ATF Fast and Furious: New documents show Attorney General Eric Holder was briefed in July 2010
WASHINGTON - New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.
On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, "I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
Yet internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.
Read the new documents
Read the July 5, 2010 memo Read the "It's a tricky case" email Read the memo to AG Holder from Asst. AG Lanny A. Breuer The documents came from the head of the National Drug Intelligence Center and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
In Fast and Furious, ATF agents allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF
It's called letting guns "walk," and it remained secret to the public until Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December. Two guns from Fast and Furious were found at the scene, and ATF agent John Dodson blew the whistle on the operation.
Agent: I was ordered to let guns "walk" into Mexico
Ever since, the Justice Department has publicly tried to distance itself. But the new documents leave no doubt that high level Justice officials knew guns were being "walked."
Two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010. "It's a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions," says Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replies "I'm not sure how much grief we get for 'guns walking.' It may be more like, "Finally they're going after people who sent guns down there."
The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General. And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee - he did know about Fast and Furious - just not the details.
Obama Administration Under Mounting Pressure for Botched Gun Trafficking Investigation
March 28, 2011FoxNews.com
Congress and the Department of Justice appear to be headed for a showdown this week over documents detailing Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gunrunning sting set up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that funneled more than 1,700 smuggled weapons from Arizona to Mexico.
The Justice Department has until Wednesday to deliver to congressional investigators a stack of records and emails naming the individuals responsible for the gun trafficking operation that may have killed dozens, if not hundreds of Mexicans, and is becoming a growing embarrassment for the Obama administration.
Under Project Gunrunner and the Phoenix off-shoot, dubbed Fast and Furious, the ATF encouraged gun store owners to sell to straw buyers -- consumers who they suspected of working on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.
Project Gunrunner purposely allowed the straw buyers to illegally buy and export guns only to see where they surfaced in Mexico. Using this investigative technique, the ATF hoped to take down the entire gun trafficking organization. Instead, records show it allowed more than 1,700 guns, including hundreds of AK-47s and high-powered, armor-piercing .50-caliber rifles to be trafficked to Mexico
Buying guns for non-personal use is illegal. Yet gun store owners were assured by ATF agents the buyers were under investigation and the guns were being intercepted before crossing into Mexico.
Instead, whistleblowers say the guns were allowed "to walk."
President Obama, speaking for the first time about the growing scandal, conceded last week Fast and Furious may have been "a serious mistake," but he claimed, "I did not authorize it; Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. He's been very clear that our policy is to catch gunrunners and put them into jail."
But an investigation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, could show otherwise.
The ATF operates under Justice Department, and two assistant U.S. attorneys in Phoenix authorized virtually every wiretap, affidavit and investigation conducted in Operation Fast and Furious.
Some, like Issa, wonder how Holder could not have known about an investigation that size.
"One of the questions we always ask is who is lying," Issa told Fox News. "We lose our credibility if we don't come clean and make the changes necessary to save lives on both sides of the border."
If the Justice Department and ATF refuse to deliver the records Issa requested, as it already has done with similar requests by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Issa can subpoena the records.
"We will subpoena if we have to, we'll hold hearings if we have to, we'll call in officials if we have to. But at the end of the day, the two Americans likely to have died as a result of this action pale in comparison to the countless numbers of Mexicans who have been killed," said Issa.
He is referring to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata. The guns used to kill both men have been linked to Project Gunrunner.
Humberto Trevino, a senior Mexican lawmaker, says at least 150 people have been shot with ATF-monitored gun
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