Stand-down orders stymied ‘Fast & Furious’ gun tracking, memo says – Washington Times

Stand-down orders stymied ‘Fast & Furious’ gun tracking, memo says – Washington Times.

By Jerry Seper – The Washington Times

Concerned that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were “too close and would burn the operation,” the lead investigator in a Fast and Furious surveillance operation ordered an ATF team monitoring the pending transfer of weapons to Mexican drug smugglers to “leave the immediate area.”

While the agents were repositioning themselves, the transaction took place and the smugglers took possession of weapons purchased by “straw buyers” at a Phoenix area gun shop — leaving the area without any agents in a position to follow.

The guns were among more than 2,000 weapons purchased that ended up in the hands of drug smugglers during the Fast and Furious investigation, which began in September 2009 and was halted only after the December 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry. Two Fast and Furious-purchased weapons — both AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles — were found at the site of the Terry killing.

The surveillance snafu is outlined in a Feb. 3, 2011, memo by ATF agent Gary M. Styers recounting for agency supervisors what he told two investigators for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, about his experience with Fast and Furious. He said the weapons transfer was to occur at a gas station, and an ATF surveillance team was in place when it was ordered to back off by lead investigator Hope McAllister.

It’s not the only time a surveillance was called off or that field agents questioned the tactics used in Fast and Furious, a risky strategy to allow weapons to flow south into Mexico. The goal was to identify the drug-cartel bosses in Mexico who were paying for the weapons. ATF supervisors had no interest in prosecuting the straw buyers on charges of “lying and buying.”

ATF senior agent Olindo James Casa told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that when surveillance teams did follow weapons purchased by straw buyers, they always were terminated without interdicting or seizing the firearms. He said the stand-down orders came from Ms. McAllister or ATF Group VII Strike Force supervisor David J. Voth, who oversaw the Fast and Furious operation.

Mr. Casa testified that he and other agents “sternly warned” their supervisors of the “consequences of their actions (or lack thereof), but were repeatedly ignored.” He said when he and others asked Ms. McAllister and Mr. Voth if they were prepared to attend the funeral of a slain agent or officer killed by a Fast and Furious weapon, neither answered “or even seemed concerned by the question.”

Mr. Grassley wants to know whether the Styers memo was forwarded to the Justice Department in Washington. Its Feb. 3 date falls one day before the department denied in a letter to him that any weapons had been “walked” to gun smugglers in Mexico.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the veteran Iowa lawmaker said his investigators were told that 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.”

A report by Mr. Grassley and Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Fast and Furious field agents often were told to stand down rather than interdict weapons, and when they complained, they were ignored.

ATF agent John Dodson told Mr. Issa’s committee that he and others were ordered to observe the gun smugglers but not to intervene. He said he and others monitored the purchase of weapons “almost daily,” but rather than interdict them, the agents took notes, recorded observations and tracked the movement of some of those involved for short periods, “but nothing more.”

“Knowing all the while, just days after these purchases, the guns we saw these individuals buy would begin turning up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico, we still did nothing,” he said.

The strategy continued until Dec. 14, 2010, when two Fast and Furious AK-47s turned up just north of the Arizona-Mexico border at the site of the Terry killing.

In his memo, Mr. Styers said ATF agents were not permanently assigned to surveillance on Fast and Furious, a practice he described as “unheard of.” Instead, he said, supervisors polled offices for “agents who were available to respond at short notice.”

Tax cheats got $1.4 billion in stimulus loans – Washington Times

Tax cheats got $1.4 billion in stimulus loans – Washington Times.

By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times

Tax cheats were given $1.4 billion in government-backed mortgage loans under President Obama’s economic stimulus, and the government doled out at least an additional $27 million in tax credits to delinquents who took the first-time-homebuyer tax break, according to a government audit released Wednesday.

Under government rules, delinquent taxpayers are supposed to be ineligible for the mortgage insurance program unless they have reached a repayment agreement with the Internal Revenue Service. But the Federal Housing Administration didn’t have the right controls to weed out bad applications, said the Government Accountability Office, Congress‘ chief investigative arm.

That meant FHA insured $1.4 billion in mortgages for 6,327 borrowers who collectively owed $77.6 million in unpaid taxes, or an average of more than $12,000 each.

The auditors said that as a category, the tax cheats had foreclosure rates up to three times as high as other borrowers, which meant the delinquent taxpayers exposed the government to even greater risks.

“In the name of ‘stimulus,’ the federal government gave mortgage insurance to thousands of people we knew were tax cheats and had a bad track record paying their debts,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, who joined a bipartisan group of other lawmakers to request the investigation. “The federal government needlessly put taxpayers on the line to help tax cheats buy homes. Congress needs to ensure that tax cheats are no longer allowed to take advantage of FHA programs.”

In addition to the mortgages, the auditors found that more than half of the tax-delinquent borrowers claimed the first-time-homebuyers’ credit, worth up to $8,000.

GAO said there is no prohibition against someone claiming the credit, even though they still have unpaid tax bills. The credit is refundable, meaning taxpayers can get a check back from the government if the benefit exceeds their liability. IRS rules generally call for the agency to subtract any unpaid taxes from the refund, but in three of the nine cases that GAO analyzed in depth, it said the taxpayers had declared bankruptcy, meaning the IRS was prevented from docking the refunds.

The report was the GAO’s second study looking at tax cheats and the stimulus.

In the first report, GAO said thousands of contracts and grants were paid out under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to those with unpaid tax bills.

Mr. Obama pushed the $831 billion economic stimulus in early 2009 as a means of bolstering the faltering economy, and promised to use strict controls to cut fraud and abuse. At its peak in mid-2010, it was responsible for as many as 3.6 million jobs, but could have funded as few as 700,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Part of the Recovery Act was aimed at shoring up the housing market, which included the first-time-homebuyer tax credit and the mortgage assistance, which let the FHA insure loans at a higher rate in high-cost housing markets.

About 1.7 million individuals claimed the tax credit, while FHA insured more than $20 billion in mortgages for 87,000 homeowners, thanks to the Recovery Act provisions.

Under a White House policy, buyers who are delinquent on their federal taxes are not supposed to receive the mortgage assistance, unless they have worked out a repayment agreement with the IRS. But FHA rules don’t prod private lenders to ask for that information, and the FHA doesn’t have a system to work with the IRS to get that information.

Mr. Coburn joined Sens. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat; Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat; Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican; and Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, to request a review of the program.

“The stimulus-spending program was ill-conceived, with far too little oversight,” Mr. Grassley said. “It shouldn’t surprise anyone, unfortunately, that tax dollars have gone to tax cheats. It’s another one of many negative consequences of writing checks without enough checks and balances.”

Compounding the matter, those with tax problems are more likely to end up in foreclosure. Nearly a third of mortgage holders with unpaid taxes were “seriously delinquent” on their payments, and 6.3 percent had been foreclosed – a rate nearly three times higher than homeowners who were paid up with the IRS.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development accepted the report and will work with the IRS to try to get access to information that would help it cull tax cheats, Carol J. Galante, an acting assistant secretary, said in the department’s official response.

She said they also will try to clarify FHA rules so lenders are clear about the eligibility requirements for loans.

Grassley: Where’s report on ‘Fast and Furious’? – Washington Times

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Grassley: Where’s report on ‘Fast and Furious’? – Washington Times.

By Chuck Neubauer – The Washington Times

The ranking Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee says a Justice Department investigation into the botched “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation has taken “an awfully long time to finish” and, as a result, “should meet the highest standards of accuracy and independence.”

Operation Fast and Furious failed to live up to the standards set by the American people, and we need to know how that could ever happen,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who first questioned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation more than a year ago.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asked the inspector general’s office at the Justice Department in February 2011 to investigate the operation after Mr. Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, discovered that ATF had allowed more than 2,000 weapons – including AK-47 assault rifles – to be “walked” across the border to drug smugglers in Mexico.

Fast and Furious was an ATF attempt to allow “straw buyers” in Arizona to walk weapons into Mexico with a goal of tracking them to drug cartel leaders. But ATF lost track of hundreds of the weapons, 1,400 of which are still unaccounted for.

Mr. Holder’s request followed harsh challenges by Mr. Grassley and Mr. Issa concerning the operation after Fast and Furious weapons were found at the site of the December 2010 fatal shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, 40, who was killed in a gunfight 10 miles north of the Arizona border town of Nogales. Two Romanian-made AK-47s found at the scene were identified as having been purchased in a Glendale, Ariz., gun shop as part of Fast and Furious.

Jay Lerner, spokesman for the inspector general’s office, said “the review is ongoing,” but declined to elaborate.

Mr. Grassley initially expressed concern that the investigation was being conducted without an independent Senate-confirmed inspector general running the office. Acting Inspector General Cynthia A. Schnedar has not been through the Senate confirmation process and Mr. Grassley questioned whether she could “challenge senior officials with tough questions.”

President Obama’s nominee as inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is awaiting Senate confirmation.

Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the inspector general’s review has “taken longer than the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination.” He said the inquiry “comes across that it is being stonewalled until after the election.”

Meanwhile, Patrick McGroder, an attorney for the Terry family, said the family was “frustrated” and “impatient” with the pace of the various investigations and proceedings including the inspector general’s review but in the end “just want people to tell the truth, assume responsibility and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“The Terrys feel strongly about not letting Brian’s life become a political football,” he said.

Operation Fast and Furious has drawn widespread criticism, sparking questions of who inside ATF and at the Justice Department knew that weapons were being purchased by straw buyers in Arizona and delivered to drug dealers in Mexico. Mr. Obama has said he did not authorize the program and Mr. Holder has pleaded ignorance.

PERRY: Eric Holder must go – Washington Times

 

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PERRY: Eric Holder must go – Washington Times.

Attorney general should resign or be fired

By Gov. Rick PerryThe Washington Times

Ever since the Department of Justice’s gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious became public, the Obama administration’s response has been slow and infuriating. Of particular concern is Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s lack of candor concerning what he knew and when he knew it.

This is not a typical case of bureaucratic bungling. A 40-year-old Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, and possibly a U.S. immigration agent, are dead because of a horribly ill-conceived Justice Department operation that went tragically wrong.

Hundreds of Fast and Furious firearms have been implicated in criminal activity, and another 1,400 firearms are on the street because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives engaged in gun-walking – the selling of firearms to straw purchasers in an attempt to locate major weapons traffickers in Mexico. This controversial tactic, involving thousands of weapons, means that brave law enforcement personnel along the border remain at risk.

As details come to light, a larger shadow has been cast on Mr. Holder. When initially asked under oath to say when he first knew about Fast and Furious, Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee on May 3, “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.”

But the evidence casts serious doubt over that claim. First, President Obama had commented publicly on the operation, noting on March 22 – more than a month before Mr. Holder’s sworn statement – that an inspector general had been assigned to investigate the matter.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had sent a letter to the Justice Department on Feb. 16 requesting documents on Fast and Furious. That Mr. Holder did not know about Fast and Furious before Mr. Grassley’s letter and Mr. Obama’s public comments is simply inconceivable.

Perhaps more damning is that records show Mr. Holder was briefed about the operation as far back as July 2010, when the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, Michael F. Walther, sent Mr. Holder a written memo that his agency would assist in the investigation of a gun trafficker who had acquired weapons under Fast and Furious. Another memo, from Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, notified Mr. Holder of a sealed Justice Department indictment against weapons traffickers in Arizona.

Mr. Holder’s proclaimed ignorance leaves Americans to draw one of two conclusions: Either he is guilty of extraordinary bureaucratic incompetence or he is guilty of a cover-up meant to shield him from the consequences of an operation that has left at least one federal agent dead and continues to imperil many more.

Either way, it is high time for Mr. Holder to step down. If he refuses to resign, Mr. Obama must fire him immediately.

Under the attorney general’s leadership, our nation’s top law enforcement agency proactively armed some of the most dangerous criminal organizations in North America, and at least one American is dead as a direct result. The damage done to Mr. Holder’s credibility is irreparable.

Moreover, Mr. Holder never apologized to – or even spoke with – the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Terry until he was confronted by Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, earlier this month, nearly a year after Terry’s murder.

Drug violence is a serious threat to the United States and our citizens as cartels wage a bloody turf war. Additionally, as Mr. Holder himself announced recently, an Iranian national has been arrested for seeking the assistance of Mexican drug-cartel members in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington.

Mexican drug cartels are a clear and present danger to America. More than 35,000 people have been killed in that country’s drug war in the past five years alone, and the violence threatens to spill across our border every day.

America simply cannot tolerate an attorney general who arms the very criminals he is supposed to protect us from and then refuses to comfort the grieving parents of a slain Border Patrol agent. Nor can we tolerate a president who lacks the courage to take decisive action in restoring justice to the Department of Justice.

It is time for Mr. Holder to go.

Gov. Rick Perry is a Texas Republican and GOP candidate for president.

Oops. – Tea Party Nation

Oops. – Tea Party Nation.

Posted by Judson Phillips on November 10, 2011 at 2:34pm in Tea Party Nation Forum

Where Eric Holder Belongs!

No, this isn’t Rick Perry going oops.  This is Eric Holder.

Holder, who may well have lied to Congress about what he knew about the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning project is now continuing to stonewall Congress.

From The Daily Caller:

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder is continuing to stonewall congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. This time, Holder is refusing to provide 11 of the 12 witnesses Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa have requested be made available for interviews.

“We have requested 12 Justice Department witnesses be made available for transcribed interviews,” Grassley said in a Thursday Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting. “Despite the department’s promises of good faith cooperation, only one witness has been provided so far — former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. The department has refused to schedule interviews with any of the other 11 witnesses.  That’s not the good faith cooperation I was promised, and it is unacceptable.”

Grassley and Issa are demanding to know who was involved in crafting a February 4 letter to the Department of Justice sent to Congress, which contained claims — now understood to be false — that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not allow guns to walk into Mexico.

Allowing guns to walk means that ATF agents did not interdict weapons traffickers when they had opportunities to do so, opting to track the weapons into Mexico to determine their ultimate destination. In Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of as many as 2,500 weapons, assisting criminals in hundreds of murders in Mexico and the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Does anyone remember this is the “most transparent administration ever?” 

Can you imagine if George Bush’s Attorney General had stonewalled Congress on something like this?  The media would have been calling for impeachment.  What are we hearing from the media?  Nothing.

But we are hearing from the friends and family of Brian Terry, the Border Patrol Agent killed by one of the guns from Fast and Furious.

From Politico:

A friend of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is speaking out Wednesday against Eric Holder’s refusal to apologize to Terry’s family, calling the attorney general’s testimony on Capitol Hill “very insincere.”

Lana Domino, a friend of the Terry family and one of the creators of rememberbrianterry.com, said on Fox News that Holder has neglected to take responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious, a botched sting operation that allowed as many as 2,000 guns to end up in Mexico. Two guns found at Terry’s murder scene have been linked to Fast and Furious.

“Mr. Holder’s comments as far as he has regret and sympathies, I think are very insincere. He never contacted the family,” Domino said. “He could have written a letter — he never wrote a letter. He could have attended a memorial, there was plenty of memorial services — there was one in Tucson, Ariz., there was a funeral in Michigan — he didn’t attend those either.”

 Of course, Holder and this administration do not care about America or Americans.  If you are an illegal alien, however, caught in this country, they are more than happy to prosecute the police officer who arrested you and let you go.

Issa letter questions Holder’s ‘credibility’ to serve – Washington Times

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Issa letter questions Holder’s ‘credibility’ to serve – Washington Times.

By Jerry Seper – The Washington Times

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s “lack of trustworthiness” in explaining what he knew about the failed “Fast and Furious” weapons investigation has “called into question his overall credibility” to serve as the nation’s top prosecutor, the chairman of a House committee investigating the operation said Monday.

In a blistering letter, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Mr. Holder that it was time for him “to come clean to the American public” on what he knew and when about the weapons investigation, saying Mr. Holder has made numerous statements about the operation that have “proven to be untrue.”

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Mr. Issa wrote. “Operation Fast and Furious was the department’s most significant gun-trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives — destroying the Mexican [drug] cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border.

“On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Holder had an obligation to say who is going to be held accountable “for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Mr. Issa has been investigating Fast and Furious for several months with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The operation involved the purchase of weapons at Phoenix-area gun shops that eventually were “walked,” or taken, into Mexico, where they were delivered to Mexican dug bosses.

Two of the weapons, both AK-47 assault rifles, were found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry in December.

Mr. Issa said the Justice Department from the beginning of the probe has offered “a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman dismissed Mr. Issa’s letter Monday as “recycled” partisanship.

But Mr. Issa said Justice’s defenses were aimed at undermining the congressional investigation.

The Justice Department insisted from the start that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked that he and Mr. Grassley defer their oversight responsibilities because of concerns they would interfere with an ongoing investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General, Mr. Issa said.

Additionally, he said, the department steadfastly insisted that none of the Fast and Furious guns had been “walked” into Mexico.

“Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” he said. “When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona.

“All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around [Justice] and its political appointees,” he said.

Last month, Mr. Holder claimed Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department, Mr. Issa said, although documents discovered through the course of the investigation proved that “each and every one of these claims advanced by the department to be untrue.”

“It appears your latest defense has reached a new low,” he said, adding that Mr. Holder in a letter Friday said he was unaware of the Fast and Furious operation because his staff failed to inform him of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to the attorney general.

“At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as attorney general,” Mr. Issa said. “At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.

“Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate and attempt to change the topic away from the department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation and authorization of this reckless program.”

On Friday, Mr. Holder denied that emails sent to his office showed that he knew of the Fast and Furious operation and did nothing about it. He said public comments about the inquiry and his involvement with it had become “so base and so harmful to interests that I hope we all share” that he had to publicly address the matter.

Mr. Holder said he took “decisive action” when he learned earlier this year about Fast and Furious in ordering the Office of Inspector General to investigate the matter. He said he also overhauled the leadership at ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, which oversaw the investigation.

“It has become clear that the flawed tactics employed in Fast and Furious were not limited to that operation and were actually employed in an investigation conducted during the prior administration,” Mr. Holder said, referring to a separate initiative known as “Operation Wide Receiver” managed by federal authorities during the George W. Bush administration.

“Regardless, those tactics should never again be adopted in any investigation,” he said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the Issa allegations, no matter how many times they are repeated, continue to be “baseless.” She said Mr. Holder took concerns about tactics used in Fast and Furious to the Office of Inspector General, where the operation is now under investigation.

“The department will continue to cooperate with both the inspector general and congressional investigations,” she said. “In the meantime, what the American people deserve is less partisan showboating and more responsible solutions to stopping gun violence on the Southwest Border.”

In the letter, Mr. Issa said documents obtained by congressional investigators show Mr. Holder was aware of Fast and Furious in the summer of 2010 at the latest, not April or May of this year as he testified. Mr. Issa said Mr. Holder was informed about the ATF investigation on at least five occasions and was told that straw buyers were responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug-trafficking cartels.

“Yet, you did nothing to stop this program,” Mr. Issa said. “You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind” attorneys in your office, “who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention.”

Mr. Issa said the “most disturbing aspect of this intransigence” is that the Justice Department “has been lying to Congress ever since the inquiry into Fast and Furious began.”

“These firearms were not interdicted. They were not stopped. Your agents allowed these firearms purchases to continue, sometimes even monitoring them in person, and within days some of these weapons were being recovered in Mexico,” he said.

Holder to get new subpoenas on ‘Fast and Furious’ program – Washington Times

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Holder to get new subpoenas on ‘Fast and Furious’ program – Washington Times.

The chairman of a House committee investigating the failed “Fast and Furious” weapons operation in which hundreds of guns were “walked” to gun smugglers in Mexico says the panel will issue new subpoenas this week to ask Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. – again – what he knew about the investigation and when he knew it.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says the release of new memos suggesting that Mr. Holder knew more about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives-led (ATF) probe than he has admitted prompted the decision for a new round of subpoenas for the attorney general and other top Justice Department officials.

“What did they know and when did they know it,” Mr. Issa said during an interview on Fox News confirming that the subpoenas would be released this week. “More importantly, we have to understand at what level did the authorization for the operation really come from.”

Documents made public last week show that senior Justice Department officials discussed whether it would be wise for the head of the department’s Criminal Division to attend press events about the ATF probe given the number of guns that ended up in Mexico. They also show that the attorney general’s chief of staff took notes regarding operational details during a presentation on Fast and Furious in March 2010.

Other documents show that the connection between the guns found at site of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry in December 2010 and the Fast and Furious investigation was immediately briefed up to the level of the attorney general’s chief of staff just two days after the agent’s death.

“People at the top of Justice were well-briefed and knew all about it,” Mr. Issa said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee who also has been investigating the Fast and Furious operation, said through a spokeswoman the new documents raise as many questions as they answer about which senior department officials knew what about the investigation.

“In addition to these documents, getting at the truth also requires taking testimony from the key officials involved,” spokeswoman Beth Levine said. “The attorney general’s denials of any personal knowledge will have to be tested against all the evidence as our investigation continues, just as the department’s initial denials were.

“The goals of Sen. Grassley’s investigation, from the first time whistleblowers brought him the allegations of wrongdoing, has been to find out who approved a stupid program and to make sure it never happened again,” she said.

After months of silence, the Justice Department responded late last week to the accusations that top officials knew about the operation, saying Republicans were playing a “political game of gotcha.”

“Here they go again. Chairman Issa and Senator Grassley can re-package and re-release the same documents every other day and it won’t change the facts: the attorney general’s testimony to both the House and Senate committees has been consistent and truthful,” the department said.

The department said new documents show only “brief” passages that were “buried in a few written reports” about the operation and did not detail the full extent of the investigation.

President Obama also voiced confidence in Mr. Holder and his handling of the Justice Department, saying the attorney general has been “very aggressive in going after gunrunning and cash transactions that have been going to these transnational drug cartels.”

New controversy erupted last week with the discovery of a July 10, 2010, memo to Mr. Holder from Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), which specifically identifies the Fast and Furious operation, says when it began, names the federal law enforcement agencies involved, and identifies the major investigative targets.

The memo was sent to the attorney general 10 months before he told the House committee that he only learned of fast and Furious in late April or early May of this year.

UPDATED 9/2/11: Obama’s not so Fast and Furious Scandal: ObamaGate (via Village of the Banned)

UPDATED 9/2/11: Obama's not so Fast and Furious Scandal: ObamaGate Obama/Holder:  Gun Runner Inc. UPDATED FOR SEPTEMBER 2, 2011 Demand for More Answers in Fast and Furious Scandal Just hours after the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, federal officials tried to cover up evidence that the gun that killed Terry, was one the government intentionally helped sell to the Mexican cartels in a weapons trafficking program known as Operation Fast and Furious. The revelation comes just days after a huge shake-up of … Read More

via Village of the Banned