The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Eric Holder misled Congress about his knowledge of a contoversial gun probe conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Allegations that senior Justice Department officials may have intentionally misled Members of Congress are extremely troubling and must be addressed by an independent and objective special counsel,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) wrote in a letter to Obama. “I urge you to appoint a special counsel who will investigate these allegations as soon as possible.”
Operation Fast and Furious was an ATF operation that allegedly resulted in the selling of at least 2,000 firearms to drug cartel members in Arizona via straw buyers. The ATF then allegedly permitted the guns to be trafficked to Mexico, where the bureau lost track of them. Two guns from the operation were recovered in December at the scene of a shootout between Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits near Rio Rico, Ariz., that resulted in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry. Other guns sold during the operation have been linked to violent crime scenes in Mexico. The Justice Department’s Inspector General is investigating the operation.
Smith said that Holder told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he first learned of Operation Fast and Furious in April 2010. However, material recently turned over to congressional investigators includes documents dated July 2010 and October 2010 that Republicans say shows that Holder knew about the operation then.
Justice Department officials say that Holder did not know the operational details of Fast and Furious in 2010.