Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley
Why Didn’t the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security know about the Connection between Fast and Furious to Agent Terry’s Death?
Thursday, December 1, 2011
***Click here for video of Grassley’s speech.***
For nearly a year, I have been investigating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Operation Fast and Furious.
I have followed up on questions from that investigation as the Senate Judiciary Committee held oversight hearings over the past few weeks with both Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Each of them testified about the aftermath of the shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. And I have sought to clarify with FACTS some of the half-truths that were said during those hearings.
Each claimed that they were ignorant of the connection between Agent Terry’s death and Operation Fast and Furious until my letters with whistleblower allegations brought the connection to light.
However, documents that have come to light in my investigation draw those claims into question.
I’d like to address a couple of those discrepancies.
Secretary Napolitano went to Arizona a few days after Agent Terry’s death.
She said that she met at that time with the FBI agents and the assistant U.S. attorneys looking for the shooters.
She also said that at that point in time, nobody knew about Fast and Furious.
Yet documents show that many people knew about Fast and Furious on December 15, the day Agent Terry died.
Secretary Napolitano referenced the FBI agents looking for the shooters.
The head of that FBI field division was present at the December 15 press conference about Agent Terry’s murder. At that very press conference, the FBI head told a chief Assistant U.S. Attorney about the connection to an ongoing Phoenix ATF investigation.
That same night, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke confirmed that the guns tied back to Fast and Furious.
These connections were made days before Secretary Napolitano’s visit.
The very purpose of her visit was to find out more about the investigation.
That leaves a very important question.
The Department of Homeland Security oversees the Border Patrol. Why wouldn’t the Phoenix FBI head have told Secretary Napolitano that the only guns found at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder were tied to an ongoing ATF investigation?
And let’s not forget the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Secretary Napolitano said she met with the assistant U.S. attorneys looking for the shooters.
The chief assistant U.S. attorney for the Tucson office, which coordinated the Terry investigation, found out about the ATF connection directly from the FBI.
So, a very important question comes up. Why would they conceal the Fast and Furious connection from Secretary Napolitano days later?
The Tucson office was overseen by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke, who confirmed to Tucson that guns came from Operation Fast and Furious.
When Ms. Napolitano was Governor of Arizona, Mr. Burke served as her chief of staff for five years. Secretary Napolitano acknowledges that she had conversations with him about the murder of Agent Terry.
So, a very important question comes up. Why would Mr. Burke conceal the Fast and Furious connection from Secretary Napolitano?
Even before Secretary Napolitano came to Arizona, emails indicate Mr. Burke spoke on December 15 with Attorney General Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Monty Wilkinson.
Before finding out about Agent Terry, Mr. Burke emailed Mr. Wilkinson that he wanted to “explain in detail” about Fast and Furious when they talked.
So, a very important question comes up. On that phone call, did U.S. Attorney Burke tell Mr. Wilkinson about the case’s connection to a Border Patrol agent’s death that very day?
The next day, the Deputy Director of the ATF made sure briefing papers were prepared about the Fast and Furious connection to Agent Terry’s death.
He sent them to individuals here in Washington, D.C., in the Deputy Attorney General’s office at the Justice Department.
Within 24 hours, they were forwarded to the Deputy Attorney General.
They were accompanied by a personal email from one of the Deputy Attorney General’s deputies, explaining the situation. Two weeks later, that Deputy Attorney General, Gary Grindler, was named the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff.
Yet a month and a half after Agent Terry’s death, Attorney General Holder was allegedly ignorant of the Fast and Furious connection.
So, a very important question is unanswered. Why wouldn’t Mr. Grindler bring up these serious problems with Attorney General Holder, either as his Deputy Attorney General or as his Chief of Staff?
It’s clear that multiple highly-placed officials in multiple agencies knew almost immediately of the connection between Operation Fast and Furious and Agent Terry’s death.
The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have failed to adequately explain why Attorney General Holder and Secretary Napolitano allegedly remained ignorant of that connection. Whether it’s the Attorney General or the Secretary, or members of their staff, somebody wasn’t doing their job.
In the case of Secretary Napolitano, either she was not entirely candid with me and others, or this was a gross breach on the part of those who kept her in the dark.
The Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security lost a man.
It was their right to know the full circumstances surrounding that.
No one likes the unpleasant business of having to ’fess up, but the FBI, ATF, and U.S. Attorney’s Office owed it to Agent Brian Terry and his family to fully inform the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security.
This was the death of a federal agent involving weapons allowed to walk free by another agency in his own government.
Let me explain walking guns. The federal government operates under the rule of law just like all of us have to live under that rule of law. There are licensed federal gun dealers. Federal gun dealers were encouraged to sell guns illegally to straw buyers and supposedly follow those guns across the border to somehow arrest people who were involved with drug trafficking and other illegal things. And, two of these guns showed up at the murder scene of Agent Terry.
And, if that’s not serious enough to brief up to the top of the department, then I don’t know what is.