Oversight Chairman Issa forced to delay 'Fast and Furious' hearing

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has been forced to postpone a hearing on an inspector general’s investigation of "Operation Fast and Furious" until next week.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, told Issa in a recent letter that after 17 months of investigating the botched gun-tracking operation, the lengthy report would not be ready for public release until later this week, at the earliest.


Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, worried the DOJ would try to delay the report’s release for political reasons, according to an earlier letter to Horowitz sent last month. And the powerful Republican was hoping to use Tuesday, Congress’s first full day back at work after its summer recess, to launch into the report’s findings as soon as possible.

The hearing would also have coincided with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.

Before Issa’s office rescheduled its hearing on Monday, Democrats on the committee circulated a memo to staff with background on the report. The memo questioned why Issa was pushing for a hearing about a report that was not yet complete.

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Horowitz assured Issa the report was going through the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) standard finalization process.

“The OIG, and solely the OIG, is determining what information will be included in the unredacted final report, and it will contain all information that we deem relevant,” wrote Horowitz in his letter to Issa last Friday.

Horowitz said his office was vetting the report through the DOJ only on security-sensitive information that it might contain, such as wiretap or other sealed court records, or grand jury material. He also said his office was talking with lawyers at the White House about any information that could be protected under President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege.

Obama asserted executive privilege over certain sets of documents that Issa had subpoenaed from Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderBiden under pressure to pick new breed of federal prosecutors Obama says Senate will vote again on voting rights Obama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election MORE. After refusing to turn the documents over — citing precedents regarding separation of powers and congressional oversight limits — Issa and House Republicans voted to place Holder in contempt of Congress.

Holder and Obama have long said they are waiting for the IG’s report to make clear who was responsible in the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for authorizing agents to let guns fall into the hands of straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels with no plan to recover them or continuously monitor them.

In late 2010, one of the nearly 2,000 guns authorized to “walk” under Fast and Furious was found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Late last week, the second of five suspects in Terry’s killing was arrested in Mexico; three of the accused have not been detained yet.

After Holder’s contempt vote in the House, the DOJ took the rare step and unsealed an indictment of the five suspects earlier this year, offering a $1 million reward for their capture in an attempt to solve the case that had been lingering for more than 18 months.  

Horowitz told Issa that agencies and officials named and criticized in the report were being allowed to respond to the IG’s findings in an effort to make it as fair and accurate as possible.

The new hearing has been scheduled for next Wednesday.