation Fast and Furious.  This memo was produced the day before the Department of Justice flat out denied there was a program underway to let guns walk to straw buyers.

In a letter to Attorney General Holder this afternoon, Grassley said the memo traveled rapidly through the chain of command at ATF and was allegedly forwarded to DOJ headquarters on February 3, 2011, in advance of the February 4, 2011, denial by DOJ.  Grassley’s office has been told that the substance of the memo “caused such a stir that ATF planned to put a panel together to address the allegations but someone within DOJ suppressed the idea.”  The details in the agent’s memo would have provided DOJ officials important information about what, in fact, was happening in Operation Fast and Furious.

Grassley said he is asking questions today because discovering how high up the chain of command the memo was reviewed “has not been easy.”  His requests to interview officials who might corroborate accounts has been denied, and DOJ may have withheld relevant documents from what it said were the deliberative materials used to draft the February 4, 2011, letter.  Ultimately, in the face of mounting evidence presented by Grassley and others, DOJ withdrew its February 4 denial.

“Without the complete, documented set of facts, fair and informed conclusions can’t be drawn, and the Justice Department’s lack of transparency about what it knew and when about Operation Fast and Furious is unacceptable, especially in light of the connections to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and an unknown number of Mexican citizens,” Grassley said.

Click here to read today’s letter from Grassley to Holder, which includes a copy of the February 3, 2011, memo by the ATF agent.

 
Empower Kids by Giving Them ‘Keys to Peace’ PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 06:54
Well-Meaning Parents Often Fail to Teach Vital Values, Author Says

Parents and educators are always trying to spark student participation whether it’s in the classroom, in the local community, or throughout the world.

When middle-school students at Allison Academy in North Miami Beach were asked what they could do to improve their country, they focused on what they understood – bullying, violence and racism.

Those problems are all rooted in the same issues, says Rachel Albert, author of “Quest to Telos,” (www.QuestToTelos.com), a young adult novel where fantasy meets reality and even world peace is possible.

“They stem from a lack of personal integrity and absence of social responsibility,” she says.

“Children who choose to put those values into practice are actively working toward peace. But they can only put into practice what they’ve learned; instilling those values may seem simple, but many parents miss the mark and actually model the opposite.”

Throwing money at social problems like racism or violence doesn’t resolve them, Albert says. But children can.

“The energy from kids’ excitement can make a real difference and we need their energy focused right here at home,” says the mother of four. “They see problems; it’s up to us to give them the tools to address them.”

The following tips can help parents teach their children personal integrity and social responsibility, giving them the keys to world peace.

• Never lie in front of your kids. It may seem obvious, but many parents lie in front of their children or encourage them to lie; misstating a child’s age to save money on movie tickets or allowing them to take credit for school projects completed by the parent.  These seemingly inconsequential lies suggest it’s OK, even good, to distort the truth. This causes long-term damage a million times more costly than whatever was gained in the short term.

• Give your kids a reason why. Author Mark Twain once said that the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why.  If you fail to tell your kids why we are here, you have missed the opportunity to
figure out what motivates them and gets them excited. This is the most important key to getting kids’ cooperation and empowering them to help the world.

• Don’t criticize your children. Criticism is toxic, so why do almost all parents criticize their kids?  When we focus on what they aren’t, they believe they can’t. This creates angry children who express their pain by bullying others.  It’s better to tell them how you feel rather than what you think of them, e.g., “I feel frustrated that you didn’t listen to me,” or “Can you say that in a more loving way?”

• Don’t speak badly about other people. This is probably one of the hardest things to do, considering we’re a generation that pays for gossip.  Speaking badly about others teaches kids to look for what they view as the negative in others and take joy in sharing it.

• Model charity. Actions speak louder than any words. When you teach kindness to children, they tend to feel empathy and have more successful lives, a crucial step toward achieving world peace.

Once we tackle the issues plaguing America, then as a model nation, we will be ready to tackle world peace, Albert says. Kids are hungry to form an identity and make their mark on the world. It’s easier to try to bring peace to another country, but that never works. We need to start at home.

About Rachel Albert

Rachel Albert is a certified court reporter and business owner. “Quest to Telos” is her debut novel; it’s being used by a private school to develop an inspirational, critical-thinking curriculum for middle-school students ready by the summer. Albert is currently working on a sequel. She is a staunch advocate of boosting teen literacy while inspiring kids to make a difference starting with their own hearts.

 
On Eve of Independence Day, Braley and Sen. Sherrod Brown Urge House Committee to Move on All-American Flag Act PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:51

Senate passed bipartisan bill year ago; House has not acted to keep flags made in USA

 

Washington, D.C. – On the eve of the Independence Day holiday, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) – the authors of the All-American Flag Act, which would require the federal government to purchase 100 percent made-in-America flags – urged the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to move the bill forward to it can be brought to the House floor for a vote.

 

Braley said, “It’s just common sense: Americans’ tax dollars should be used to purchase flags made in the USA.  The Senate has agreed in a bipartisan vote.  Now, it’s time for the House to act.  I urge the Oversight Committee to protect America’s greatest symbol and support manufacturers right here in the United States by immediately considering this bill.”

 

Brown said, “Under current law, the American flags that fly from federal buildings—on July 4th and every day of the year—may be up to fifty percent foreign-made. Many American companies, including Annin and Company in Coshocton, proudly produce the American flag right here in the United States.  With strong bipartisan support in the Senate, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should move to discharge the All-American Flag Act and send it to the House floor for a vote. We should do all we can to support American manufacturing and job creation, especially when it comes to our most treasured of patriotic symbols—the American flag.”

 

The All-American Flag Act unanimously passed the US Senate in July 2011, but the House has failed to schedule a vote for its companion bill, H.R. 1344, which was introduced by Rep. Braley. The bill must be approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in order to be voted on by the full House. Two years ago, the Braley-authored All-American Flag Act passed the House unanimously.

 

For more information on the All-American Flag Act, visit: http://go.usa.gov/wWU

 

Braley and Brown made the request in a letter to Oversight Committee leadership.  The text of that letter follows:

 

The Honorable Darrell Issa

Chairman

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

2157 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

2471 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings:

 

As we approach the 4th of July, we are reminded of the importance of the American flag as the symbol of our nation.  Unfortunately, current law requires the government to purchase flags made of only 50 percent American-made materials.  We strongly believe that U.S. flags should consist of only American made materials.

 

That is why we introduced the All-American Flag Act.  This bill would require the federal government to purchase flags that contain 100 percent American-made materials.  In the 111th Congress, both of you supported this legislation when it was passed out of the Oversight Committee.  The bill was later adopted by voice-vote in the House.  Last July, the Senate unanimously passed the All-American Flag Act.

 

As the two primary authors of this legislation, we ask that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee discharge the Senate passed version of the All-American Flag Act so it can be brought to the House floor for a vote.  Given that this legislation has already been passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, we believe that now is the time to see that this legislation is signed into law.

 

American flags should be made in America using American products.  Allowing the government to purchase flags with foreign-made materials is disrespectful to our country.  We urge you to discharge the All-American Flag Act from the House Oversight Committee so it can be brought to the House floor for a vote.

 

Thank you for your attention to our request.  We ask that you please reply to our letter within 10 business days with an answer on whether or not the Committee will discharge this legislation.  Please feel free to contact either of us if we can provide further assistance.

 

# # #

 
Navy's So-called Green Fleet a "Floating Government Boondoggle" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ryan Houck   
Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:47

July 3, 2012, Washington, DC—Although traditional fuel costs $3.60 per gallon, the U.S. Navy has opted to power its so-called "Green Fleet" with a biofuel blend that costs $26 per gallon.   Apparently oblivious to staggering budget deficits, the Pentagon has funded the "Green Fleet"—which recently began its 6-week-long exercise in the Pacific—through its green fuels initiative.

"With our nation's defense budget set to lose hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, this floating government boondoggle is a truly astonishing waste of taxpayer money," said Ryan Houck, executive director of Free Market America.  "It is seven times more expensive to fuel the so-called 'green fleet' than to fuel a traditional fleet, begging the question: What vital national defense programs are now on the chopping block thanks to the green agenda?  Members of congress and the Administration should note that when Americans express outrage over wasteful government spending, this is exactly the type of nonsense they are talking about."

The AP posted its story on the "Green Fleet" late yesterday afternoon.  It can read here.

Free Market America is a free market watchdog group that focuses on environmental issues.  In partnership with Americans for Limited Government, the group was launched earlier this year and is responsible for the viral video "If I wanted America to fail"—a runaway hit that scored over 2.4 million views on YouTube.

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