On May 3, 2011 Attorney General Eric Holder testified under oath before the House Judiciary Committee that, "I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks." However, newly released documents contradict that testimony and show he was briefed multiple times beginning as early as July 2010.
Fast and Furious was the code name for an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) operation that allowed thousands of weapons to "walk" across the border and end up in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels. Some of those weapons have been linked to the assassination of ATF Agent Brian Terry last December.
In a newly obtained July 2010 memo, Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, told Holder straw gun buyers for Fast and Furious "are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels."
Subsequently, on October 18, 2010 Lanny Breuer, head of the Criminal Division at DOJ and one of the AG's chief deputies, wrote in a memo to Holder that prosecutors were ready to issue indictments in the Fast and Furious scandal.
Holder and the DOJ have tried to distance themselves from Fast and Furious representing it as a rogue ATF operation. However, as CBS reports, a review of DOJ communications "leave[s] no doubt that high level Justice officials knew guns were being 'walked'."
On October 17, 2010 – the day before the Breuer memo – two other high ranking DOJ officials discussed the prosecutions by email and whether to make a public statement about Fast and Furious out of the Department.
Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General also in the Criminal Division with Breuer, wrote "It's a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions." James Trusty, Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit replied, "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 DOJ told CBS News that those two officials were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General (read: "blame George Bush") although no specific case was mentioned. Further, the DOJ's explanation for why the Attorney General told Congress in May of this year that he had just heard about Fast and Furious was that he "misunderstood the question."
Holder's May 3, 2011 denial occurred during questioning by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) before the House Judiciary Committee. Issa asked, "When did you first know about the program, officially I believe called Fast and Furious? To the best of your knowledge, what date?" It tests the imagination to think that anyone could not understand a question posed that directly; particularly someone who supposedly is qualified to be the Attorney General of the United States. And, even if he did, in that environment and under oath, it would be typical to ask that the question be repeated.
Appearing on Fox & Friends on October 4, Issa was asked to respond to the DOJ's contention that Holder "misunderstood" his question. Issa said that's typically what someone claims when they have "probably perjured themselves" rather than admitting "I lied."
Undoubtedly, Congress will again summon Holder to face additional questions. But, the bigger issue is why Barack Obama hasn't fired his Attorney General? Having any cabinet official, particularly the Attorney General, caught in perjury to a Congressional Committee would seem to be an irreconcilable – not to mention, illegal – offense.