The paper trail involving problems with the U.S. gun-tracking attempt that put weapons into the hands of Mexican drug-traffickers goes back to at least 2007, when Attorney General Michael Mukasey was briefed on the tactic known as “gun-walking,” The Associated Press reported Friday.
“The information contained in one paragraph of a lengthy Nov. 16, 2007, document marks the first known instance of an attorney general being given information about the tactic,” Pete Yost of the A.P. wrote. Mukasey was then in his second day as head of the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush.
The briefing paper for Mukasey was among hundreds of pages of documents that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, subpoenaed in his investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. The DOJ turned over the material this week.
Attorney General Eric Holder is to appear on Capitol Hill next week to respond to Republicans who say they doubt his assertion that he didn’t know about allegations that the tactic was in use until early this year. Operation Fast and Furious has been an embarrassment for the DOJ and its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since it became known that the effort to track down gun buyers backfired, and that at least two weapons linked to the operation were found at the scene of an Arizona shoot-out that killed a Border Patrol agent last December.
And on Friday, afternoon, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, asked Issa to schedule a hearing into earlier gun walking.
The A.P. wrote that the 2007 memo informed Mukasey that the gun-walking tactic had been tried unsuccessfully, but that the ATF wanted to try again and wanted Mukasey to persuade Mexico’s attorney general to provide a team of corruption-free Mexican agents who would assist in the effort. “Perhaps implied but not fully detailed in this document was the reason for the failure — that Mexican authorities south of the border fell down on the job, claiming they didn’t see the vehicle carrying the guns that the ATF agents had alerted them to,” the A.P. said.
In his letter, Cummings takes a shot at Issa, writing, “The documents obtained by the Committee appear to directly contradict your claim on national television that gun-walking operations under the previous Administration were well coordinated.”
And Cummings concludes, “Given the significant questions raised by the disclosures in these documents, our Committee’s investigation will not be viewed as credible, even-handed, or complete unless we hear directly from Attorney General Mukasey.”